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5 Common Misconceptions About Your Home’s Piping System

Posted By PPFA, Sunday, April 19, 2020
Updated: Monday, April 13, 2020

Kitchen Remodel

 

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.

 

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Plastic Piping 101: Understanding Plumbing Options for Your Home

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

plastic pipes in ceiling

 

What is going to add safety, reliability, and value to your home remodel? It starts behind the walls with your choice of piping materials.

 

While homeowners don’t often give their piping material much thought, it plays an important role in your family’s well-being, ensures the space functions as you need for as long as possible with minimal maintenance and may increase your home’s value.

 

Know Your Plastic Piping Options

Understanding the differences between pipe materials can help you better communicate your wishes to your remodeler or contractor. Discuss piping material early on in the project to make sure the materials you want installed are specified from the start.

 

Always check with your local code or enforcement authorities to ensure piping materials are approved for the application. If they’re not, you can often apply for an alternative material exemption. Another tip: Ask your neighbors to see what piping they have in their home and whether they’ve encountered any issues.

 

How Plastic Pipes Are Used in Your Home

The three most common uses for plastic piping in the home include:

      Water service lines: the pipes leading from the street to your house that provide water from your local water department or utility.

 

      Water distribution systems: the pipes inside your home that deliver hot and cold potable water to your faucets, showers, devices, and appliances.

 

      Drain-waste-vent (DWV) systems: the pipes that collect and remove water, sewer gases and waste from toilets, showers, sinks and appliances.

 

The Benefits of Using Plastic Piping in Your Home

Regardless of which plastic piping you use for your home remodel or new-home build, rest assured knowing that all plastic piping share these benefits:

      Safe and certified
Plastic piping undergoes third-party certification against an extremely stringent health-effects standard written by NSF International. Plastic pipes have been certified to meet performance requirements and safe drinking water requirements, such as NSF/ANSI/CAN 61. If your piping has the NSF (or other third-party) certification mark, it’s safe to use for drinking water.

 

      Affordability and cost-savings
Plastic piping is a lower weight piping option, so it costs less to ship and is often easier to install. The time and labor savings mean you typically pay less and the project can be completed more quickly.

 

      Flexibility
It’s easy to snake flexible plastic piping through walls, so you often can avoid tearing open existing walls—and costly associated repairs on retrofits and remodels.

 

      Compatibility with existing systems
Plastic piping is compatible with most existing systems, so it’s easy to retrofit in an older home.

 

      Durability and low-maintenance
Plastic piping is impervious to rust and corrosion. Many plastic piping systems will last 50 years or more, depending on the application.

 

      Sustainability
Life cycle assessments show that plastic pipes have a
smaller environmental impact compared to other materials.


What Are Plastic Pipes Made Of?

The majority of plastic piping is made from thermoplastics, which are materials that can be melted, shaped and molded, and cooled. Each type of pipe material is unique and ideal for certain applications in your home.

 

ABS — Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene


ABS is a rigid thermoplastic that was originally developed in the early 1950s for use in oil fields and the chemical industry and was approved for residential use in the 1960s.

 

ABS uses and applications in the home:

      Drain-waste-vent systems — toilet, sink, and shower drain lines and vent stacks

 

What’s the average life of an ABS plumbing system?

50-70+ but check with your manufacturer for details. As with any plumbing system, lifespan is dependent upon proper application and installation.

 

Explore frequently asked questions about ABS.

 

PVC — Polyvinyl Chloride

 

PVC is the most widely used thermoplastic in the plumbing and construction industry.

 

PVC uses and applications in the home:

      Water service lines

      Drain-waste-vent systems—toilet, sink, and shower drain lines and vent stacks

      Electrical conduit

      Exposed outdoor use if the pipe contains sufficient stabilizers and UV inhibitors to shield against ultraviolet radiation or is painted with compatible water-based latex paint

      Lawn sprinklers

      Municipal sewer lines

 

What’s the average life of a PVC plumbing system?

50-70+ years, but check with your manufacturer for details. As with any plumbing system, lifespan is dependent upon proper application and installation.

 

Explore frequently asked questions about PVC.

 

CPVC — Chlorinated Poly (Vinyl Chloride)

 

CPVC is a rigid thermoplastic pipe and fitting material made when PVC is treated with additional chlorine. One of the benefits of CPVC comes from that added chlorine, which adds additional heat capability and also makes it resistant to damage from highly chlorinated or aggressive water. Many water treatment facilities in the U.S. use chlorine as a disinfectant, at varying levels depending on where you live, to kill disease-causing bacteria before water enters your home.

CPVC uses and applications in the home:

      Hot- and cold-water distribution

      Residential fire sprinklers

 

What’s the average life of a CPVC plumbing system?

50-75 years, but check with your manufacturer for details. As with any plumbing system, lifespan is dependent upon proper application and installation.

 

Explore frequently asked questions about CPVC.

 

PE — Polyethylene

 

PE is a flexible thermoplastic material made by turning ethylene, a gas, into a polymer.

 

PE uses and applications in the home:

      Potable water service or distribution lines

      Natural gas distribution

      Lawn sprinklers

      Municipal sewers

      Low-temperature heat-transfer applications, such as radiant floor heating

      Geothermal

What’s the average life of a PE plumbing system?

50-100+ years, but check with your manufacturer for details. As with any plumbing system, lifespan is dependent upon proper application and installation.

 

Explore frequently asked questions about PE.

 

PE-RT — Polyethylene of Raised Temperature


PE-RT is a flexible plastic material made from a higher-performance polyethylene resin, making it suitable for use in higher temperature applications than regular polyethylene pipe. PE-RT is similar in both appearance and application to PEX.

 

PE-RT uses and applications in the home:

·      Potable water service or distribution lines

·      Low-temperature heat-transfer applications, such as radiant floor heating

·      High-temperature heat-transfer applications, radiators, hot-water baseboards, etc., up to 180℉

What’s the average life of a PE-RT plumbing system?
50+
years, but check with your manufacturer for details. As with any plumbing system, lifespan is dependent upon proper application and installation.

 

PEX — Cross-Linked Polyethylene

 

PEX is a flexible plastic material made from medium- or high-density polyethylene. (Learn more about the PEX manufacturing process.)

 

PEX uses and applications in the home:

      Potable water service or distribution lines

      Residential fire sprinklers

      Low-temperature heat-transfer applications, such as radiant floor heating

      High-temperature heat-transfer applications, radiators, hot-water baseboards, etc., up to 200℉; check with manufacturer

 

What’s the average life of a PEX plumbing system?

50+ years, but check with your manufacturer for details. As with any plumbing system, lifespan is dependent upon proper application and installation.

 

Explore frequently asked questions about PEX.

 

PP — Polypropylene

 

Polypropylene is a polymer of propylene. It is sometimes glass reinforced and a rigid heat fusible piping system.

 

PP uses and applications in the home:

      Potable water service or distribution lines

      Residential fire sprinklers

 

What’s the average life of a PP plumbing system?

Consult with the manufacturer for the specific material and application. 

 

For more specifics on what plastic piping is right for your home, including what questions you should be thinking about, read our blog post, "Finding the Right Plumbing Pipes for Your Home."

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Find the Right Plumbing Pipes for Your Home

Posted By PPFA, Sunday, April 19, 2020
Updated: Monday, April 13, 2020

variety of plastic piping together

Before picking out furniture, appliances or even decor for your new home or remodel, take a step back and consider something you’ll hope to never see again—the plumbing pipes.

 

Many homeowners let their builder, remodeler, or contractor choose the piping material and never question or give it a second thought; however, their choice can impact the well-being of your family, how well your new space functions, project costs and other factors.

 

Your builder or contractor will have excellent knowledge specific to your area, but ask questions and know your options so you can be part of the decision and comfortable with your piping choice.

 

Two Piping Categories, Many Options

 

Plumbing pipes for your home are either metal or plastic, with options falling under each.

 

Metal plumbing pipe options:

  •  Copper
  •  Cast iron
  •  Galvanized steel (increasingly rare)

 

Plastic plumbing pipe options:

  • ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene)
  • CPVC (Chlorinated Poly (Vinyl Chloride))
  • PE (Polyethylene)
  • PE-RT (Polyethylene of Raised Temperature)
  • PEX (Cross-Linked Polyethylene)
  • PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride)
  • PP (Polypropylene)

 

How Piping Is Used in Your Home

 Plumbing piping inside your home serves three main purposes:

  1. To bring water from the local water utility or other source to the house through water service lines.
  2. To deliver hot and cold drinking water to faucets, showers, devices and appliances through water distribution systems.
  3. To collect and remove water, sewer gases and waste from toilets, showers, sinks and appliances through drain-waste-vent (DWV) systems.

 

4 Factors to Consider When Choosing Plumbing Pipe

What is the best material for use in water pipes? Here’s what to think about:

 

Local codes

One of the first factors to consider is knowing which piping systems are approved for use in specific residential applications by your local building department. You can ask your builder or contractor for that information or request it through your area’s building officials.

 

All major codes allow plastic piping. Some jurisdictions may have limitations on use of particular materials. However, there is often flexibility with these codes; if another product will meet your needs and is safe for use for your specific application, you can ask for acceptance of an alternative material, called alternate approval.

 

Water quality

Do you know how corrosive your water is? The corrosion potential, also referred to as the aggressiveness, of water varies depending on the overall chemistry of your water. It’s an important factor in your piping decision because not all plumbing materials stand up to corrosive water as well as others.

 

If your water is very aggressive, you may want to limit your use of metal to avoid iron, copper or other chemicals leaching into your water (and staining your laundry!).  In addition to chemical leaching, copper pipes are more prone to pinhole leaks and pitting (which can lead to mold or bacteria growth) from aggressive water.  

 

Plastic piping is the best choice to avoid corrosion, scale buildup, and damage from highly aggressive water. Plastic piping is durable and better able to handle a range of water types, including well water, high salt content, highly chlorinated water and other elements that can put stress on your plumbing system.

 

Your builder or contractor should know about the water quality in your area, but you can also connect with your local water officials or building department for additional information.

 

Budget

Another big factor in your piping decision will be your budget. Contractors, plumbers and homeowners frequently choose plastic piping for its affordability and ease of installation, which impact the remodel or build’s cost and time for completion.

 

Metal also weighs more than plastic, so it’s more expensive to ship and requires more manpower and equipment to install. Copper piping is attractive to jobsite theft.

 

If you’re remodeling your home, plastic piping is a great option to help save money because of its flexibility and compatibility with existing systems. Some types of plastic piping easily snake through framing, so you can avoid having to tear open walls to run new lines, which is often required with metal piping.

 

Sustainability and maintenance

Sustainability

If you value sustainable products, plastic pipes and fittings are a great choice. Plastic pipes and fittings are a green building choice due to:

      Clean, low-energy manufacturing. Raw materials for metal pipes and fittings, on the other hand, require a lot more energy and resources to extract and to process into pipe.

      Transportation energy savings resulting from lightweight plastic, compared to heavier metal alternatives.

      More efficient delivery of hot water, so you waste less waiting for hot water to reach the showerhead or tap. Plastic distribution piping can have a higher velocity and lower wasted volume than metal.

 

Maintenance

Don’t want to worry about maintenance? Plastic pipes and fittings are virtually maintenance-free. Plastic piping is not subject to pitting and corrosion, and it can easily withstand most water treatment.

 

To explore the difference between some of the most common plastic piping, read our blog post comparing plastic piping solutions. Ready to talk to your builder or contractor about piping for your home remodel or build? Check out these questions to ask.


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Plastic Pipe 101: PVC vs. CPVC vs. PEX

Posted By PPFA, Sunday, April 19, 2020
Updated: Monday, April 13, 2020

multicolored plastic piping

Plastic piping is known for benefits including affordability, faster and more flexible installation, and durability, but do you know the difference between various plastic pipes? What is the best material for water pipes?

 

When determining which pipe and fitting material is best for your home build or remodel, there are certain key factors to consider. Your builder, contractor and local officials are great resources, but knowing some of the basics will make those discussions more productive.

 

PVC, CPVC and PEX Explained

 

PVC — Polyvinyl Chloride

A plumbing mainstay since the 1960s, PVC is the most widely used plastic piping in the plumbing and construction industry. In the U.S., PVC is made from natural gas and salt (yes, “salt”). Learn more about PVC’s history and how it’s made. PVC is corrosion-resistant and widely accepted by building codes for most piping applications (except hot water).

 

CPVC — Chlorinated Poly (Vinyl Chloride)

CPVC (chlorinated poly (vinyl chloride) is a strong and rigid thermoplastic material that is used for hot and cold potable water applications in residential construction. Because of its makeup, CPVC is immune to damage from highly chlorinated domestic water and has a higher temperature tolerance than PVC. Chlorine-based disinfection is used by water companies to kill disease-causing bacteria before water enters your home. Depending on your location and time of year, disinfection methods and levels in water systems can vary without notification. CPVC is corrosion-resistant. 

 

PEX — Cross-linked Polyethylene

PEX is a flexible plastic material made from medium- or high-density polyethylene. PEX piping has been used in hot- and cold-water distribution systems and for hydronic radiant heating in Europe for decades. Introduced into the U.S. in the 1980s, PEX is the most widely used flexible piping for plumbing and radiant floor heating applications. Due to its flexibility, it’s often a popular choice for remodels because it can be easily snaked through the walls. PEX tubing is recognized as acceptable for water distribution piping in all major model plumbing codes. Learn about the PEX manufacturing process.

 

Comparing PVC, CPVC and PEX

 

How PVC, CPVC, and PEX Are Used in the Home

 

Plumbing pipe is primarily used in three ways in your home, to:

  1. Bring water from the local water utility to your house through water service lines.

 

  1. Deliver hot and cold drinking water to your faucets, showers, toilets and appliances through water distribution systems inside your home.

 

  1. Collect and remove water, sewer gases and waste from toilets, showers, sinks and appliances through drain-waste-vent (DWV) systems.

 

Based on these three functions, PVC, CPVC and PEX may work for some applications, but not others. 

 

While PVC is excellent for water service lines and DWV applications, it’s not recommended for hot-water distribution systems because it can only withstand temperatures up to 140℉. CPVC and PEX, however, can withstand temperatures up to 200℉. Most water heaters are set to heat water to no more than 140℉. 

 

Here’s an overview of some of the common ways PVC, CPVC and PEX can be used in the home. (Always check your local building codes to see what’s approved for your application and area.)

 

   PVC  CPVC  PEX
Water service lines      
Water distribution systems  X    
Drain-waste-vent (DWV)    X  X

Average Lifespan

PVC, CPVC and PEX have been in use in residential plumbing applications for decades. Historical information, as well as independent research studies, indicate that PVC, CPVC and PEX can have a 50+ year life when installed correctly under the proper conditions.

 

Are CPVC, PVC & PEX Safe for Drinking Water?

 

All plastics used in potable water systems must be tested regularly and certified by a third-party certifier as meeting the strict public health requirements of NSF/ANSI/CAN 61. NSF International is an independent, accredited organization that develops public health standards and certification programs to help protect the world’s food, water, consumer products and environment. This testing ensures that drinking water carried by plastic pipe meets the strictest health effects standards. You can look for the NSF (or other third party) certification to rest assured that your piping choice is safe for drinking.

 


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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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