This is a question we’ve been asked at least once or twice a year, so here are our thoughts on whether copper is still a crucial material in the world of plumbing. Firstly let’s address the initial questions. Yes, it is still widely used in today’s market. If you’re from a plumbing family or know someone who specialises in plumbing, chances are you have had heard about the benefits of using PEX tubing over copper for home water supply lines. However, if you haven’t heard or given much thought to this subject, you may be surprised to find out that piping for both gas and water continues to be made of copper in many homes across the UK and Europe. Not only does it function perfectly well, but its physical properties can make it very useful in certain applications.
When most people think of copper pipes, they picture the familiar “L” shape, or an angular tube bent into a U-shape with two open ends. However, the reality is that copper piping for home use does not have to be shaped like this. While most plumbers choose to use it in these forms because they are familiar with them and know how to work with them, there are many other shapes that can be used depending on circumstances. For example, you may come across someone who has decided to construct their own home plumbing system rather than pay for an expensive job by a professional plumber. Now, if they don’t know anything about pipe bending or soldering techniques, it’s likely they’ll simply go out and buy standard sections of L-shaped tubing and drill holes in them to accommodate fittings. While this is completely legitimate, it will limit the ease with which they can repair or replace their plumbing system in the future if anything should go wrong.
Is copper dying?
It’s fair to say that we have seen a decline in copper pipes over recent years, especially in the UK with copper prices extremely high! But it is still a solid choice amongst many plumbers and it actually comes down to personal preference in most cases. Copper and brass plumbing fittings are likely to be among the first pieces of equipment found in a plumber’s van, and it’s because they deliver exceptional quality when compared to plastic. Copper pipes can last up to 50 years if properly maintained and installed. Long-term, they’re prone to pinhole leaks and rusting as the inner layers do become weaker with time, so if your pipes are ancient or require regular upkeep, you might want to consider switching to plastic piping. This is because it’s cheaper and the installation process can be easier and faster. Plastic plumbing piping may not look very glamourous, but they are light in weight, tough, resistant to chemical attack and available in large lengths. They reduce the cost of handling, transportation and installation. There are fewer joints, which facilitates the speed and reduces the chances of leakage. They are rust-resistant and can be used with a wide variety of chemicals.
The disadvantages include the fact that plastic pipes need jointing, and during jointing, they are very slow; their ability to stretch is limited, and this may cause some problems when you’re repairing the pipe; they do not provide a good insulating material so cold water supply will affect the temperature of hot water in a way not acceptable to all users. Replacing copper piping might be more expensive than replacing other household objects such as dishwashers or washing machines. It’s also important to think about future repairs – plastic plumbing piping can’t be repaired by soldering, only replaced.