PEX Pipes Guide – Everything You Need to Know About PEX and More

Installing the PEX pipe in new homes is the best option for running cold and hot water, also for small DIY projects and quick plumbing repairs. PEX pipes are one of the most versatile, flexible, affordable, and easy-to-use pipe types in the market. With PEX, it is now possible for homeowners easily to replace their leaking plumbing, instead of calling a plumber. So, if you want to learn more about it, compare, learn how to install, what to look for, problems and solutions, come further and find out!

Why installing a PEX pipe

PEX is a type of flexible plastic made of cross-linked polyethylene, developed back in the ’60s. It is accepted by the US building and plumbing codes and widely used, but local codes still have to be checked for specific requirements and restrictions.

PEX is flexible, easy to run and bend; it requires fewer fittings than other types and costs a lot less.

Installing a PEX pipe also requires little to no effort. The flexibility makes it very convenient for small spaces, and won’t put limits like PVC or other metal pipes when it comes to bending. As there are no as many elbows and fittings, bends in PEX ensure cheaper and simpler installation. Also, to install PEX, you don’t need any special tools (just a crimp tool and tubing cutter). You can use manifolds or connect tubes directly.

And to distinguish between the cold and hot water line, they are offered in red and blue color. So, if you are considering using PEX pipes, don’t hesitate – they are worth it. The best of all, PEX pipes are entirely affordable and will last a lifetime.

Look at this video and see how easy it is to install PEX:

Benefits of PEX

Want to know why PEX pipes are so amazing? The following points will give you a better and more detailed idea:

Easy to use

PEX plumbing is far easier to use than other types. They require fewer fittings and connections. They are totally bendable, don’t need any soldering or fluxes, and you can plug different pipes together without any special tool.

You won’t need glue either, so if you need to install pipes in a confined area, you can do it very quickly with PEX. The best of all, you can slice a PEX tube fast and without much strength. You will save time, effort, and money while using PEX pipes. 

Flexibility

PEX tubes are stored and sold in spools from the hardware store directly. This means PEX is easier to manage than other pipes, such as plastic or copper. It is also considerably lighter & easier to handle, store, and install wherever needed.

When you want to install a plumbing system without damaging walls, objects, without using the torch and metal cutters, doing it with PEX is more convenient than without. You can also curve them around the object easily. This also helps to reduce the number of fittings and install larger pieces without cutting them.

Durability

PEX is also very reliable, durable and resistant. It does not produce build-up as copper does which further affects the water flow, and does not corrode as metal types. PEX is also more resistant to freezing and breakage than plastic and copper pies. And what’s even better, PEX does not transfer heat as copper to the surrounding, so it conserves more energy.

Safe & dependable

PEX pipes are very safe in every way. However, the pipe must not be exposed to heat and particularly flame, UV light, and chemicals. The installation is also completed without soldering or gluing, making it much safer on the job site.

PEX is less likely to burst in the winter as well. It will stand breakage and even the higher temperatures. When it comes to dependability, there’s almost no competitor to PEX plumbing.

PEX disadvantages

Just as there are many advantages and benefits from installing PEX pipes, there are also disadvantages and problems that could arise from it. Here we list the most common:

Odor

Using water running through the PEX pipes could be unhealthy. They have a greater smell than other tubes, especially in regions where water is dirty or contains chemicals and contaminants. The odor or strange water taste will become especially notable if improperly stored, or the chemical vapor got absorbed (gasoline for example). This could eventually make drinking water undrinkable, an aftertaste or just an unpleasant smell.

Animals & insects

Rodents and small animals love nibbling inside PEX pipes, including some insects and that could result in structural damages and premature leaks.

Outdoor use

PEX is a little more resistant than copper and PVC, yet PEX is still not useful for exterior use. Whether it is extremely cold or hot, PEX gets brittle slowly leading to breaks. Water can also freeze up inside. In summer or hot temperatures, PEX can get oxidized and deteriorate, but not as fast as PVC or other metals. Still, it does not resist sunlight and UV either, as it gets damaged in just one month of exposure.

PEX problems

PEX, as other plastic has several disadvantages, which could still develop several issues that damage the tubing in a house. Here are a few examples:

Dezincification

One of the most common problems with PEX and brass fitting installation is the dezincification. It often happens when cutting the corner on cheap brass fittings. Over time high content zinc content in those fittings corrodes away when exposed to water. The fitting and connection with the tube, weakens, leading to leak or burst. The solution is to use the low-zinc brass fittings or any other material.

emergency plumber

Radiation & chemicals

Ultraviolet radiation (sunlight) is said to damage PEX tubing fast. In just one month, PEX pipes can start releasing chemicals into the water, as ultraviolet radiation makes PEX break down.

Chlorinated water may also produce decay and release chemicals in the water. And sometimes, it happens with hot or cold water, so using water from PEX may become unhealthy.

Luckily, there are various types of PEX pipes out there; each one has its own requirements and resistances. If you are going to use a particular kind in a place with slight sunlight exposure or chlorine, it is recommended to use the right one. Look for the one you need before installing anything.

Leaks & breakage

PEX pipes are also a little more vulnerable to breakage than copper or PVC. It is known that the mere impact of a wall being hit with a hammer can break a PEX pipe. So, it is always recommended to find the pipes behind before doing any wall work.

Also, with the fewer connections chances for leaks are reduced. They do not produce pinholes as found in copper and as they are more flexible, “water hammer” problem is almost eliminated.

Tips to avoid problems

  • Keep the plastic tubes away from the hot surface, such as hot flue vents on gas water heaters and furnaces. Check the codes to see what is the recommended distance.
  • If replacing or connecting to existing piping, make sure the PEX tube and its fittings could provide the same water flow, because the actual size of two different pipe types (1/2” PEX and ½” copper for example) is not the same. Consider using a larger size.
  • Protect the pipes going through the studs, slabs, and walls, or if in contact with different objects (ducts, joists…). Also, protect the system from existing pipe kinks by cutting out the kinks and replacing them with straight pipes and fittings. If the sharp bends or curves with smaller radius cannot be avoided, use the 90 deg. bend support brackets.

PEX tubing installation – Guide & tips

The installation of PEX tubing is easier and more straightforward than with other plumbing types. However, it may still demand much effort from the person who’s installing it. Here’s is what you should do to install PEX correctly:

Planning

Before doing anything with the PEX tubing, you have to make sure of what you are going to do. For this, plan with anticipation the amount of PEX tube you are going to use, the fittings you are going to need, and any other additional items that will make a difference. Also, measure everything correctly and plan about any bend or joint you may eventually need. If you plan before taking action, the installation of the PEX will be faster, easier, and with fewer problems than without planning.

Cutting the PEX

After you have all the plans thought out entirely, it is time to start cutting the PEX. Each cut should be straight and without bumps. For this, we recommend using a special cutter designed for PEX tubes. It could be a little expensive, but nothing out of the ordinary. Otherwise, make sure to cut as straight as possible, no matter the cutter. Remember to follow the measurements correctly; you won’t like to fall short when setting up the pipe.

Setting up the tubes and making connections

Setting up the pipes after cutting them can be a little troubling and frustrating. Here, we recommend several connecting methods, making the connections durable, reliable and watertight. For each method, the correct fittings and connectors should be used, including the right tools.

The first method is considered standard, and it uses the fitting inserted into the pipe, and the copper crimping ring that you slide close to the end of the pipe and over the fitting. Then use the crimping tool, to crimp the ring and tube tight.

The second method uses the expansion tool to increase the diameter of the tube end. Then, insert the expansion fitting. After the tube shrinks back to its original size (memory effect) put the plastic ring and press it over to secure the connection. The connection is easier to make when it is warmer than colder.

Similar to the above “standard” method, you can use the stainless steel clamp which goes over the tube and inserted fitting. Then the ratchet clamping tool is utilized to make the tight connection.

There are also methods that use “push-fit” such as Sharkbite and compression fittings for connecting tubes.

Remember to check the connections correctly for leaks and before passing them through walls.

If you have to make a transition between the PEX and copper tubing, use the brass fitting for connection. Solder one end of the fitting to the copper, and once it gets cooled to the room temperature connect the other to the PEX tube.

Run the piping

Now, after having the whole path of the pipes figured out and connecting the pipes, it is time to pass the tubing through. PEX is different from PVC and copper, especially when it comes to measuring. Pipes from PEX tend to contract one inch per 100 feet of tubing, especially with temperature changes. So, you must have at least 30 inches of support for every 6 feet of pipes. We recommend looping the PEX so it can eventually straighten up when needed.

Running PEX pipes is easy. You just have to drill the holes in the wall studs and feed the tubing through. Connecting the pipes is also simple, as explained in the above text, using one of the several methods.

Protect the line

PEX pipes are strong, but not invincible. From excessive moisture to sunlight, concrete, block, or just whatever that touches the tube, PEX can eventually be vulnerable to it with time. We recommend protecting the pipes with abrasion clips or pipe insulation.

Also, running PEX in curves can be a little problematic. We recommend using elbow fittings. While PEX is reasonably flexible, it is not as hard as you think, and it could eventually break or kink. A steel elbow fitting, for example, can support the curve or bend of PEX and reduce the danger of breakage.

Test the line

After successfully installing each line correctly and making sure everything is tight, it is time to test the line in search of leaks, bad connections or fittings. To do this, open the water valve connected to the tubing and let water pass through to the other side.

First, make sure water reaches its destination(s) successfully. Then, look for problems along the line. If you find a leak, you can just cut the small pipe and replace it with a new one, using a fitting and a crimp. If you don’t find any, then you’ve successfully installed PEX plumbing in your house.

Try to repeat the testing process two or three hours after the first time. It will help you clear out any overlooked leak or bad connection. Test again many times if you have to replace any tube as well.

Other types

Installing CPVC and copper pipes are also good options for plumbing.

CPVC is the most cost-effective solution. This type of pipe is durable that is resistant to high temperatures, making it ideal for hot water heating systems. It is also easy to install.

However, it is susceptible to direct sunlight exposure, UV lights, and chemicals.

Copper piping has a good track record that has been a standard for many years. Copper plumbing is durable, reliable, resistant to chemicals, can be installed indoor or outdoor, but it is not easy to install, it requires more fittings, is expensive and more conductive than PEX.

Conclusion

Installing PEX pipes could be an easy job. Whether it is for a small job, repairing an old pipeline, or merely remodeling – PEX can be the best idea for your house. But of course, it can also be a little problematic if you don’t know the basics. We are sure, however, that if you follow our guide, installing PEX pipes in your house can be easier than you thought.

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