What the Heck is PEX?

October 16, 2010 in Home Safety & Maintenance, Investing In Real Estate

If you are like the rest of us non plumbers, having plumbing problems in one of your houses can present quite a challenge. Some of the handier folks are able to run right over to the house and take care of the problem. The rest of us immediately start looking up the plumber’s phone number. But, after we have called the plumber, how do we know if the repair that was done was the best or most cost effective way to take care of the problem? Well, the short answer is that most of the time we don’t.

I found out about in interesting, money saving product today (that is new to me) from one of my real estate investor friends. It is called PEX Tubing which is short for cross-linked polyethylene pipe. Unless you are a plumber or a handyman, there is a good chance that you don’t know much about it either.

Copper pipe has been around for decades, and we all know the advantages of copper. It is durable and flexible at the same time which makes it easy to install when compared to some of the other types of pipe like cast iron. So why should we be interested in PEX?

It is easier to install and it costs a fraction of what copper pipe costs!

So exactly what is PEX tubing? It is a plumbing material that can be used in place of copper in certain situations. It is flexible and easy for plumbers and non-plumbers to install. It is very durable for extreme temperatures (hot or cold) and is also resistant to breaking in cold weather. This makes it excellent for both hot and cold water systems. PEX also has the ability to resist the build up of chlorine and scale, it won’t corrode, doesn’t spring pinhole leaks and its installation is much faster that rigid plastic or metal systems. All in all, it’s a much easier product for us “non-plumbers” to work with. Fittings are also available that will allow it to adapt to existing copper piping. Another advantage of this product is that it can be unrolled from a spool. This means that for long runs, fewer couplings will be needed which will reduce the chance of leaks.

What Are the Disadvantages of PEX Tubing?

One of the main complaints I have heard from folks is that you have to have special tools to work with it. To purchase the special “crimper” that you need for the installation of PEX it will set you back somewhere around $90.00. One real estate investor told me that you can rent the tool at Home Depot for the day for about $8.00. This might be an alternative for you all of you “handy folks” that might just want to try PEX out without investing in any special tools.

Another thing to consider is that PEX cannot be used exterior applications as it is adversely affected by ultraviolet rays. You will have to use copper in these instances. PEX can be damaged if left outside for long periods of time. Also, PEX cannot be recycled due to its shorter life use.

So what’s the Answer?

There are advantages and disadvantages to both copper and PEX. Copper can corrode. It can also freeze and break during the winter. But the one thing that everyone can agree on is that copper has become expensive! And as real estate investors know, there are those people out there that have nothing better to do than break into our houses and rip out the copper pipe when we are not looking.

Plumbers that have been using copper for decades may not be ready to switch. But PEX is certainly something for real estate investors to take a look at if for no other reason that for its low cost and ease of installation. It seems to be a great solution for do-it-yourselfers.