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What Is Flexible Pipe Plumbing?

Cross-linked polyethylene (PEX) piping is commonly used these days for plumbing. It is cheaper and easier to install than copper pipe and it won’t corrode. Another advantage is that it is flexible. Builders have used flexible pipe plumbing for radiant heating systems for some time and it is now frequently used to run water supply lines.

Why Use a Flexible Pipe?

Wouldn’t being flexible weaken a plumbing pipe? That’s what some people ask, but PEX is quite strong and durable. You can also use CPVC, but this requires glue to install, so ventilation is an issue and is more prone to bursting if the pipe freezes. A PEX pipe:

  • Allows for long, continuous runs (most elbows and joints aren’t needed).
  • Can be snaked through joists and studs.
  • Resists bursting even if the line completely freezes.
  • Does not sweat under high humidity.
  • Can be placed by adding fittings with a crimping tool.

History of Flexible Pipe Plumbing

The discovery of PEX came in 1968. German scientist Thomas Engle was able to crosslink plastic through radiation to create a flexible pipe. This didn’t arrive in the U.S. until the 1980s. It was used in radiant floor heating systems by embedding the tubing in a concrete slab. Still used for this purpose, PEX pipe is also suited for a wide range of plumbing applications.

Early versions were prone to deterioration when exposed to high levels of chlorine. Therefore, the flexible pipe wasn’t initially popular in the United States. It continued to be used in Europe and the manufacturing process was improved. The addition of antioxidants made PEX suitable for use with drinking water. Improvements to connections and fittings also helped put it on the market.

How Is Flexible Pipe Used?

Another advantage of PEX is it comes in many lengths. You can find flexible tube in lengths as short as 10 feet, which is great if you need it for a small repair. It’s also available in rolls up to 500 feet long. Pipe diameters range from 3/8 to 1 inch. A PEX pipe is also color-coded. Red pipe carries hot water and blue pipe carries cold water. However, a white pipe can be used for both as can gray pipe.

Benefits of PEX

  • Flexible pipe plumbing does not require soldering, which makes installing copper and galvanized steel pipe more complex.
  • Color coding lets you easily distinguish between hot and cold lines.
  • Once installed, PEX can be expected to last a long time.
  • PEX piping expands, so freeze cracking is less of a concern.
  • Will not corrode (which often causes metal pipes to leak and contaminate water supplies).
  • PEX also does not exhibit water hammer noise and water flow is completely silent.
  • You can use it to replace metal water supply lines or connect it to existing metal lines if you use the correct fittings. The size of these fittings must be an exact match for the pipe (there are hundreds of different types of fittings).
  • They may be installed using copper crimping rings, expansion connections, stainless steel clamps, compression fittings, or push-fit connections

Types of PEX

There are different types of PEX to make installing flexible pipe plumbing even more interesting. The most flexible, PEX-A is manufactured with peroxide and expands readily when frozen. PEX-B is less expensive and, while slightly stiffer, offers many of the same benefits. It is made using a moisture-cure method and is distinct for its coil “memory”; despite how you shape it, the pipe will tend to return to its original state. PEX C, manufactured using an irradiation method, is the stiffest; it’s more often used for short repairs that don’t require bending but is more prone to kinking and freeze cracking.

Hire a Plumber for Your Flexible Pipe Plumbing Needs

At Village Plumbing, our trained plumbing technicians understand every aspect of PEX pipe, whether for new installations or quick repairs. We can help with remodeling and restoration as well. You can also trust us for prompt and effective drain cleaning and water pipe, hot water heater, and sewer line repairs. To request service or learn about discounts and financing, call 713-678-0483 today.

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