Plumbing is easy to overlook. It’s not as flashy as a new roof or a kitchen; however, it’s an essential part of any home. Bad plumbing can cause hours of headache and thousands of dollars in damage. There are some new plumbing options on the market, but people are still wondering about the benefits and drawbacks of copper plumbing.
Even with modern advances, copper plumbing still holds a lot of value. It’s durable, can withstand high pressures, and resists microbial growth. With that said, copper pipes are expensive, difficult to install, and tricky to repair.
There are more nuances to the copper plumbing discussion. Everyone’s home is a little bit different, so it’s always wise to consult with a professional plumber when thinking about making a big change. With that said, you can use this guide to bolster your understanding of copper piping.
Benefits of Copper Plumbing
We’ll begin with the positives. As you’ll see, there’s a reason that many people still choose copper pipes. Of course, nothing is without flaws. So, after we discuss the benefits, we’ll discuss some of the downsides.
Let’s talk about the pros of copper plumbing:
- Inhibits bacteria growth
Alright, time to get out the microscope and look at these a little closer. Also, here is a video that helps explain copper vs. PEX piping.
Copper Piping is Durable
Compared to other pipes, copper plumbing has a lot going for it when it comes to durability. Copper is a metal, and with good welds, copper piping can withstand a lot of abuse.
Here are several things to know about copper piping vs. something like PEX pipe – a more modern, plastic option.
Copper piping can withstand high pressures. Unlike plastic piping, copper pipes can withstand high PSI – this means that the pipe is less likely to burst under certain circumstances.
However, copper piping is also resistant to pests – in fact, you don’t need to worry about rats, mice, or chipmunks eating through your copper pipe. On the other side of the coin, pest problems are a widespread concern for plastic plumbing options, with many people reporting that some mice continually chew through PEX tubing.
Suffice to say, if you choose to use PEX, you’ll need to be careful about fending off unwanted critters.
Copper Plumbing is Long Lasting
Copper plumbing can easily last up to fifty years. Of course, this can depend on multiple factors, including the type of water in your area and how the pipes were fitted. If the pipes are well fitted, they can last someone a lifetime.
Of course, poorly fitted pipes may succumb to corrosion – but we’ll talk about that more later.
Copper Piping Inhibits Bacteria
There are certain properties in some metals that inhibit the growth of microbes, such as bacteria and viruses. Of course, some metals, such as lead and steel, are not suitable for contact with water. We all know the dangers of lead, but steel is too prone to rust and doesn’t have the same inhibitory factors as copper.
Plastic piping also has less of an inhibitory effect on the bacteria, which is another reason some choose copper. Of course, this really depends on where you live and the quality of the water.
You may note that, sometimes, boats are lined with copper to prevent the growth and attachment of algae and other sea life to their bottom.
Copper Plumbing is Impermeable
Copper piping leaves no chances of anything seeping through the pipe (if it’s installed correctly). However, some plastic options have been known to allow substances to seep through over a period of time. For example, some have suggested that if a substance, such as gasoline, were to rest on the plastic pipes for a long period of time, it could begin to seep through the pipes.
Of course, it is unlikely that your water pipes will be doused in gasoline; however, it’s still something to bear in mind and a benefit to copper.
Copper Plumbing is Recyclable
Copper pipes are recyclable. Once they’ve been used, they can be reconstituted for use in future piping or other copper uses. This cannot be said of other products, such as plastic piping, which can be recycled, but with less efficiency than copper.
Alright, we’ve talked about the pros of copper piping, and now it’s time to address the drawbacks. As you’ll see, though copper has many benefits, there are many reasons why new homes in the US are using more and more PEX and PVC pipes for their water.
Let’s break it down.
Drawbacks and Downsides to Copper Plumbing
Copper plumbing isn’t without its flaws. And, though it has many benefits, few things in this life don’t come with their share of downsides. So, here are several things to keep in mind before installing copper plumbing in your home.
Here are some drawbacks to copper plumbing in your home:
- Difficult to install
- Can corrode
- Hard to repair
Now, we will look at some of the cons in more depth.
Copper Plumbing is Difficult to Install
If you’re looking for something that’s “DIY” friendly, then copper plumbing probably isn’t your best bet. To install copper plumbing properly, there are multiple factors at play.
First, you often need to perform significant prep work before joining the pipes. Often, this involves deburring the pipes and cleaning them before and after they’re attached.
Second, you probably need to weld the pipes together. Learning to weld the pipe is a whole additional task, and if you’re installing pipe in a public building, you may need to get a special permit that allows you to have an open flame.
Finally, copper pipes are not flexible. This means that you’ll need to cut and reattach many pipes if you’re going through multiple joists. With something like PEX pipes, you just bend the pipe a little, weave it through, and you’re all set.
Also, modern piping has quick joints that don’t require any fancy welding. This might not be a problem for everyone, but it’s certainly something to keep in mind.
Copper Plumbing Can Erode
If copper pipes are not correctly installed, they can erode relatively fast. You’ll need to ensure care is taken when the pipes are installed. Also, sometimes the pipes will erode faster depending on the water supply. If the water is straight from a well, it could cause more erosion.
Copper Plumbing is Hard to Repair
If copper plumbing breaks, it requires a significant investment to repair it properly. Again, it’s not as simple as repairing a plastic plumbing section. However, the caveat is that, hopefully, the copper won’t need repair as often as other types of piping.
Copper Piping Can Affect Water Taste
Some people feel that copper pipes affect the taste of their water, giving it a sort of metallic flavor. Of course, this will again depend on the water before it enters the plumbing. Nonetheless, it’s something to consider if you’re especially sensitive to that sort of thing.
Many times, this isn’t a long-term issue. If you’re frequently getting a strange taste from your water, it may be time to have the water tested to ensure something else isn’t going on.
Now let’s talk about how much it costs to install copper plumbing.
Copper Plumbing is Expensive
Finally, copper plumbing is expensive. You can expect to pay almost triple the price per foot of pipe for copper over something like PEX. This will certainly vary depending on location, but it’s something to consider.
So, you might be wondering: should I go with copper plumbing, or should I choose something else? We’ll tackle this decision in the next section.
Should you Choose Copper Pipes for Your Home?
There are several reasons to choose copper pipes, and there are several reasons to avoid them. As we said in the beginning, if you can, try to contact a professional plumber and have them assess your situation in real-time.
On a general level, if you want ultimate reliability and are willing to pay the extra cash, copper plumbing is probably a good choice for you.
However, if you want to save time and money, then plastic piping might be an option for you. And, if you aren’t worried about pests or anything else getting into the lines, you’re probably safe to use a non-copper pipe.
Now, let’s go over our key takeaway on using copper plumbing.
Final Words on the Pros and Cons of Copper Piping
Copper plumbing is still quite common. Popularity is growing for alternatives, such as PVC and PEX, and more people wonder if copper is still the best option for their plumbing.
What’s the answer? You’ll have to weigh the pros and cons of copper pipes. Copper pipes are durable. Copper will resist pests, fend off some bacteria, and create an impenetrable barrier. To top it off, copper is fully recyclable.
However, copper is difficult to install, can erode during unfavorable conditions, and costs a fair bit of money. You will have to decide if copper plumbing is the best choice for you!
What do you think? What has been your experience with copper plumbing?