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5 Questions to Ask Your Contractor About Plumbing Pipe

Posted By PPFA, Sunday, April 19, 2020
Updated: Tuesday, April 14, 2020

Homeowner consultation with builder

You’re selective about the appliances, furniture and fixtures used in your new home or remodel, so why wouldn’t you be just as selective about the piping that carries your water? After all, beyond the risk for leaks, piping choice can impact your water quality and family’s safety and well-being, as well as the functionality of your appliances and kitchen, bath, fixtures and home itself.


At the start of your project, add plumbing pipe options to your list of items to discuss with your contractor or builder. Here are a few questions to help give you peace of mind with your plumbing pipe selection.


How Is the Water Quality in My Area?


Water quality varies widely. If you’re in an area with aggressive water, you will want a pipe that can withstand its corrosiveness to avoid pinhole leaks, clogs and premature failure. Plastic piping is a great option for aggressive water because it’s durable and corrosion-resistant. Unlike metal piping, plastic piping won’t develop pinhole leaks or experience pitting, a prime spot for bacteria to grow. Ask your contractor about how your area’s water is treated, as that impacts how aggressive it may be, and whether they choose pipe material accordingly.


What Piping Material Is Approved in My Area for My Application?


Your local building department will have guidelines on what piping materials are specifically approved for specific applications in the home. This is a great place to start as it’s often easier to work with an approved piping material. If not, your contractor can always apply for an “alternate approval” with the building department to use a material that’s not already part of the building code.


To explore the different types of plastic piping and how they are used in the home, read our Plastic Pipes 101 blog post. There is likely a variety of materials approved for use, so considering other factors, such as these questions, will help you determine the material that’s right for you.


What Piping Materials Do You or Your Contractors Have the Most Experience Installing?


Many plumbers and contractors may have a preferred go-to piping product. Even among plastics, they often use a specific plastic pipe, such as PEX, which is installed differently than other plastic pipe, such as CPVC (or vice versa). Feel free to ask how long they have been installing that type of piping and how many projects they’ve worked on.


If you decide to go with a piping product that your contractor or plumber doesn’t have experience installing, request to work with someone who does.


Are There Any Risks Associated With This Piping Material?


Are you concerned about installation risks, chemical leaching, bacteria growth, leaks, pitting, corrosion, maintenance, etc.? Ask what risks might be associated with the piping material the builder or contractor has selected.


Knowing how it’s installed can also identify other risks. Metal piping, for example, requires an open flame to install. This can be risky for new home builds or remodels that have flammable materials on-site, as it increases the risk of a fire. Plastics, however, don’t require a flame and are installed using fittings, fixtures and/or solvent cement. Copper pipe is occasionally stolen from jobsites, sometimes causing damage to the project.


How Much Will It Cost?


Consider the material cost, delivery time and fees, labor and installation. Some products, like metal, have a higher upfront cost. With lower material, delivery, labor and installation costs, plastic piping has become a popular, budget-friendly choice.


For remodels, you will also want to consider where you need to run new lines and tap into existing ones. The flexibility of some types of plastic piping allows it to snake through walls, and plastic piping is compatible with most existing systems. Metal plumbing requires some tear down, so you’ll want to account for associated repair costs.


Finally, if you have a larger home, some layouts and designs might require special installation, such as manifold piping, to help accelerate delivery, particularly for hot water. Plastic piping is the most flexible and cost-effective option for manifolds, which are like switchboards for your plumbing, and traditional trunk and branch installations.

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