The recent polar vortex caused me to debate the issue of whether or not I should replace my dated CPVC plumbing system with pex tubing. The cold weather didn’t give me much of a choice or time to debate, since my pipes froze and burst in numerous places.
While the cost of pex tubing is relatively inexpensive the tools and fittings used can jack cost of the job up pretty quickly. Commonly used elbows and tees are roughly $2.25 apiece. Buying the 10 packs saves a few pennies. The tools can run from $40 to $90 at your local hardware store, but if you plan ahead you may be able to borrow a friend’s or even split the cost if someone you know is also considering making the switch.
Which tubing do I use? I walked into Lowe’s and saw red, blue, and white in two different sizes. I have a small house with just one bathroom so I chose to make it easier on myself and do everything in half inch white. The red is to identify hot water lines, the blue for cold. If you need more water pressure you could run three quarter inch as the main line and tee off any of the half inch colors to your fixtures. Using half inch was sufficient for my use and kept my costs down as I would not be using much of the red and blue and they were about $20 a roll.
I also took advantage of this opportunity to add a whole house water filter for cleaner water. The one we found on sale is small, easy to change the filter, and cost less than $100. A small cost for peace of mind that our water will taste better and have less harmful minerals.
The advantages I found to using pex were plenty. It is freeze resistant. Not that it can’t freeze, but it is less likely. I am still insulating mine with standard pipe insulation. It is cheap and easy to install. It is fairly flexible and can cut down on the number of fittings used when going around corners. Less fittings also means less places to spring a leak. It can be used in conjunction with copper, pvc, or cpvc. But the biggest advantage is that it can be done by a homeowner with a little knowledge. In fact, one of my daughter’s friends redid his house. He is 18 and doesn’t have a lot of handyman skills. It is a lot of over the head work, so you need strong arms that can be held up for long periods of time.
One thing to remember is pex cannot be used outside. This means if you purchase ahead of time, you should not leave it in the car or unheated garage for days. Put it in the basement where the lines will be ran.
For my 900 square foot house, where the bathroom, kitchen, and laundry are fairly close together, we used 90 feet of tubing with some scrap cuts. The total cost was $450 including the $40 tool for metal crimp bands. Total time to install was five hours, not including my ex-husband’s cigarette breaks. Labor was free, just a smile and a huge thank you.
If you decide to take on this project, make sure you have plenty of bottled water to drink for a couple days and buckets of water to flush the toilet. You don’t want to run into a problem and not have running water.