Plumbers and DIY home improvement handymen have argued for years which is better for home plumbing applications: PVC pipe, or copper pipe? As with any two options in home improvement, there are pros and cons to both. Blain’s Farm & Fleet is here to help you decide which is best for your home.
PVC (polyvinyl chloride) is a strong, lightweight, durable plastic compound that plumbers and DIY’ers have used as pipes in plumbing for years. PVC pipe is used for the plumbing systems in a lot of new homes these days, and is nearly the only way to go for DIY plumbing.
- Quieter, even at high pressures and water speeds.
- Resists corrosion and impact damage better than copper pipe because plastic doesn’t corrode, and because PVC pipe is thicker than copper pipe. This means it’s better for areas where the pipe will be exposed in high-traffic areas.
- Easier to install than copper pipe. Just glue the joints together by brushing on some PVC Cement.
- Less expensive than copper pipe.
- Doesn’t freeze as easily. This is because PVC doesn’t conduct heat as well as copper does.
- Doesn’t last as long – the cement used to bond the joints can break down and leak over time.
- Not as flexible at joints.
- Some people claim that there is a risk of chemical contamination of water run through PVC pipe, although no links have been found between PVC and any health problems.
- Since it’s thicker, PVC pipe can’t fit into as tight of spaces as copper pipe can.
Copper pipe was once the only option in home plumbing. Most older homes already have copper pipe systems in them. Copper is a strong, flexible, naturally-occurring metal that can be used to form pipes with very thin walls that are still quite strong. It’s often the first choice of professional contractors and plumbers. Copper pipe can add a metal taste to your water, which some homeowners like and others do not.
- Lasts longer than PVC pipe when the water running through it is not acidic.
- Fits into tighter spaces. If you’re plumbing a small space, copper pipes thin walls and low profile are ideal.
- Resists vibration damage better than PVC pipe because it’s more flexible at the joints, this makes it better-suited for areas that are earthquake-prone.
- Cleaner. Copper is simply metal and contains no chemicals like PVC does. Most People claim that copper pipe is not as much of a health risk as PVC pipe is.
- Can corrode if the water running through it is acidic.
- More difficult to install. Copper pipe joints need to be soldered, and a professional plumber is often the best way to go for installing it.
- More expensive than PVC pipe.
- Noisier, especially at higher pressures
Know Your Home
If your home already has a PVC pipe system and you’re not having problems with it, then stick with PVC. If it already has copper pipes, and you’re satisfied with them, stick with copper. If you’re choosing pipes for your new home, consider the acidity of your water, whether or not there is a history of earthquakes in the area, and whether or not the pipes will be exposed in any high-traffic areas. Like most plastics, PVC can become brittle at low temperatures. So, while copper pipe freezes easier, PVC pipe will usually have a higher risk of bursting when it does freeze.