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goodbye copper hello pex

One of the benefits of the modern bath makeover is the opportunity take advantage of new technologies in the construction industry. One of the areas where this is clearly demonstrated is the area of plumbing. Thanks to a material known as PEX, more contractors and homeowners are saying goodbye to traditional copper plumbing. Copper plumbing has served the American construction industry faithfully for generations. However, in the 21st century it is expensive. It’s also notoriously difficult to work with unless one has extensive experience with it. PEX is a new alternative that is less expensive and easy enough for just about anyone to install.

Large white bathroom with tub, shower, shiny tiles and wood cabinet.


PEX is a plastic product known scientifically as cross-linked polyethylene. In the world of plastics, polyethylene is the most commonly used product around the world. Cross-linked polyethylene is a stronger type of material relying on chemical bonds that link together multiple polymer chains. To the layman, the simplest explanation is to say that PEX is a lot stronger than standard polyethylene due to its composition. That makes it suitable for construction applications – including plumbing – that other plastics cannot handle. PEX is so strong that it can be used to replace copper plumbing despite the pressurization of municipal water systems.


What makes PEX so attractive for bathroom remodeling is its fittings. In the old days of copper, you had to be fairly proficient with an acetylene torch and a bead of solder if you wanted a tight joint that would not leak. If you didn’t strike just the right beat, you could end up with a burst fitting weeks or months down the road. With PEX, there are no special skills required. PEX tubing is married to fixtures, joints, and copper plumbing using a series of cinch rings, push-ins, and couplings. If you can use a basic set of hand tools, you can install PEX quickly and easily. The only downfall with PEX is that it’s easy to kink. If you bend it at an angle that’s too sharp, or you bend it too quickly, it can develop a kink that will make it impossible for water to pass through. Fortunately, PEX suppliers do sell pre-angled sleeves that allow you to bend your tubing at just the right angle to avoid kinks.


When you are remodeling your bathroom, you’ll want to get PEX as both sticks and flexible tube coils. The sticks are easy to cut to size and use under the sink, behind the tub panel, and so on. For larger runs through multiple wall joists, the flexible tubing works a lot better. When you buy your PEX, you’ll note that it comes in both blue and red. The different colors eliminate the confusion between hot and cold water when making your connections. And speaking of connections, you’ll probably want to use copper stub-outs to connect PEX to shutoff valves. This gives you the necessary stability to open and close the valves without damaging the PEX tubing.

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