Plumbers Replace Pipes with PEXMajor home improvements often entail extensive work on walls, floors, and ceilings. This provides an opportune moment to inspect aging copper or galvanized water pipes. These pipes are critical as they carry your water and even a small pipe leak can have devastating consequences.
Replacing Pipes with PEX and a Plumber
The replacement of old water pipes is a common task that homeowners of older homes will eventually face. In 2023, outdated copper or galvanized pipes will be replaced with more affordable alternatives, such as PEX tubing. The abundance of home improvement stores has empowered homeowners to tackle all types of home improvements including plumbing specifically replacing old pipes with new PEX tubing.
Replace Old Galvanized or Copper Water Pipes with PEX Tubing
In the past, replacing lead-containing galvanized water supply pipes usually involved installing new copper pipes connected by soldered fittings, a process demanding a torch and considerable skill. Copper tubing had been the preferred plumbing material from the 1950s until the early 2000s, widely used in both new construction and for replacing galvanized steel water supply pipes that were standard up until the 1950s.
However, copper's dominance diminished as the water pipe material with the introduction of PEX plumbing tubing. PEX, crafted from cross-linked polyethylene is a form of flexible plastic tubing with cross-linked molecules that impart remarkable durability and strength.
While copper pipes and fittings remain in use, many professional plumbers now favor flexible PEX tubing for new construction and most repairs and extensions to existing copper systems. PEX is particularly appealing to homeowners who do plumbing repairs themselves due to its simpler connection methods compared to soldering copper pipe and fittings with a torch.
PEX tubing is typically joined with either crimp-ring connectors or expansion sleeves, necessitating a specialty tool called a crimper, or expansion tool and fittings such as push-fit connectors, like the popular SharkBite brand fittings. Both methods can be used to connect new PEX tubing to existing pipes, but push-fit connectors are favored by homeowners who repair leaks in copper water pipes because they do not require special tools.
Consult a Plumber Before You Replace Copper Pipes with PEX
It is always good to consult a plumber via video chat to inspect copper pipes before you tear them all out. When copper tubing is installed correctly it boasts an impressively long lifespan and even has health benefits, often exceeding 50 years of reliable service. In fact, copper remains a favored piping material for commercial buildings. There are still many other building applications where copper is used such as electrical wire, roofing panels, and chimney flashings. Green and corroded-looking copper pipes may not necessarily require replacement; their appearance can be deceiving as copper oxidizes in when exposed to air making a beautiful bluish-green patina.
Nonetheless, copper pipes will eventually deteriorate due to turbulence in the pipe. The minerals in the water actually act as sandpaper slowly scratching away at the pipe wall. Original copper pipes may be nearing the end of their serviceable life, and identifying the need for replacement is not always straightforward. When copper pipes are in the early stages of corrosion, leaks may not be immediately apparent, but there are early warning signs to watch out for.
Homes with Old Water Pipes May Experience Some of These Lingering Problems
- Unusual Smell: Over time, you might notice a stale, musty odor that's difficult to pinpoint. It can be especially confusing if the smell is present in a laundry room, bathroom, or child's room, making you associate it with the room itself. However, the odor is more reminiscent of a moist aquarium, or the air feels moist. This odor could be due to copper pipes leaking or condensation forming on the exterior of the pipe and dripping inside the wall or ceiling.
- Wall or Ceiling Issues: Noticeable bulges may start forming on ceilings or walls and baseboards. This can occur when a pinhole leak in the copper pipe sprays a small stream of water onto the drywall, causing it to absorb water and expand. It's important to note that water can originate from other sources like roofs, gutters, vent pipes, and drain pipes, which are unrelated to copper water pipes.
- Corrosion: When you cut open a wall or ceiling for any reason, you may observe that copper pipes within the wall or floor cavity have turned green and begun to corrode. This is a form of electrolysis that is caused by copper pipes touching noninert metals such as steel. Such pipes might even begin to develop small pinhole leaks that will begin to spray water, and you probably will not notice dripping until the water pools up and flows into the path of vision.
Ask a plumber on Video Chat A Pro to help you familiarize yourself with the appearance of copper pipe corrosion. Copper pipe joints are soldered into place using a torch. The solder joint may have a burnt, green, or silvery appearance. This is normal and unrelated to corrosion.
Plumbers Use 2 Types of PEX Tubing
-Class A Expansion Style Fittings with Sleeves
-Class B Crimp Style Fittings with Rings
Plumbers Use These Tools to Replace Pipes with PEX
These hand tools, power tools, and safety equipment can be purchased at a local home improvement store and will be needed to replace the water pipes in your home.
- Pencil or Marker
- Copper Tubing Cutter
- Impact and Cordless Drill
- Copper Pipe Deburring Tool/ Pipe Reamer
- Tape measure
- PEX tubing cutter
- PEX Crimp Tool or PEX Expansion Tool
Replace Your Pipes with Materials from a Home Improvement Store
- Red and Blue PEX tubing
- PEX Couplings
- PEX tees
- PEX 90s
- Angle Stops for PEX
- PEX Sink Stub out Straps
- PEX tube straps
- Teflon Tape
8 Steps Plumbers Take to Replace a Section of Copper Pipe with PEX
- Turn Off the Water to Your House and Turn off the Power or Gas to the Water Heater.
- Drain the Pipes from the lowest faucet.
- Cut Both Ends of the Copper Pipe
- De-Burr the Cut Ends of the Copper Pipe
- Measure and Cut a Length of PEX Tubing
- Push the Transition Fitting on the Copper Pipe
- Connect the PEX to the Copper
Tip from a Plumber: You can install a push-fit ball valve instead of a transition fitting!
Plumbers Use PEX to Repair Water Leaks, Replace Sections of Copper Pipe, or to Replace all the Water Pipes
When encountering corroded or leaking copper pipes during remodeling projects, you have several options, ranging from easiest and least expensive to most challenging and costly and it is always a good idea to consult a plumber on Video Chat A Pro to get guidance to learn how to fix leaky water pipes with PEX properly.
1. Spot Repair the Copper Pipe with PEX: When dealing with leaking copper pipes, you can opt for the minimal approach by cutting out the damaged section and replacing it with PEX. Often, just 2 push-fit connectors are less than 1 foot or PEX is needed for this type of repair. Spot repairs for copper pipes are common in older homes.
2. Replace Damaged Sections of Copper with PEX: As a compromise between re-piping the entire house and making small patches, you can replace longer sections of copper pipe with PEX, branching out as necessary. Many people choose this approach as it's less ambitious and cheaper compared to completely re-piping your home. Despite initial concerns, this method is basically the same as a spot repair just a longer piece of PEX.
3. Replace all the Water Pipes with PEX: The most effective long-term solution involves re-piping your entire home and replacing all the copper pipes with PEX. This entails disconnecting and removing all the existing copper pipes and running new PEX lines throughout the house. You can either follow the existing layout or implement a PEX manifold and branch to each plumbing fixture. When replacing any type of metal pipes with PEX, remember that you'll also need to add grounding for the electrical system.
Electricians or Plumbers Can Properly Ground the Electrical System
Replacing metal plumbing pipes with PEX pipes can affect the grounding of your home's electrical system. In older homes, electrical systems were grounded through metal water pipes to the earth, although this practice is no longer common in 2023. Homes are typically grounded to a copper ground rod that is driven into the ground below the concrete, the electrical panel, and the foundation steel is connected to the ground rod. However, in older homes most likely still ground to the water piping system.
When transitioning to PEX, the continuous grounding path will be disrupted since plastic tubing doesn't conduct electricity. Replacing copper pipes with PEX tubing will interrupt this bonding. Therefore, it's advisable to upgrade the ground bonding of the electrical system to keep the electrical system properly grounded whenever you replace metal plumbing pipes with plastic. When replacing metal pipes underground with PEX tubing a tracer wire will need to be installed with the PEX pipe and extend up out of the ground or into a valve box so that a locator can be used to locate the PEX pipe in the future.
If you discover that outlets have lost their grounding connection, consult an electrician on Video Chat A Pro to learn how to properly reestablish grounding. Typically, this is done by connecting the main service panel to a grounding rod driven into the earth with a bare copper wire.
Consult an electrician via video chat for guidance on handling bonding with plumbing systems using PEX. To ensure the safety and compliance of your electrical and plumbing systems, it's essential to address these considerations when making the transition from copper to PEX.