I'm seeking bids to repipe my house. PVC is recommended by all three plumbing bidders. Is it safe?

Asked by Gail Tyree

I need to repipe in order to get the current polybutelyn piping out of my home (my insurance company may leave Florida, and other carriers won't pick up my house because of the piping). I am concerned about any health effects from the use of PVC, but it seems to be what all of the plumbers are using. Any advice?


Answered by Michael Heacock

Mill Valley, CA

Michael Heacock Architects + LEED Consultants

January 14, 2010

I encourage you to get bids for copper and PEX lines

  • Copper will be more expensive, considerably more than PVC.
  • Some of us specify PEX now, which is a polyethylene plastic (no PVC content, and it can be recycled).
  • The challenge with PEX is that few plumbers have used it yet.
  • You can also run into issues with different wall-gauge thicknesses of PEX depending on the manufacturer. That can cause leaks at the fittings, so watch out.

Plumbers like PVC because it is cheap, easy to install, and they've been using it for decades. The vinyl industry has discouraged anyone from publishing negative articles about PVC.

  • If you haven't already, watch the documentary Blue Vinyl for one perspective on PVC production.
  • Some people base decisions on the concept of the "Precautionary Principle," which means that you might choose alternatives to PVC because of suspected harm to the environment or humans.

I highly encourage you to look at copper and PEX.


For more information:

You should read architect Tim Montgomery's Q&A "I am looking for a kitchen faucet that does not have flexible plastic supply lines. I want all copper. How do I find one?"

Tagged In: green plumbing, healthy water

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