Galvanized Steel vs. Copper vs. PEX vs. PB Piping Material
October 13, 2022
PEX pipes are the top option for plumbing in Florida. But that doesn't mean you should automatically pass up a house that uses other materials. Galvanized steel and copper are great piping materials in the right circumstances.
In this blog, we'll look at the four standard pipe options, including:
- Galvanized steel
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PB or Polybutylene Piping
Polybutylene pipes, or PB pipes, are one of the worst options in plumbing. In fact, these pipes perform so poorly that they're no longer sold and are not in current building codes. Developers started using these plastic pipes in the late 1970s. By 1995, a class action lawsuit ended its manufacturing in the US.
Why did PB pipes get pulled off the market? They easily burst. Eventually, these pipes fail, but they don't fail with pinhole leaks or slow leaks that give you time to talk to a plumber and protect your property. Instead, these pipes wear away from the inside due to exposure to commonly used water treatment chemicals. The result is a pipe that cracks suddenly and with little warning. If your home has PB pipes, don't wait for a disaster to strike before calling in a professional plumber. Start planning for your repiping job today.
- It’s easy to install.
- It’s temperature resistant.
- It’s inexpensive to install.
- They don't last long enough, often less than 20 years.
- PB pipes fail spectacularly, often resulting in additional property damage to homes.
- No longer sold in the US and the subject of a $1B class action lawsuit in 1995.
Considering buying an old home with PB pipes? Be sure to add the cost of a whole-home repiping to the top of your offer. You'll likely be paying for one sometime in the future, and it's best to budget for it.
Galvanized Steel Piping
Homes built before 1960 may have galvanized steel pipes. These pipes are steel finished with a zinc coating to reduce the possibility of corrosion. There are two fundamental problems with galvanized steel pipes.
- Possible lead exposure. According to the EPA, these pipes can be a significant source of lead in drinking water. The zinc used to coat these pipes was often naturally occurring and could contain trace amounts of lead and other impurities.
- Even with a zinc coating, the interior of the pipes can gradually rust. The pipes look good on the outside but are riddled with problems internally.
Galvanized pipes typically last for about 40 years, meaning that few homes with these pipes installed will still have an entirely galvanized steel plumbing system. When house shopping, it might be worth considering repiping rather than passing on a particular home depending on the amount of galvanized steel piping left in a home.
- It’s a long-lasting pipe material with an expected lifespan of 40 years or more.
- Lead and other mineral buildups can leach into your drinking water, which is a health hazard.
- Galvanized pipes rust from the inside out, making it difficult to tell when there's an upcoming problem. As they age, these pipes are more likely to have a catastrophic failure.
- Pipes made from galvanized steel are heavy and thick, making them unsuitable for use in compact spaces.
Copper is still one of the most popular materials to pipe new homes. It's versatile and long-lasting, making it a big step up from galvanized steel. However, it is one of the most expensive options for piping, with average costs exceeding $1.50 per linear foot. A high price tag and problems like pinhole leaks make copper a better choice than galvanized steel but not the best for Floridians.
- Copper comes in small pipe diameters, making it easy to use for any plumbing application.
- It can ideally last even longer than galvanized pipes, with an expected lifespan of up to 50 years.
- The price tag on copper may blow the budget for your home repiping job.
- Water flowing through copper pipes may not have the best flavor. Copper oxidizes and can leave the water with a metallic taste and higher than recommended levels of copper in your drinking water.
- Pinhole leaks are a particular concern when you live in Florida since we have relatively hard water. Hard water leads to rapid corrosion inside your copper pipes, which causes pinhole leaks.
Learn more about pinhole leaks and how to prevent them. We also offer water-softening services that can help extend the life of your existing copper pipes.
PEX: Best Piping Material
In Florida, the best plumbing material is PEX piping. This newer version of plastic piping delivers on the earlier promises of PB without the downsides. These pipes are cheap to buy, last at least 50 years, and install quickly and easily.
- PEX pipes can last for 100 years under most conditions, including in most areas in Florida.
- Water treatment chemicals do not affect these pipes, and the pipes don't change your water's flavor.
- No pinhole leaks. For Floridians, this single benefit makes PEX a clear winner when discussing repiping.
- PEX pipes are a type of plastic. Those seeking environmentally friendly building materials might prefer a different option.
- UV light can cause PEX pipes to degrade more rapidly than expected. These pipes aren't suitable for any installation with natural or indoor light exposure.
Ready to Schedule a Repipe?
Call Red Cap Plumbing & Air at (813) 963-3056 to take advantage of our fast, convenient scheduling and on-time guarantee. With over two thousand 5-star reviews, Tampa homeowners trust us to install whole-home repiping that lasts for years. Plus, if we aren't at your home during your scheduled appointment window, we will give you $100 for your current or future job.
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