Plastic v copper: the pros and cons
The key attribute of push fit plumbing is primarily one of speed – as its name suggests a push fitting enables a pipe to be pushed into it and create a strong seal with no need for using clamps, solder or glue.
Whether you’re doing it yourself or a professional plumber is carrying out the work for you, ‘push fit’ is a term you’re likely to encounter.
How does push fit plumbing work?
The fittings contain metal barbs that grip the pipe once it’s been pushed into it; once in it can’t simply be pulled straight back out. They’re made watertight by a rubber O-ring that fits tightly round the pipe; when the pipe is pushed into the fitting the compression fit of the rubber ring creates a watertight seal.
Advantages of push fit plumbing and plastic piping
- There’s no other equipment required compared to traditional fittings where glue and maybe solder would be required. There’s no drying time so this coupled with the speed in which an expert can fit the pipes means the whole job would be swifter than the traditional method. One manufacturer of push fit fittings claim installation times can be up to 40% shorter than with conventional jointing and copper piping.
- Plastic is less expensive than copper, so this coupled with the likely lower labour costs (because using push fit plumbing is quicker) should make for a lower cost to the job overall.
- Push fit fittings and pipes, like copper, can safely withstand heat and pressure so they’re suitable for water and heating systems. Many joints are pressure tested to standards in excess of those usually required in domestic situations – 10 bar (100 psi) is common.
- Because of the ease of the push fit routine, labour costs could reduce still further as connecting pipes in confined and hard to access areas is far easier than connecting copper pipes the traditional way.
- Longer pipe lengths are possible, so fewer joints are required thus making for a likely quicker and lower cost installation than copper.
- The pipes are lead free and non-toxic, their elastic properties reduce the risks of bursting under freezing conditions in the winter months, and they make less noise through expansion and contraction.
- Compared to copper the pipes are corrosion free.
Disadvantages of plastic piping
- Some professionals are wary of the use of plastic piping and push fit fittings so your preferred plumber may not use push fit or plastic, so check with them as to what their work methods are.
- Some insurance companies are not keen on plastic and push fits, or may have restrictions as to whereabouts they can be fitted, so check with your insurer if you’re thinking of having any installed.
- Because plastic piping and push fittings are easier to fit than copper, be careful choosing your plumber – some lacking experience or know how could be found fitting plastic but wouldn’t be inclined to try copper. Ensure you find an expert plumber.
- Copper arguably looks smarter than plastic so may be a consideration for pipework in exposed areas; one option is to have a combination of the two.
- Boilers cannot be connected with plastic pipes.
- Copper piping tends to resist bacteria more readily than plastic might so makes for a cleaner water supply.
What to choose?
Your preferred plumber may have specific views on what is preferable – to a degree it’s down to opinion and preferences – although there are restrictions such as not being able to use plastic piping to connect the boiler.
If you’re concerned, it’s worth asking the building control people at your local authority for their view and whether your specific situation would influence the copper or plastic choice.Share