Video: What's the Best Plumbing Pipe for Your Home?

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Jmartin

Subject: Water main leak

I have a water main leak and water is in my front yard. I've had 3 plumbers come out. All said they were using copper pipes, excavating etc. only one is a master plumber and the pricing is from 2800 to 4800. The total work is 50 ft from the water main to my house. Why such a big pricing gap and should I be concerned? They all have websites, one doesn't have any reviews

James Figy
James Figy

Subject: Hiring advice

JMartin, I'm sorry to hear about your water main leak! Fluctuations in price, like those you've seen, are normal and exactly why Angie's List advises consumers get three or more quotes. If you're having trouble choosing, check the reviews. A company with more positive reviews will likely provide you with the best work and experience.

A master plumber likely has more experience than the other journeymen, but that doesn't mean they can't do the job. The important thing is that they're licensed, insured and bonded. For more information and questions to ask before hiring a plumber, check out the Angie's List Guide to Hiring a Plumber (https://www.angieslist.com/plumbing/plumbers.htm).

To talk to someone in real time, please call us: 1-888-944-5478. Sincerely, James F.  |  Staff writer, Angie's List Magazine

Jordan Isherwood

Subject: Piping

Just so everyone knows copper is way better. The problem with copper is it cost more and it hast to be oversized. For example 3/4" copper should only take 7 fixture units where 3/4" pex can take 17. If you want to pipe your house to last for years and years pipe it in 1" copper. Then just have all your branches to fixtures have a dedicated 1/2" line each. It will cost way more to install but it will last ten times longer. Also change your prv (pressure reducing valve) once every 10 years. If you do that I will bet money you will not have problems.

Sarah

Subject: PEX

While I know they have used Pex plumbing in Europe since the late 60's... has anyone ever done the reaseach to see who the highest in the world for cancer is?? Denmark is #1. Do you know who started one of the first manufacturing plant's for Pex piping, if not the first?? DENMARK! Actually, 4 out of the top 6 countries in the world for the highest rate of cancer are from Europe. I have PEX in my home and have been smelling a very bad plastic smell coming out of my pipes and my plumber confirmed it. Its not only dangerous to drink this water, but also to bath in it. Please do your research before you put your babies or your loved ones in that deadly stuff. I will say they had ran my pipes through the heating ducks, not on them, through them, which is heating them and making them worse, but I still would never use them again.

A Kreuter

Subject: PEX Pipe

There area three grades of PEX piping and over 20 manufacturers. The highest grade is "predicted" to last 50 years at best, the lower 2 grades are "predicted" to last 25 years at best. It will degrade when exposed to chlorine, pesticides, herbicides and rapidly degrades when exposed to sunlight. Our town uses chlorine to purify our water and actually spikes the amount of chlorine once a year for a month. Europe has used PEX for years, but they do not use chlorine to purify their water. Also, PEX degrades when exposed to pesticides and herbicides, so if some of your PEX lines are underground they may be degraded by such things as termiticides. Our plumber put in PEX at our request, as it was already used in our home. We moved some plumbing and to do so the plumber cut into our concrete to move a plumbing line. They added more termiticide to the area where they then placed the PEX tubing. Thus, causing future problems for our PEX. As soon as we found out the NUMEROUS problems of PEX degradation we decided to switch to copper piping. It will cost a couple of thousand dollars to re-do our new lines, but we consider it a "dodged-bullet ". Research PEX extensively before using it. At first our research didn't turn up any problems, but by digging a little deeper we found multitudes of problems. All of which our plumber claimed to have no knowledge of.

Bubba

Subject: CPVC Pipe

Chlorinated polyvinyl chloride. It's that white pipe (sometimes with a pink tint). It is used on sump pumps nearly all the time, sewer/drain pipes, and even hot and cold water supply lines.

It works, unlike some earlier plastic pipes.

Rojak Starr

Subject: Pex

This is the first time hearing about this new pipe, I need to know more before conmetting on the subjuct.

Dean Clark

Subject: Water supply piping

I own Clark Brothers Plumbing Co.Inc.
I am a Master Plumber ClassII Non-Restricted Plumber
If you look at 3/4inch pex fittings you'll notice the fittings reduce to the same size as 1/2 inch copper piping.Lose of volume due to reduction in fittings. I have heard of problems with pex tubing on re-circulating lines developing pin holes in piping.I suggest spending the extra for copper .It will save you down the road.I have also been doing plumbing repairs for 34 years. So ,I'm not making this up.I have seen it firsthand.

Candace Wilgis

Subject: breakage of underneath plumbing pipe

I live in a 24 yr. old mobile home and have been having clogged up toilets and bathtubs intermittedly. I go to discover the plumber that came to help me found a broken sewage pipe under my home. How on earth can someone be so careless as to connect this when I purchased my home? all these other mobile homes in this park don't have this problem. I don't understand. I thought it could be the years of bad winter cold weather or something.

Mike

Subject: Pex

I have used Pex for years and have had no issues. The only failures I have ever seen were with Poly-Bute plumbing and plastic fittings. Unfortunately with the new lead free mandates it has pushed the cost of brass Pex fittings sky high. I have had to go to plastic fittings for Pex plumbing. In terms of what is the best pipe to use for plumbing would be Pex. Then copper. CPVC is easy to work with but I have never been comfortable using it. PVC should never be used for household plumbing. Galvanized is hard to work with especially when dealing with leaks and lack of unions. Plus the rough interior of galvanized pipe attracts sediment and iron and will close off a pipe in no time.

Frank

Subject: Just another marketing ploy.

Just another marketing ploy. What happens to the hot water side? Do chemicals from the pipe leech into the water?
Until there is more information on this type of piping, I'd stick with cooper.

Jordan Isherwood

Subject: Pex

It's a common known fact that pex doesn't act different with hot water. I would agree with you that copper is better tho. The reason why company's now use pex (cross linked polyethylene) is it's properties. It holds up to water better than any other pipe. For example a 1/2" pex pipe can with hold 7 fixture units where a 1/2" copper pipe can only with hold 4. That's why company's use it it's way cheaper. Think of it this way 2 toilets in pex cost $1100 2 toilets in copper cost $3600. So you do the math.

Matthew Klein

Subject: Best plumbing type

The article mainly focused on the use of PEX in homes rather than truly informing people about choices in building construction. In regard to PEX, one important issue that was not mentioned is that some PEX installations have had issues with the connectors. Therefore, the installations can have problems if the work is not done properly. I recommend that people who are going to use PEX or have it used in their home research this plumbing to make sure they know what those issues are and what to look for.

buildit bb

Subject: copper vs pex

Read up on health benefits of copper purifying your water. Viruses and mold cannot grow in copper.

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?

First - NOT full septic tank - if that was the case you would be getting backup of sewage into the lowest drains in the house, and possible very slow flushing or refusal to drain out of the bowl - the opposite of your case.

Second - I assume you are the owner. If a renter or on a lease, this type of problem may be the responsibility of your landlord, depending on the terms of your lease or rental agreement.

OK - two possible situations here - low water in BOWL, or low water in TANK. I am assuming your toilet flushes OK, with adequate water to clean out the bowl, and that it is a typical type toilet with a tank sitting on the back of the bowl. If this is not the case and it is a designer toilet or looks like those at public restrooms (no tank), then the BOWL answers still apply if it is initially refilling OK, but if not enough refill water coming in at all then call a plumber.

First, low water in the toilet BOWL case. If the water in the toilet BOWL is low after flushing, I see four likely causes, in order of most likelihood -

1) the fill valve is not putting enough water into the toilet bowl. If you take the top off the tank, you will see a small hose (typically black plastic) coming from the fill valve (a vertical mechanism, usually at left side of tank, that the incoming water tube or flex hose connects to the bottom of on the bottom side of the tank). While the tank is refilling after a flush, a steady but not large flow of water flows through this fill tube and down into a vertical pipe or tube (usually brass or plastic and about 3/4 inch diameter, which stands almost full height of tank). The small tube puts water into this pipe, from where it flows into and refills the toilet bowl. This is also the overflow tube, which keeps the tank from overflowing if the fill valve fails to shut off. If the fill valve has a problem or the fill tube has a blockage, it may not be letting enough water into the bowl. Also, check the tube is actually pointed down into the overflow tube - if the clip came loose, rusted away or broke, then it may just be filling the toilet tank rather than the bowl. Check that a steady flow (will not be a real foreceful jet) of water is flowing out of this tube into the overflow pipe while the toilet tank is refilling. You should also see the bowl filling up at this time. If it come in but does not fill high enough because it does not run long enough, some fill valves have an adjustment - check fill valve manufacturer website for instructions. Others just have to be replaced - doable if you are handy at home repairs (see web videos on how to do it), or call a plumber for probably about $150-200 to replace fill valve (have him replace the flapper valve at same time if you get this done).

2) there is something like a rag or string caught in the trap (the waste passage within the toilet body itself) which is slowly wicking the bowl water down the drain - would be solved by a good snaking. If this is the case, the bowl will fill fully after flushing, but then slowly (typically many minutes to hours) drain down to just filling the start of the oval or round drain passageway where the waste passage starts to curve up into the toilet body.

3) blocked sewer vent pipe (which vents sewer gas and lets air into the sewer system so when you flush the traps in drains and toilets and such do not get sucked dry by the vacumn caused by the exiting flow. If this is the problem, then several drains in your house may have the same problem, or drain slowly. When you flush, the water will drain totally down the pipe and almost all the water in the bowl and trap will go down the drain too, typically with a gurgling sound for a few seconds at the end as the air seal is broken in the trap, then a small amount of water will flow back from the trap into the bowl, leaving you with water in the entrance curve to the trap but nowhere near normal height in the bowl - maybe not even enough to fill the entrance of the drain passage.

4) a crack in the toilet, letting water gradually leak out of the bowl onto the floor or into the subfloor. If this has been going on for long at all you should see water on the floor, or water coming out in the ceiling downstairs, or in the basement or crawl space under the toilet.

Case 2 - the problem is low water in the toilet TANK - since this is a sudden problem, two likely causes:

1)  the float arm has corroded or the float setting has moved. Look in tank for any broken part. You may have a black ball on the end of a metal or plastic arm connected to the fill valve (which is the part, normally at the left side of the tank, that the flexible or copper tubing comes into at the bottom of the tank), or it may be a sliding cylindrical float that slides up and down on the fill valve (typically all plastic) - see if it is broken or loose or alll corroded up (for the arm type). When you flush, this float hangs down (if lever type) or slides down the fill valve (cylinder type), opening the fill valve so fresh water comes in to fill the tank and bowl. As the tank fills it lifts this float, till at the proper elevation the bouyancy of the float shuts off the fill valve. If the setting on this float has changed then it will either cause the toilet to "run" continually because it is trying to overfill the tank (float shuts off at too high a level, so water is continuously flowing down into the overflow tube and into the bowl); or it will shut off too soon, causing only a partial tank fill. There are adjustments to adjust the float shutoff setting - typically an adjustment xxxx on the arm-type, and a slider stop clip on a small rod for the sliding type. See web videos on how to adjust this, or call a plumber.

2) your flapper valve (in bottom of tank, the part a chain or cord or rod connects to the flush handle, which opens it when you flush the toilet, leaks. If it leaks AND the fill valve is working, the tank level drops till the fill valve opens, then the tank refills. This repeats at intervals, with the tank refilling periodically even though it has not been flushed. May need new flapper valve or just a good wiping of the sealing surface to remove grit that is causin it to leak. If this is the problem you will have a slight flow of water into the bowl continually, and will probably see a slight ripple in the toilet bowl.

3) water is leaking out of the fittings or bolt holes on the bottom of the tank. If this is happening enough to make you notice low takn water level, the tank will refill periodically the same as if the flapper valve is leaking, plus you will have water on the floor and dripping off the bottom of the tank.

 

Fill valve and flapper valves each cost around $15 if you do it yourself (you can buy just replacement flapper for less if that is the problem and the matching seal is good, but that is rarely the case). A plumber call to replace both probably $150-200, ASSUMING your water shutoff valve (at the wall, under the tank, with a flex or copper tube coming fromit up to the toilet tank) will work.. If it will not shut off the flow of water, then add another $50-150 to replace that, depending on how it is plumbed and whether he has to cut into the wall to replace it (rarely required). If you do go and have a plumber do it, have both the fill valve and flapper valve (and flush handle, if aluminum or brass and corroded) replaced at the same time, as all tend to go out with age - every 10 years or so. You don't want to have to call the plumber to replace another part in just a year or two.

?

From the sounds of it, you have a clog between the floor drain and the connection to the city sewer (unless you have a septic tank).  The lower flow rates of sinks / showers / dishwashers probable don't cause a backup like the washing machine does.  A couple of suggestions.

1.  Snake the drain line with a spade tip snake, twisting the snake as you advance it.  This should clear the partial blockage.

 2.  If feasable, have your washing machine discharge into a utility sink and put a strainer on the drain to catch the clothing fibre (fibres and grease from the sink probably made the clog in the first place not to mention a garbage disposal).

3.  Replace your floor drain with one that has a backflow preventer (looks like there is a ping pong ball in it).

 Good Luck

?
It is not uncommon for a plumber to have to go get the parts necessary to repair and complete the job.  It is very hard to determine what the problem is over the phone and it is not until the repair process begins that the parts needed to resolve the problem is discovered.  It may also depend on if the plumber is using hourly rates or per job rates.  I would hope the time to get the parts would be minimal and the charge would be as well!
?

You have not said how old your house is, what normal water line life in your area is, whether it is leaking under the foundation or under the yard, etc. Cost depends a great deal on length of run, depth to dig to get below frost line, whether excavation will be through trees or other obstructions or open area, whether ground along route is too steep for a backhoe to work on, etc.

The first thing you really need to figure out is whether this is a spot repair issue, or a total line replacement issue. Your plumber should be able to help with that determination.  Very general rule of thumb - very old line from before 80's, if galvanized pipe, could be at its practical life and be ready for total replacement. Copper line generally last about 50-70 years UNLESS in a corrosive soil environment or if it has groundwater flowing actively past it, then can be 20-30 years. Plastic lines from the 60's to 80's vary a lot - from as little as 10 years to 50 plus dependingon brand. Plastic lines (PVC, HDPE, PE) from the 80's and later are expected to last 50-100 years - most have not failed yet, so no good handle on how long they will last.

An above-ground or under the slab line a plumber will do. Buried line outside he generally subcontracts to an excavator to dig and backfill the line, or asks you to get the excavation done.

 

If section needing replacement is under your floor slab or foundation, then a full replacement can be many thousands of $ depending on how many linear feet, and if interior flooring will have to be replaced or if you are on a bare concrete slab or bringing the new line in above-ground once you get through the foundation. A simple one-spot buried pipe repair (based on acoustic locating and precisely measuring the location of the problem) can be as little as $400 but probably more often $1000 or so - more if poor access like under a slab underneath stairs.

If the runs to be replaced are exposed in a crawl space or basement than it can run as little as $20/LF (probably $400 minimum job cost) to replace.

 

Outside line to the street can run from as little as $10/LF in areas where the pipe is shallow (no annual frost penetration) and in easy digging soil, to $250/LF or more if deeply buried, have to excavate through trees and heavy roots or boulders, steep topography, other utility interferences etc. Generally not more than $50/LF. Commonly, instead of digging up the old line, they select a new semi-parallel route from a good connection point for you existing interior water lines at the foundation (maybe not where it currently comes in, depoending on access) to the street main shutoff valve (called a "key box", taking a route between them that is easiest to get a backhoe into and minimizes destruction of valuable plantings or trees. A number of $50/LF is commonly tossed around as "normal" for this type of job, if exceeding 100 feet or so and digging and access conditions are normal.

If your connection is in the middle of the street rather than along your side in the yard, that can easily add $2-5,000 to the job, as the water utility usually has to do that part, and repair the street afterwards. In a major throughway street, even more because of traffic control, multi-agency permits, etc.

 

As always, find 2-3 responsible, well-recommended (Anglie's List ?) contractors, and then get bids. The route I would go is first go with your regular plumber to locate the leak (probably acoustically, by listening for the leak) and determine the scope of work needed, then if major, go for multiple bids.