How Dependable is Your Plumbing?

(ARA) - Professional home builders and remodelers know there are a thousand and one -- or more -- decisions that have to be made between the start and finish of any project. While it's usually the contractor who handles most of these decisions, homeowners should take an active role in selecting the products and materials that will be installed. This includes choosing "behind the walls" items that are largely unseen when the remodeling is completed, but which can make a big difference in the long-term success of any project.

Consider today's choices in plumbing pipe. Plastic tubing for hot and cold water lines is now approved for use in most, but not all, areas of the country. Its low cost makes it attractive to contractors who want to keep their prices down, and to homeowners who feel that -- because it's only plumbing and out of sight -- it doesn't have to be top quality. However, this kind of reasoning is shortsighted. And, like many decisions based on cost alone, it can come back to haunt unwary homeowners in years to come. "It's important to remember that plastic plumbing is a relatively recent innovation," cautions Andrew Kireta, Sr., president of the Copper Development Association. "When it comes to home water-supply systems, plastic is still viewed as an alternative to copper, which is considered the quality standard by most contractors, homeowners and building inspectors."

There are other, equally 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. It is the only residential water-pipe material to carry a 50-year manufacturer's warranty -- copper plumbing and fittings simply don't wear out, and they require no maintenance. There is also a health consideration for choosing copper: Contaminants can't penetrate it, and its naturally biostatic surface can actually inhibit the growth of harmful bacteria. Copper can also withstand temperature extremes from freezing to well above boiling, without becoming brittle, rupturing or melting. This minimizes the chance of pipe bursts and water damage, a costly and often uninsured problem when it occurs in a home. And copper can take the heat -- up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit without melting -- while plastics burn or fail at far lower temperatures. Unlike many plastics, copper also doesn't emit toxic fumes when exposed to flame. For these and other reasons, copper has long been a preferred material for automatic fire sprinkler systems and is the required material for virtually all commercial water systems.

There's another, more practical, reason for using copper: When it comes to retrofitting or adding onto an existing water-supply system, remodelers are far more likely to encounter copper than plastic. Because all copper pipe, tube and fitting sizes conform to one universal standard, tie-ins are routine and finding materials to match is never a problem. Too often, this is not the case with less-widely-used plastic systems. Incompatibility among different types of plastic systems impacts job cost, parts availability and product warranties.

Homebuyers and home remodelers also should be aware that, in the long run, 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 actually add to the resale value of a home. Surveys show that copper has a higher perceived value than plastic, and copper is more-often requested by homeowners and buyers. Plumbing contractors prefer it, too -- nearly 90 percent of all plumbers nationwide have copper plumbing in their own homes.

Can Your Home Pass the Plumbing Test? When it comes to plumbing systems, the indisputable fact is that copper is the least likely material to cause household problems. Yet even though more than 80 percent of homes in the United States rely on copper pipe and fittings, there is a growing use of plastics in plumbing systems. According to the Copper Development Association, this trend presents hidden dangers to the average homeowner and consumer.

To help homeowners and remodelers make educated decisions when it comes to plumbing, CDA has developed a 12-Point Plumbing Test. Not surprisingly, copper is the only plumbing material that can answer "yes" to each of the following questions: 12-Point Plumbing Test

1. Does your plumbing material have a long-term, proven performance record?
2. Is it impermeable; can it block contaminants from penetrating its walls?
3. Can the joints withstand rapid pressure and temperature changes?
4. Will it perform well in all weather, and is easily thawed, if necessary?
5. Does it resist punctures and abrasions and not become brittle with age?
6. Does it inhibit the breeding of harmful germs?
7. Will it not burn, or give off smoke or toxic fumes, when exposed to fire?
8. Will it withstand the weather and the sun's ultraviolet rays in outdoor applications?
9. Is it maintenance-free and have a low lifetime cost of ownership?
10. Will it add to your home's resale value?
11. Does it have nationwide approval of building inspectors and engineers?
12. Does it have inherent quality and value, or offer 'false economy' like some competing materials?

To learn more about how using copper can improve your next home or home-remodeling project, a wealth of information is available on the Internet from the Copper Development Association at, and on CDA's all-new consumer Web site, Copper In Your Home (

Courtesy of ARA Content

EDITOR'S NOTE: For more information contact Ken Geremia at (212) 251-7200 or Michael Morris at (212) 297-2112; or contact the Copper Development Association at 260 Madison Avenue, New York, NY, 10016, (212) 251-7200, or visit CDA online at

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