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Choosing Plumbing Pipes: Copper vs. PEX

  • Transcript

    LESLIE: Sal calling in from New York listening in on WABC has a plumbing question. How can we help?

    SAL: OK. I’ve got a house; a Dutch colonial that was built in 1927.

    TOM: OK.

    SAL: It has the original black iron potable water pipes.

    TOM: OK.

    SAL: OK? Fresh water coming in …

    TOM: Mm-hmm.

    SAL: Is the old black is the old black iron. I talked to a plumbing contractor and he’s given me two outs to replace because my water pressure is way low. And he’s given me two outs: replacing everything with copper pipe using a – or replacing with a system he calls PEX.

    TOM: Right.

    LESLIE: Mm-hmm.

    SAL: Now I – P-E-X; P-E. I’m not quite sure how it’s spelled.

    TOM: Yeah.

    SAL: But what is the difference between the two; cost wise and safety wise? Like I know with copper pipes you sweat the fitting. If the fitting corrodes – ba da boom – you know, you got a big problem.

    TOM: Right.

    SAL: The PEX, I hear, is like tubing.

    TOM: That’s right. PEX is a tubing. PEX – P-E-X – is an acronym for cross-linked polyethylene. And it’s a new type of plumbing pipe. It’s been getting a lot of great press and great write-ups from some really trusted experts. We did an interview with the folks at Fine Homebuilding magazine, for example, some months ago about PEX. They tested it. And it’s real impressive stuff. In fact, I saw a demonstration with this where it was heated; stretched; twisted, almost practically in a knot, and it has what’s known as a memory. In other words, after it was all stretched out of shape it kind of pulled itself right back into its original position. So I was real impressed with the durability of the stuff.

    Is this plumber charging you more or less for PEX?

    SAL: He hasn’t really given me a price for either one yet? He was saying – you know, he was like, “This is – these are your two options, which …” – you know, “I’m leaving it up to you which way to go.” We’re not quite in the phase yet where we’re going to be budgeting it.

    TOM: So the responsibility is on our shoulders, Leslie.

    LESLIE: (chuckling) Cool.

    TOM: I’ve got to tell you I’m pretty happy with PEX and especially in an older house you’re going to have less destruction because you can literally snake these lines in place without having to open every …

    LESLIE: Yeah, that’s the beauty of it.

    TOM: Yeah, without having to open every wall up.

    LESLIE: And copper, I think, is going to be way more expensive than you’ll see your estimate for PEX.

    SAL: Right.

    TOM: Yeah, that’s what I’m thinking, too. Because I was going to suspect that the plumber is going to charge you more for PEX. He really should be charging you less for it because it’s actually less work.

    SAL: OK. So you don’t have to open up the walls.

    TOM: Well, you do but I mean not as much because it’s flexible and it’s easier to get it into places that you need it to be.

    SAL: Right. OK, great. Thank you very much for the information.

    TOM: You’re welcome, Sal. Thanks so much for calling us at 1-888-MONEY-PIT.

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