When it comes to choosing copper vs. plastic water plumbing pipes, one of the things you need to take into consideration is the durability of each type. Copper has been used since the late 1940s and gained wide popularity in 1963. Plastic piping was first manufactured in the 1960s but wasn’t widely used until the early 1990s.
Copper Water Pipes
Copper water pipes are still the most common type of plumbing pipes used today because of their longevity, durability and corrosion resistance. Copper plumbing can be purchased as rigid or flexible tubing. Rigid tubing is typically used for water supply and drain lines. Flexible tubing is typically used for appliances that require water lines.
Rigid copper tubing comes in three types, including M, L and K, with M having the thinnest walls and L and K having the thickest walls. The pipes are typically connected via solder and compression fittings. Chicago property managers can expect their copper water pipes to last as long as 70 years.
- Type M – These copper pipes have the thinnest walls and are typically used to plumb residential homes.
- Type L – These types of copper pipes are used in commercial and large scale residential applications because they have thicker walls than M pipes.
- Type K – These have the thickest walls and are often used was underground water supply pipes and for main lines.
Copper Pipes and Corrosion
Copper water pipes are extremely prone to corrosion when they are subjected to high water acidity. Water is considered neutral when it has a pH of 7 conselho. Acidic water is considered water that has a pH between 5 and 6.5. When water has a high acidity, it interacts with all the metals it encounters. Over time, the acidic water eats away at the walls of the pipe, causing pinhole leaks and leaks at seams and joints. This can significantly reduce the expected useful life of your copper pipes to a maximum of 20 years.
Stopping Copper Pipe Leaks
There are two ways to deal with acidic water if your multi-unit building has copper pipes. The first way is to install water filtration systems that neutralize the acidic water, bringing its pH level to 7 or slightly higher. The second way is to line your pipes with epoxy liners or coatings. Once the liner or coating is in place, the acidic water cannot reach the metal and cause corrosion.
Plastic Water Pipes
Plastic water pipes have gained in popularity since the 1990s due to their low cost and high reliability. They are not prone to leaking from acidic water or developing pinhole leaks due to corrosion. However, they can succumb to improper installation and certain environmental factors.
- PEX Water Pipes – These pipes are extremely flexible and come in specific colors for hot, cold and universal water lines. They are extremely heat resistant and require the fewest number of fittings, which minimizes leaks at joints and seams. However, they are extremely susceptible to UV degradation and should never be used outside. PEX may also contribute to odd tastes or smells in the water, and they may leach chemicals into the drinking water. Leak problems typically occur when the wrong fittings are used.
- PVC Water Pipes – PVC is extremely durable and resistant to corrosion from hard water and chemicals. Leaks occur due to improper installation, overtightened fittings and using the wrong fittings. PVC also tends to deteriorate when exposed to water temperatures in excess of 140 degrees for extended periods of time.
- CPVC Water Pipes – CPVC can be used for hot and cold water lines, and it is less costly than copper piping. CPVC is resistant to corrosion and will not form pinhole leaks. However, it is susceptible to leaking if it is not installed according to the manufacturer’s specific guidelines, which means using the correct fitting for the specific type of CPVC piping.
Reinforcing Plastic Piping to Extend Its Useful Life
If you are worried about your plastic piping forming leaks around joints and seams, a pipe liner or epoxy coating can help add durability and longevity. Pipe coatings and liners extend all the way down the pipe, which effectively seals and reinforces the pipe and its joints and seams to virtually eliminate the possibility of future leaks.
To learn more about how to protect your pipes from corrosion and pinhole leaks and to schedule a building pipe assessment, call us at 815-790-9000.