When considering a piping system for your new home or for a remodel or replacement project, you’re typically facing a choice between metal and plastic (check out our blog post for an overview of the different types of plastic pipe). As the newer of the two materials, plastic piping is still unfamiliar to some users; unfortunately, this means some common myths about plastic pipes exist.
Here are some of the misconceptions you should know before determining which piping system is right for your home:
Myth: Plastic pipe is a new, untested material
Reality: Though plastic may feel advanced and innovative, some forms of plastic pipe have been around—and been in use—for more than 75 years. It’s a time-tested material proven over decades of quality performance. While it’s true that some forms of plastic pipe are newer than others, the products undergo extensive third-party or laboratory accelerated use and safety tests to simulate how they will perform over time and under varying conditions, so you can rest assured the pipe behind your walls is designed and certified to safely last.
Myth: Plastic pipe is unsafe for drinking water
Reality: News reports about BPA in water bottles and other concerns shouldn’t give you pause when it comes to the drinking water coming out of your plastic pipes. Plastic pipes don’t contain BPA, are made of different materials, and go through an entirely different process for manufacturing and testing.
Plastic piping undergoes third-party certification through independent, accredited organizations that develop public health standards and certification programs to help protect the world’s food, water, consumer products and environment. Plastic pipes have been certified to meet performance requirements and safe drinking water requirements, such as NSF/ANSI/CAN 61. If your piping has an accredited third-party certification mark, it’s safe to use for drinking water.
Myth: Plastic pipes can't be used in my area
Reality: Plastic piping is approved in every major plumbing code and the International Residential Code (IRC), the model used for most residential buildings. But this myth is partially true: National codes like the IRC are adopted and modified at the local level, and some jurisdictions around the country still limit or remove some or all plastic pipe in their version of the codes.
This is largely due to political pressure placed on code bodies by special interests as well as simple unfamiliarity or misconceptions, not because of quality, performance or other concerns. While these technically unjustified limitations are becoming rarer, you should confirm with the local code. Even with code limitations in some areas, plastic piping can still be used—your installer can apply for an exception, an alternate means or method, to the code that will allow the system to pass inspection.
Myth: I don't need to worry about what's behind my home's walls
Reality: While it’s easy to think “out of sight, out of mind,” the products behind your walls make up the structure and the mechanical inner workings of your home—they’re what keep your family safe and keep your home functional. Though not as glamorous as, say, a quartz countertop, it’s even more imperative to consider the materials behind the walls—selecting quality products will ensure there isn’t a slowly developing problem that will go from out of sight to front and center, and extremely costly, in a hurry.
A remodel of your kitchen, bath or laundry room is the perfect time to consider if the materials behind your walls are going to stand the test of time. Take the opportunity to inspect your existing pipes and consider their expected life span. Materials like copper may wear over time and develop pinhole leaks or pitting. Many plastic piping systems, including PVC, CPVC, polyethylene, polypropylene, and PEX, offer life spans of 50 to 75 years or more and are an affordable alternative to copper.
In addition, some types of plastic pipe are quite flexible and can be installed without having to tear out the entire wall and are ideal for tight spaces and retrofits.
Myth: Plastic pipes leach chemicals
Reality: It’s easy to think that because many plastics are made with chemical compounds that chemicals are automatically transferring to your water. But those chemical compounds are polymers and are not only inert, they don’t leach. In fact, plastic piping is the best choice to avoid corrosion, scale buildup, metallic leaching and damage from highly aggressive water. What’s more, plastic piping’s durability makes it suitable for a range of water types, including well water, water with high salt content and highly chlorinated water. Some types of plastic pipes can withstand extremely high temperatures, as well.
Ready to learn more about selecting the best plastic pipe for your home? Check out our blog post “Find the Right Plumbing Pipes for Your Home.”