Debunking Myths: Is Pex Plumbing Really Bad?

Debunking Myths: Is Pex Plumbing Really Bad?

PEX plumbing has been a part of the construction landscape for over half a century, marking its presence in various settings from residential to commercial, with its usage in over 60% of new constructions in the United States. Despite its widespread application and significant advantages such as affordability and superior freeze resistance, I often encounter the question, “Why is PEX plumbing bad?” which hints at the presence of myths surrounding its reliability and safety.

In this article, I aim to address the common misconceptions related to PEX plumbing, such as concerns over its material properties, fitting issues, and the potential impact on indoor air quality. By incorporating terminology specific to PEX plumbing like “PEX-A,” “pex line plumbing,” and “pex piping for plumbing,” I intend to provide a comprehensive overview that not only debunks these myths but also offers an informed perspective on the PEX plumbing system’s role in maintaining water quality and infrastructure durability.

Material Concerns and Chemical Leaching

Exploring the concerns surrounding material and chemical leaching in PEX plumbing reveals a nuanced landscape of potential risks and mitigations. Key issues include:

  • Dezincification and Chemical Exposure:
    1. Dezincification: Water chemistry can lead to dezincification in brass alloy fittings, weakening them. However, many PEX companies now use dezincification-resistant brass.
    2. Chemical Damage: PEX fittings could be compromised by certain chemicals like acetone.
    3. Over-chlorination: High chlorine levels may shorten PEX pipes’ lifespan.
  • Chemical Leaching and Safety Standards:
    • Despite concerns, PEX plumbing is generally resistant to common water system chemicals, minimizing degradation risks. It’s also considered inert, not adding VOCs to water, and complies with safety standards (NSF/ANSI 61, NSF/ANSI/CAN 372) ensuring it doesn’t leach harmful chemicals into drinking water.
  • Variability in Leaching and Recommendations:
    • Research indicates variability in chemical leaching across different PEX brands and even within the same brand. Some studies have detected chemicals like BPA and other toxins. Recommendations for mitigating potential risks include flushing PEX pipes to reduce chemical leaching and considering the water’s stagnation time in contact with PEX materials.

These insights underscore the importance of ongoing research and adherence to safety standards to ensure PEX plumbing’s safety and effectiveness.

Issues with Fittings and Connections

When considering the PEX plumbing system, issues with fittings and connections are pivotal areas requiring attention to ensure the system’s integrity and longevity. Here’s a breakdown of common concerns and best practices:

  1. Push Fittings and Connections:
    • Leakage Concerns: Push-to-connect fittings may leak if not properly installed. Opting for a home-run system minimizes the risk by reducing the number of connections.
    • Best Practice: Ensure continuous PEX pipe runs from a main manifold directly to the fixture, avoiding fittings behind walls.
  2. Installation and Calibration:
    • Tool Calibration: Incorrect calibration of crimp or clamp tools can lead to improper fittings, risking leaks.
    • Pressure Testing: Skipping this crucial step might result in undetected leaks, necessitating expensive repairs.
    • Best Practice: Regularly calibrate tools and always conduct pressure tests post-installation.
  3. Handling and Usage:
    • Temperature Sensitivity: PEX may burst in freezing conditions if water remains in the lines. Draining systems in unused properties during winter is advised.
    • Physical Damage: Exceeding bend radii or improperly expanding tubes can stress the material, leading to failure.
    • Rodent Vulnerability: PEX is not rodent-proof; proactive measures should be taken to protect the piping.
    • Best Practice: Follow manufacturer guidelines for bending and handling. Implement protective measures in rodent-prone areas.

By adhering to these guidelines and addressing potential issues proactively, the reliability and effectiveness of a PEX plumbing system can be significantly enhanced.

Longevity and Durability Concerns

When discussing the longevity and durability of PEX plumbing, it’s crucial to highlight its impressive lifespan and resilience against common plumbing issues. Here are key points to consider:

  • Lifespan: PEX tubing is designed to last, with an estimated lifespan of 40-50 years. Many manufacturers back this up with warranties ranging from 20 to 50 years, showcasing their confidence in the product’s durability.
  • Resistance Features:
    • Corrosion and Scale: Unlike metal piping, PEX is highly resistant to corrosion and scale buildup, ensuring a smoother flow over time.
    • Chemical Degradation: It stands strong against chemical degradation, which is vital for maintaining water quality.
    • Temperature and Pressure: PEX can withstand high temperatures and pressures, reducing the risk of damage under extreme conditions.
    • Freezing Cycles: Its flexibility allows it to expand and contract during freeze-thaw cycles without cracking or leaking.
  • Factors Affecting Lifespan:
    1. Quality of PEX Tubing: Higher-quality materials and rigorous testing contribute to a longer lifespan.
    2. Installation: Proper installation according to manufacturer guidelines ensures optimal performance.
    3. Water Quality: Exposure to corrosive substances or extreme pH levels can impact longevity.
    4. Environmental Exposure: UV light can degrade PEX if not properly shielded, especially in outdoor applications.

In summary, while PEX plumbing faces challenges like any plumbing system, its inherent qualities and proper maintenance can lead to a long and reliable service life, making it a viable option for modern plumbing needs.

Environmental Impact and Recycling Challenges

Navigating the environmental landscape of PEX plumbing reveals a complex picture of benefits and challenges. Here’s a closer look:

Environmental Benefits:

  • Lower Extraction Impact: Unlike copper, PEX doesn’t require mining, significantly reducing its environmental footprint during sourcing.
  • Energy-Efficient Manufacturing: The production of PEX is energy-efficient, contributing less to environmental degradation.
  • Insulation Properties: Its excellent insulation reduces energy and water waste, showcasing its efficiency over copper systems.
  • End-of-Life Repurposing: PEX can find a second life in various products, from composite lumber to playground equipment, emphasizing its versatility.

Recycling Challenges and Solutions:

  • Limited Recyclability: Despite being recyclable, the actual recycling of PEX is hindered by logistical challenges, including collection and sorting difficulties, and the presence of additives.
  • Mechanical Recycling Process: This involves collecting, cleaning, shredding, melting, and extruding PEX into new materials, a process that, while feasible, is not widespread.
  • Initiatives for Improvement: Efforts are underway to enhance the recyclability of PEX and bolster recycling infrastructure, promising a more sustainable future.

Environmental Concerns:

  • Use of Crude Oil: The reliance on crude oil for manufacturing PEX contributes to greenhouse gas emissions.
  • Non-Green Material: PEX’s thermoset plastic properties prevent it from being melted down and reused, posing a significant environmental challenge.
  • Soil and Water Safety: When used in soil for potable water systems, PEX must be carefully sleeved to prevent contamination, underscoring the need for cautious application.

In conclusion, while PEX plumbing offers several environmental advantages, particularly in its production and insulation properties, its challenges in recycling and reliance on crude oil underscore the need for ongoing innovation and improvement in its lifecycle management.


Through this article, we’ve navigated the complexities of PEX plumbing, challenging prevalent myths and illuminating its strengths and potential weaknesses. By examining its material durability, fitting reliability, and the environmental implications of its use, we’ve provided a balanced view that underscores PEX plumbing’s role in modern infrastructure. The insights offered aim to equip readers with the knowledge to make informed decisions regarding its application, emphasizing the importance of adherence to safety standards and best practices for installation and maintenance.

Looking forward, it’s clear that while PEX plumbing presents a viable solution to many traditional plumbing problems, its future hinges on continued research, technological advancements, and improved recycling methods. The discussion encourages a prudent approach in considering PEX plumbing’s fit for purpose, keeping in mind its benefits in durability, cost-effectiveness, and environmental impact. As we strive for sustainable development, fostering innovations in PEX plumbing technology and addressing its recycling challenges will be crucial steps towards achieving a more environmentally conscious construction industry.


What are the reasons some plumbers have reservations about using PEX piping?

Plumbers may be hesitant to use PEX pipes because they are vulnerable to damage when exposed to UV rays, which can cause deterioration, especially in outdoor settings. Additionally, PEX pipes may interact with certain chemicals in water, raising concerns about the potential leaching of harmful substances into the water supply.

Is there any health risk associated with drinking water from PEX plumbing?

According to research, drinking water from PEX pipes does not pose health risks. However, there have been instances where certain types of PEX pipes may impart a prolonged undesirable taste and odor to the water if it remain in the pipes for an extended period.

What is the controversy surrounding PEX plumbing?

The controversy around PEX plumbing centers on observed failures in PEX plumbing systems, affecting both the fittings and piping. These failures can lead to significant damage in homes, sometimes occurring in properties less than ten years old. The most significant problems are associated with the failure of PEX plumbing fittings, which can cause leaks and extensive property damage.

What is an unexpected drawback of PEX pipes that even some plumbers didn’t anticipate?

An unforeseen issue with PEX tubing is its vulnerability to rodent damage. Mice and rats can chew through various materials, including PEX tubing, similar to how they gnaw on the plastic-coated wiring in cars or HVAC units. Damage from rodents to PEX water pipes can be particularly catastrophic and costly.

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