Is PEX the new Polybutylene?

There are a lot of similarities between PEX pipe failure and Polybutylene pipe failure. For us, the replacement process is similar. You can read more about our process here: Pipe Replacement Process.

Additionally, the reasons for the pipe failure are similar, insofar as exposure to sunlight and chemicals in the water deteriorate the material.

In the past, PEX pipe was commonly used to replace failing polybutylene.

Polybutylene was installed in more than 10 Million homes between the 1970’s and mid-1990’s! (1)

Unfortunately, PEX piping was popular with new home construction for a long time.

As polybutylene began to fail – which ultimately led to a massive class action lawsuit (2) – cross-linked polyethylene (PEX) was a fast and cost effective solution.

Now, within the last few years, PEX manufactures are facing similar class action lawsuits. (3)

So, to answer the question: yes, PEX failure is essentially the new polybutylene failure.

Is PEX plumbing bad?

It depends on how it’s being used. When we say “PEX pipe failure”, we are primarily talking about PEX being used inside the walls.

Specifically, when PEX pipe is used for the interior water distribution system.

Essentially, you have a “ticking time-bomb” inside your walls, because that PEX pipe is going to fail.

If PEX piping is being used for water supply lines to your toilet, then that’s not the same “ticking time-bomb scenario”. In that instance, the pipe is not necessarily part of the interior water distribution system. In those cases, you’ll be able to see when PEX line needs to be replaced.

When PEX pipes ARE inside your walls, then you won’t know it. You won’t see it. There won’t be much warning, before “the time-bomb” goes off.

So, yes, PEX can cause catastrophic damage to your home and belongings. Therefore, we definitely think PEX pipes are bad for the interior water distribution system of your home.

PEX-A Pipe Inside Walls

Example of PEX-A being used in the walls

What should PEX pipe be replaced with?

There are trade-offs with all replacement options. Ultimately, our customers want their PEX or poly pipes replaced with a material that’s going to last and not empty their bank account.

We highly recommend replacing PEX or poly pipes with CPVC pipes or Copper pipes; however, we do not put cheap & generic CPVC pipes in your house.

It’s extremely important to us that the manufacture is willing to put their name on their product. So, we specifically use FlowGuard Gold®.

The people at FlowGuard Gold® recently reached out to us for an interview. They wanted to know why we choose to use their product. You can read that interview by clicking here

Is CPVC the same thing as PVC?

No, CPVC is not the same thing as PVC.

PVC is a pipe used mostly for drains. It should not be used as part of the interior water distribution system, because it is not rated to carry hot water.

Is CPVC pipe bad?

It depends on who you ask. A lot of construction companies & plumbers like PEX, because it’s affordable and easily installed.

One of the reasons, PEX is easy to install is because it’s basically a flexible hose that doesn’t have the traditional joints of other pipes.

So, most people that don’t like CPVC complain about the need for properly creating those joints.

Creating the pipe joints for CPVC takes more time & skill. CPVC is not like a garden hose that can easily move around objects. So, we have to carefully plan the route for the CPVC pipes.

Another big difference between CPVC and PEX pipes is the way they connect to other pipes.

CPVC, like many plumbing pipes, needs to have the connection and joints sealed. PEX, however, uses a crimping method, which has its own host of problems.

For example, if PEX is not crimped with the proper tools or methods, then you will have leaks.

CPVC basically uses a solvent to create a chemical weld between the pipe and the fitting. Like any type of plumbing pipe, it’s important that CPVC be installed with the proper tools & methods.

Does Plumbing Express use PEX piping?

We do use PEX for water service lines.

This is the line bringing water from the water meter to the house.

PEX is a flexible tub and it is very good in underground applications which are less critical than in-wall applications. If a pipe leaks in the yard, there is a minimal likelihood of damage to the home.

What if I have PEX piping under my house?

If there is a failing pipe under the house that can’t be accessed because it is under a concrete slab, Plumbing Express will repipe a home and bypass the pipes that are under the slab.

Many plumbers will do a slab leak repair which involves calling a leak detection company to pinpoint the leak, removing the flooring above the slab and then breaking the concrete slab with a jackhammer to access and repair the pipe. We don’t do that.

Rather, for not much more money, all the slab pipes can be bypassed with a complete repipe. After a repipe, there are no more active water supply pipes in the slab.

As with other types of leaks, a leak in a slab is often a sign of widespread failure in the system.

What if I have a PEX pipe leak?

To repair a PEX pipe leak, the best thing to do is cut out the section of failed pipe and re-crimp a new piece of pipe into the line.

If the PEX pipe in the system is failing, then it is likely that another leak will develop on the adjacent pipe.