Professional home builders and re-modelers know that there are almost countless decisions that need to be made between the start and finish of any project. While it is usually the contractor that handles most of these decisions, homeowners need to take an active role in selecting the products and materials that will be installed especially when it comes to the things that will be installed behind the walls. These items, that are largely unseen when the remodeling is completed, can make a big difference in the long-term success of your project.
Copper is still considered the quality standard by most contractors, homeowners and building inspectors however, plastic tubing for hot and cold water lines is now approved for use in most areas of the U.S. Its’ low cost is attractive to contractors who want to keep costs down, and to homeowners who feel that because it is not seen, it doesn’t really matter. Some feel that this reasoning is shortsighted and may come back to haunt homeowners in years to come. Plastic is still considered to be an inferior alternative to copper by some.
There are other, important reasons to choose copper over plastic for new homes and remodeling projects. Copper plumbing meets or exceeds building code standards in all 50 states of the U.S.. It is the only residential water-pipe material that carries a 50-year manufacturer’s warranty. Copper plumbing and fittings require no maintenance and simply don’t wear out. Another good health reason to choose copper is that contaminants can’t penetrate it, and its surface can actually inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria. Copper can also withstand extreme temperatures from freezing to well above boiling without becoming brittle, rupturing or melting. This minimizes the chances that a pipe will burst and water damage will occur which can be a costly and often uninsured problem when it occurs in a home. Copper can take heat up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit without melting but plastics burn or fail at far lower temperatures. Unlike many plastics, copper doesn’t emit toxic fumes when exposed to flame. For these and other reasons, copper has always been a preferred material for automatic fire sprinkler systems and is the required material for most commercial water systems.
There’s another practical reason for using copper: When retrofitting or adding onto an existing water-supply system, re-modelers are better off to find copper than plastic. Because all copper pipe, tube and fitting conform to standard sizes, tie-ins are very routine and finding materials to match is never a problem. Very often, this is not the case with less-widely-used plastic systems. Incompatibility among different types of plastic systems effect job costs, parts availability and product warranties.
Homebuyers and home re-modelers also should be aware that the cost of copper plumbing is competitive with plastic when repairs over the life of the materials and higher home-sale prices are factored in. Real estate agents will attest that a copper plumbing system can add to the resale value of a home. Surveys show that copper has a higher perceived value than plastic, and copper is requested more often by homeowners and buyers. Plumbing contractors prefer copper also. It is said that nearly 90 percent of all plumbers nationwide have copper plumbing in their own homes.
When it comes to plumbing systems, the fact is that copper is the least likely material to cause household problems. Because of this fact more than 80 percent of homes in the United States rely on copper pipe and fittings. However, there is a growing use of plastics in plumbing systems. According to the Copper Development Association (CDA), this trend presents hidden dangers to the average homeowner and consumer.