Reuben Saltzman

PEX Is Better Than Sliced Bread

PEX TubingCross Linked Polyethylene water tubing, or PEX, is a relatively new product which was first introduced in North America in 1984.  PEX has been primarily used for radiant floor heating, and more recently water distribution systems.  If you look at any new construction houses, this is probably what you’ll find supplying water throughout the home.  If you have any plumbing projects coming up, I recommend using PEX.  Here’s why:

Ease of installation My favorite feature of PEX tubing is its ease of installation.  I’ve soldered plenty of copper tubing, and it’s a time-consuming, pain-in-the-butt process.  Every length of tubing needs to be perfectly measured, cut, reamed, fluxed, and soldered.  I get flux all over myself, I usually end up burning myself on a piece of copper that I forgot was hot, and much care needs to be taken to make sure the torch doesn’t burn other materials in the home.

With PEX, all of this hassle is eliminated.  Because PEX is so flexible, you typically only need to eyeball the length of the tubing before cutting it, and the fittings are quite easy to join together – much easier than soldering.  The first time I installed PEX tubing it was so easy and so fast that it felt like I was cheating.  Plumbing isn’t supposed to be this easy.

Home RunBetter water flow Instead of running large branch lines through the house and tapping off the branch lines with smaller lines to feed bathrooms, kitchens, and other rooms, PEX can be configured in what’s referred to as a ‘Home Run’.  This is done by installing a large manifold in the basement near where the water comes in to the house, and then running a separate water supply tube to every single plumbing fixture.  This means that you’ll have much less of a pressure drop when you’re running more than one fixture at the same time, and you’ll get hot water to your fixtures faster.  You can also install shutoff valves for every single line, so isolating a fixture can be done with ease.

Of course, a home run can be installed with any type of water distribution system, but the extra time and cost needed for most other systems typically prevents this from happening.  Oddly enough though, I rarely see home runs installed with PEX.

Less prone to failure Most failures with water supply pipes happens at the fittings, not in the piping itself.  With PEX, there are far fewer fittings needed because the material is so flexible.  Because PEX is so flexible, it is also freeze-break resistant.  In the last several years I’ve seen a ridiculous amout of burst copper tubing from freeze damage, but I’ve never seen freeze damaged PEX tubing.  PEX is also highly resistant to chemical damage.

If you decide to use PEX for your next plumbing project, plan to spend a little time getting trained on how to install it.  The methods for installing PEX tubing vary between manufacturers, and anyone installing PEX tubing is supposed to be certified by the manufacturer.  To get certified, check with the retailer you’re buying the PEX from.   The manufacturers of PEX tubing give free certification classes on a regular basis.

Reuben Saltzman, Structure Tech Home Inspections – Email – Minnesota Home Inspections


No responses to “PEX Is Better Than Sliced Bread”

  1. home inspection new jersey
    July 13, 2009, 9:32 am

    I agree PEX is better then a slice of bread ! haha

  2. Tom
    October 6, 2009, 4:36 pm

    I recently have had 2 Pex valve failures in my 20 year old Maryland home built by Ryland. The water lines are copper but the valves the builder used are PEX. I would seriously question the use of these valves as they seem to be failing in my home. I will be replacing all with metal valves.

  3. Reuben Saltzman
    October 6, 2009, 4:57 pm

    PEX valves with copper water lines? I’ve never seen that before. Do you have a photo?

  4. Corrugated Stainless Steel Tubing (CSST) - The New Gas Line | Reuben's Home Inspection Blog
    April 6, 2010, 3:57 am

    […] months ago I wrote a blog about how great PEX tubing is, and today I’m going to discuss the equivalent for gas piping – Corrugated Stainless […]

  5. Rob
    April 7, 2010, 9:14 am

    Reuben, you may want to look into this PEX before boasting. Several inspection companies are now calling out problems with these systems if there are brass fittings and I have spoken with numerous plumbers who will not install these systems. ZurnPex is currently in litigation in several states over damaging leaks from possible failure of their brass fittings due to corrosion. The company says 25 year warranty, but according to the suits denied claims on bases of corrosion. Recommend you research this! Just a heads up from a fellow inspector. P.S. Not all the PEX are under lawsuit, but be careful of the ones with brass currently in homes.

  6. Reuben Saltzman
    April 7, 2010, 7:51 pm

    Hi Rob,

    Thanks for reading! I first heard about this lawsuit a little over two years ago, and I read all about the problems at that time. This involves a particular manufacturer, and some specific fittings from them. I’m not concerned.

    There was a huge class action lawsuit against Carrier, Payne, and Bryant furnaces a couple years ago… but that doesn’t mean you should watch out for furnaces, right? I feel the same way about PEX. I think it’s a great product.

    Again, thanks for reading, and I appreciate the heads up from a fellow inspector!

  7. Doug Choate
    April 16, 2010, 8:19 am

    Can pex fittings (tee) be inside a wall? Or must it be homerun? Thanks

  8. Reuben Saltzman
    April 16, 2010, 11:27 am

    Yes, PEX fittings can be located inside a wall.

  9. buck
    December 9, 2011, 3:03 pm

    any know if pex is code in st. paul mn?

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