PEX is a flexible plastic that’s replacing traditional copper and galvanized steel water supply lines in new construction and remodeling projects. It offers many advantages over metal piping: cost, flexibility, energy conservation, durability and installation ease.

You’ll see PEX in the plumbing aisles of home improvement stores, where it usually comes in rolls of blue or red. The color markings have nothing to do with quality or ratings, but simply identify which type is for cold or hot water. PEX tubing can be connected using a variety of methods. The simplest involves using special push-fit connectors that pop onto the ends of the pipe and seal without tools. Other connections are made with a soldering iron and pipe cutters, or by using a compression fitting like SharkBite (left). Soldering and compression methods require more tools but give the most secure connection.

Unlike copper and CPVC, which can be damaged by drops or work-site mishaps, the flexibility of PEX makes it resistant to damage. That, combined with the fact that it has fewer joints, helps reduce the number of leaks in homes.

PEX is also safer than copper because it doesn’t contain lead and can withstand being chewed by rodents. However, it’s important to keep in mind that any material that is chewed by rodents can be contaminated with the chemicals that the rodents have used to sharpen their teeth. To avoid contamination, check that PEX you buy is certified as safe for drinking water by NSF/ANSI 61. pex tubing

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