Are you in the market for a new plumbing system?
PVC and PEX are two of the most popular types of plumbing systems. They have their own unique benefits and drawbacks, so it can be tough to decide which is right for you.
Our guide will help you compare PVC vs PEX and decide which is best for your home. We’ll take a look at the pros and cons of each type of plumbing, so you can make an informed decision before you buy.
Read on to learn more about PVC vs PEX.
What is PVC Plumbing?
PVC (polyvinyl chloride) is a type of plastic pipe and tubing. It’s widely used in homes and commercial buildings for water, drain, and vent systems. It has an extensive track record of reliable performance.
For your home, you may have heard of PVC as the black piping used for septic and sewage systems. PVC is also widely used in above-ground irrigation systems, which supply water to yards and gardens.
What is PEX Plumbing?
PEX (cross-linked polyethylene) is plastic piping similar to PVC. It has some key differences, though, so it’s unique enough to have its own category.
PEX is flexible tubing that doesn’t knot, making it ideal for cramped or cluttered homes. You can use it to wire conduits underneath floors and inside walls.
It was seen as a more expensive or luxury option in the past. In recent years, that’s changed as its benefits become better known.
How are PVC and PEX Different?
While both PVC and PEX are plastic piping options, they have some key differences.
PVC is less flexible than PEX and doesn’t bend as well around corners or through tight spaces. It also won’t handle high heat as PEX can.
On the other hand, PEX isn’t suitable for use with potable water. It doesn’t meet the standards for safe drinking water, so it shouldn’t be used for that purpose.
PVC is cheaper to buy since it’s more widely used. PEX is still catching up, though its price has dropped in recent years. That makes it a good choice for people who want the benefits of newer technology at affordable prices.
PVC is the stronger type. It has a higher burst pressure and greater resistance to heat, cold, and chemicals than PEX does. While PEX has more flexibility, PVC is tougher and more durable.
PVC fails due to joint failure while PEX develops leaks around the fittings. The jointing methods for PEX are superior to PVC, so they’re less likely to fail.
As a characteristic of both types, they are corrosion resistant. PVC is not affected by acids or ethanol, nor is PEX corroded by sunlight over time.
Either option is known to be reliable, so you won’t have to worry about it for years.
PVC Vs PEX: Pros and Cons
There are benefits to both types of plumbing systems, so let’s take a look at each one in more detail.
Lower cost is a major advantage for PVC. It’s been in use since the 1950s, so it has a well-established place in both home and commercial construction.
In recent years, its environmental impact has also become a selling point. PVC can save significant amounts of energy during manufacturing and transport compared to standard copper pipes.
PVC is also popular due to its durability. It’s resistant to corrosion, water, and wear and tear. It can last for decades without any issues.
One drawback is that PVC doesn’t meet standards for safe drinking water. That means it’s not suitable for use with potable water, even though it might be used for other water systems.
In addition, it is hard to work with and inflexible. It doesn’t bend easily around corners or through tight spaces. It can kink if you push it too hard into small trenches, making it useless.
The most significant advantage for PEX is its flexibility, which makes it ideal for homes with odd or cramped spaces. It can bend into small openings that PVC would never fit through.
It’s also resistant to corrosion, though not quite as much as PVC. It doesn’t rust easily under sunlight and other sources, so it lasts for many years with no issues.
It’s also easy to install, especially around small corners and tight spaces. It’s cost-effective overall, which gives it an environmentally friendly edge over PVC piping options.
One downside is that PEX isn’t ideal for use with potable water. That means it’s not safe for drinking water systems, even though it’s fine with other types of plumbing.
PEX costs more than PVC piping overall. Though the price has been dropping in recent years, PEX is less popular than PVC, limiting its availability.
Another drawback of PEX is that it’s not suitable for hot water systems. While both types of plastic piping are resistant to high temperatures, neither is appropriate for hot water lines that run into your shower or washing machine.
Which Type of Plumbing is Right for You?
While either type of plastic piping has its pros and cons, you’ll need to consider your specific situation when making a final decision.
If you don’t plan on installing hot water lines in the future, PEX is the better option for long-term use. However, if you want to use it for hot water systems, PEX would be a poor choice.
On the other hand, PVC is usually the better option if you want extra flexibility or don’t have many tight or cramped spaces to work within your home.
The decision comes down to your circumstances and preferences regarding your home’s plumbing system to look and function.
Whichever type of plastic piping you choose, it’ll be an investment that should last for years to come. You should also feel confident that your home or business has reliable plumbing, making choosing either PVC or PEX the best choice overall.
Tips for Working with PVC and PEX
Now that you’ve got the basics on each type of piping, here are a few more tips to help make your installation process more manageable.
Always keep extra tools close by. PVC is easy to break if it gets kinked or forced into tight spaces, so always have spare rags and PVC cement nearby to correct any issues.
Keep your pipe heated for 10 minutes or so before you bend it. This will make bending much easier, as cold PVC falls apart easily during the installation process. If this happens, use epoxy cement to fix it right away before it cools completely.
PVC can be cut with a hacksaw, but you’ll need to use epoxy cement afterward for safety and durability.
Make sure to wipe the exterior of any PVC parts before using them. That will remove any dirt or oil that might affect how well the pipe fits together later on.
Cut PEX piping with a high-quality tool. A cheap saw will leave your PEX rough and jagged, which causes issues like clogged pipes and slow water flow.
If you’re working with PEX, make sure both the pipe and the water are as hot as possible. This makes it easier for hot water systems and slows down the aging process, so your piping lasts for many more years.
It would help if you always used an expansion tool when working with PEX. This will help you get the best possible angles for your piping and create a smoother result overall.
Ensure to secure any PEX ends before using them to prevent leakage later on. You can do this by crimping or flattening the end shut.
When choosing between PVC and PEX piping, the decision ultimately depends on your specific needs and preferences.
Both types of piping have their own advantages and disadvantages, so it’s important to consider what you want in a plumbing system before making a final decision. Hopefully, you found this article to be helpful. Thank you for reading!