PEX piping is a go-to pick for DIYers and professionals alike, drawing attention with its ease of use and inexpensive pricing. While there’s no doubting the convenience of PEX piping over traditional piping materials, like copper or galvanized steel, is PEX a good choice for your plumbing system?
How long will it actually last before it taps out? The answer depends on a few factors, but PEX can last 50 years or more. We’re here to explain, so continue reading to learn more!
What Is PEX?
Cross-linked polyethylene, or PEX piping, is a flexible plastic tubing commonly used in residential water systems. The material is known for its resilience and durability but favored for its flexibility and quick installation process.
Since the material is flexible, it’s easy to turn corners in the tubing without adding a joint, which simplifies the installation process. PEX comes in large coils and easily connects to a second length of tubing with convenient fittings.
Given the ease of installation, it’s no surprise that PEX piping is a fan favorite among DIYers.
It comes in three standard colors: red, blue, and white. The red tubing is often used for hot water lines, whereas the blue tubing is commonly used for cold water lines. White tubing is versatile and can be used for either type of line.
Where Is PEX Tubing Used?
PEX is useful for multiple applications, as the material is pretty versatile. While it’s commonly used for plumbing systems, PEX is often used in central heating systems, radiant floor heating systems, and underfloor heating systems.
That said, it’s primarily used for hot and cold water supply lines, as its nature lends well to this application.
Pros And Cons Of PEX Piping
Like any piping material, PEX has its fair share of pros and cons. Here are a few notable perks of the material:
- Safe for drinking water: Unlike other materials, like copper, PEX isn’t susceptible to corrosion, making it an excellent choice for water supply lines.
- Fewer joints necessary: PEX is flexible, making it much easier to install. While joints might be necessary at specific points throughout the system, these systems require fewer joints than rigid piping systems.
- Inexpensive: Compared to other piping materials, like copper, PEX is cheap. This makes it an ideal fit for those seeking budget-friendly material.
- Easy installation: Since PEX is flexible and requires very few joints, installing it is easy. It’s no surprise that PEX is a common pick among DIYers!
- Freeze resistant: When the water in pipes freezes, it expands, often resulting in burst plumbing. With PEX, burst plumbing is less of a concern, and the material is flexible and can expand during freezing temperatures to prevent busted tubing.
Of course, PEX isn’t without its flaws. Here are a few drawbacks to consider:
- Indoor use only: PEX is prone to damage from UV rays, so it can’t be used outside in direct sunlight. While you can technically use it outdoors, it must be completely isolated from the sun’s rays.
- Susceptible to rodents: The flexibility of PEX is a blessing and a curse. Unfortunately, rodents may see your PEX pipes as a handy water source. They’ll chew through the tubing without a hitch to access the water, leading to leaks in your plumbing system.
How Long Will PEX Tubing Last?
As mentioned, PEX is a durable, resilient material that holds up well for decades and can last upward of 50 years or more. Of course, the lifespan of a PEX plumbing system hinges on a few factors.
For example, a poor-quality PEX is unlikely to remain usable for as long as a high-quality PEX tubing. So, while cheaper options might be available, it’s best not to cut corners, as it could detrimentally impact the material’s lifespan.
In addition, the installation method can impact the length of its lifespan. For instance, if the PEX is poorly handled or improperly installed, the system may fail prematurely. Kinks, pinches, and crimps in the tubing can weaken the tubing and make it more susceptible to damage.
On top of that, they can cause interruptions and pressure drops in the water flowing through the tubing, so it’s essential to handle the material carefully.
It’s essential to keep PEX out of direct sunlight, as UV rays can damage the material. UV rays found in sunlight act as an effective catalyst that spurs the oxidation process within the tubing. So, when the tubing is exposed to direct sunlight, the UV rays consume the chlorine-inhibiting antioxidants.
These antioxidants are designed to protect the pipe from chlorine-induced oxidation, so when they’re consumed, the piping is vulnerable to the chlorine in the water. Since most public water systems contain chlorine, the lack of protection poses a significant threat.
Eventually, the material will degrade to the point it fails, which often happens prematurely.
How Long Does PEX Last vs. Copper?
While PEX tubing usually taps out at around 50 years, copper piping can far surpass this. With proper care, copper tubing can last well over 70 years, sometimes exceeding the 80-year mark. Of course, extenuating circumstances may prematurely ruin the copper piping, leading to an early replacement.
However, copper pipes are highly corrosion-resistant, making them an excellent fit for water systems. That said, copper can react to highly acidic water, leading to the corrosion of the pipe’s interior. This can contaminate your water, giving it an unpleasant taste.
On top of that, it opens the door to pinhole leaks, which cause issues throughout the system.
So, while copper often lasts much longer than PEX, it isn’t without flaws. Eventually, all plumbing systems will demand a replacement. It’s simply a matter of when.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How Long Does PEX Last In Concrete?
When installed in concrete, PEX tubing can last decades. Sometimes, the lifespan even surpasses its average expectancy, with some tests showing it may last more than 100 years.
Of course, PEX hasn’t been around long enough for these tests to prove accurate, but studies point to the potentially lengthy lifespan of this material.