Copper pipes

How Long Do Copper Pipes Last

Consider that you arrive home and notice a small puddle on the floor near your garage. You start to trace the location of the puddle and where it could have formed from. As you get closer to the back wall of the garage you notice that the hot-water heater copper piping has a small leak to it.

Now you are thinking that your other copper piping might be an issue throughout the home. How long do copper pipes last? 20 years to 50 years or more. It will depend on the type of pipe and also the acidity of the water.

At this time, it is best to call a professional plumber to get some quotes. Let’s take a look at what all of this means and might entail for your home.

Copper pipes come in different sizes and thickness.

Types of Copper Pipes

Believe it or not, there are 3 different types of copper piping.

M-Type

  • Thinnest of all the copper pipes in the home.
  • Don’t take up a lot of space in the home, but are worn down faster.
  • A home can get 50 years out of these pipes, however, that isn’t true in most cases.
  • Most homes will see 20 years if they are lucky, as acidity, ph levels, and well water can contribute to a shorter life span. 
  • The pipes are thinner and more prone to water leaks as they can puncture easier.

K-Type

  • Most durable but most expensive
  • Not the right type of piping for a residential home
  • Made more for water mains in cities and non-residential units

L-Type

  • Thicker pipe
  • Perfect for residential homes
  • Highly recommended by most plumbers
  • Thicker and can withstand the ph levels
  • Last at least 50 years and sometimes up to 100 years! 

Understanding which pipes have been used in your home is a very important task. If the home that you purchased has been built before the 1980’s, it is highly possible that your plumbing is copper piping throughout.

Life Expectancy of Copper Pipes

Considering the lifespan of a human, the lifespan of copper piping is very similar. You never really know the length of time you are going to get and copper piping lifespan changes depending upon the type of pipe used. Additionally, the three different types of pipes have three different life spans. Making sure that you verify with your plumber the type of piping you want in your home is important. Lastly, staying on top of these choices will create less stress down the road for your home.

If you think the pipes might have broken, a home inspector can use thermal imaging to see if there is any change of temperature in the walls.

Check out this video on everything Copper Pipes. It’s very informative and will assist you in your decision making processes when you need to repair existing pipes.

How Much Do Copper Pipes Cost

Typically, the cost is $2-$8 per linear foot for each copper pipe. However, it does vary by copper thickness and length.

You will see that K-type is the most expensive, L-type is the middle expensive, and M-type is the least expensive of the copper pipes.

Alternatives to Copper Piping

There are many alternatives to Copper pipes and you don’t have to select copper pipes for your home. However, it is one of the strongest and most durable metals around.

CPVC pipe is another type of pipe material.

Chlorinated Polyvinyl-Chloride (CPVC)

  • CPVC lasts 50-75 years.
  • Costs: $.50- $1.00 per linear foot.
Pex is another type of pipe material.

Pex

  • Pex lasts 40-50 years
  • Made of cross-linked polyethylene, which is a form of flexible plastic tubing with cross-linked molecules.  Durable, stronger, and a top choice for those who want to DIY and by plumbers. However, it is more expensive than CPVC due to fittings.
  • Costs: $.50 – $2 per linear foot
  • Can be used in direct sunlight, unless painted

There is a downside to Pex plumbing: it doesn’t hold up well in freezing temperatures so it is not a good material for cold climates. Also, rodents like it, and it resembles polybutylene so many companies don’t like to use it.

Other Piping No Longer used

These types are no longer used due to their health hazards and chance of leaking.

Galvanized steel is an alternative to copper pipes.

Galvanized Steel

  • Thicker material and used in homes before the 1960s.
  • This material lasts 20-50 years.
  • Zinc coating to prevent corrosion

Disadvantages

Lead is an alternative to copper pipes.

Lead

  • Installed in homes in the 1900’s and lasts about 100 years
  • Can leak into water supply and cause health issues

Disadvantages

Need replacing as they are close to if not past their lifespan.

Polybutylene is an alternative to copper pipes but not recommended. No longer used.

Polybutylene

Grey plastic material used in the 1970’s – 90’s.

Disadvantages:

  • Prone to break easily
  • Chlorinated water causes them to break without warning
  • Few thousand dollars to replace

Why You Should Repipe With Copper Pipe

When the time comes to repipe the copper pipes in your home, it is highly recommended that you select an L-type copper pipe. Next, the L-type of Copper pipe is thicker and can withstand higher acidity levels. With that being said, your copper pipes can last 100 years should you use the L-type. Lastly, you hopefully will never have to repipe again if you use copper pipes.

Repiping with copper pipe makes the plumbers’ job easier and the house more efficient. Additionally, having to retrofit your copper pipe with PVC is not an easy task as the fittings are much different and water pressure sustainability will vary.

water testing

Testing Your Water

Knowing that your water is safe to drink, no matter the type of pipes in your home is important. In fact, the EPA publishes a guide for you to check on the quality of water, contaminants, and source of water for your area.

When Should I Call A Professional

Anytime you see an issue with your copper pipe a professional plumber should be called. This is most effective due to the need for welding the copper pipes together after a section is cut out. You will notice the following prior to calling a professional:

  • The pipes are old pipes that typically have a lifespan of 50 years. However, some only last 20 years due to the acidity of the water
  • If you notice cracks in the pipes, this is not a good thing. You will need to them replace immediately
  • Leaking pipes can be as simple as a pinhole. Replacing that section is easier than replacing pipes
  • Corrosion will be evident based on the discoloration of the pipe. It is best to be proactive in replacement to avoid damage
  • If you notice your water is not clear or smells and tastes bad, you might want to have a professional inspect your pipes
  • The water pressure in your home is reduced and this could be caused by old damaged pipes or just be a clog. Check for a clog first as this is easier and cheaper to fix than calling a professional

Conclusion

In the long run, knowing the various types of copper piping will determine your success or failures when re-piping a home or new home construction. Lastly, it is imperative to consult a professional plumber and your building contractor to ensure that they are using the correct piping that you have selected.

Colorado Home Inspection will check the type of pipes you have and their condition when conducting a home inspection in Denver, Colorado, and surrounding areas.

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