Many older houses, such as those built during the 1950-60’s, were built using lead pipes. The implementation of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA) Section 1417(a)(1) required that after June 19, 1986 only “lead free” pipe, solder or flux could be used in the installation or repair of any plumbing in residential or non-residential facility providing water for human consumption, which is connected to a Public Water System. As a result, much of the plumbing after 1986 was completed using copper tubing.
Copper tubing was used because of the longevity. Quality copper tubing has a lifespam of 20 -25 years, without any of the problems associated with lead pipes. One noteworthy exception to this rule are homes built in 2004+ that used copper piping shipped in from China. According to building experts, much of the tubing imported from China during that time has now been deemed defective. This can cause the copper pipes in your home to leak prematurely.
Another issue that could potentially affect the lifespan of your tubing is the water quality where you live. Areas with more sediment, high calcium or other organic matters in their water can cause build-up inside the tubing, which can also weaken the internal structure. It’s a good idea to have the Ph of your water tested for potential problems.
Many homeowners, with homes that are 25 years old and more, are finding tiny leaks and pinholes in their copper plumbing, and they are opting to replace much of their copper tubing with PEX or CPVC pipes.
PEX (cross-linked polyethylene) has several advantages over copper. It’s cheaper, faster to install and doesn’t corrode like copper can. On the downside, PEX doesn’t do well when exposed to direct sun for long periods of time.
Chlorinated polyvinyl chloride (CPVC) is a thermoplastic also available for residential plumbing. Nationally accepted since 1982, CPVC pipe is primarily used for supplying hot and cold potable water. Again, it’s lighter, and easier to install than copper tubing, and since it doesn’t conduct heat like copper does, it keeps hot water hotter for longer periods of time. CPVC pipe is immune to galvanic corrosion and resists scale build up as well.
When confronted with the issue of older plumbing, it’s always best to consult a professional, reputable plumbing service. A licensed, insured plumber can sit down with you and discuss which options, Copper, PEX or CPVC work best for your home, water quality and geographic location. Oftentimes, the best option is an informed decision using a combination of materials to create an inexpensive, yet efficient plumbing system for your home.