Copper "Tops" For New Homes Or Remodeling

January 19, 2004


LAS VEGAS, NV— Homebuilders know there are a thousand and one - or more -decisions that have to be made between the start and finish of any project. It's usually the contractor who handles these decisions, including specifying "behind the walls" items that are unseen when the house is completed, but which can make a big difference in the long run.

Consider today's choices in plumbing pipe. Plastic's low initial cost can be attractive to contractors who want to keep prices down, and who feel that materials installed out of sight don't have to be top quality. But like many decisions based on cost alone, this kind of reasoning is shortsighted-and it can come back to haunt the builder and homeowner later on.

"It's important to remember that plastic plumbing is a relatively recent innovation," cautions Andrew Kireta Jr., national program manager of building construction for 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 for home building and remodeling projects. Copper plumbing meets or exceeds building code standards in all 50 states. 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 is the required material for virtually all commercial water systems.

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 plastic plumbing. Incompatibility among different plastic systems impacts job cost, parts availability and product warranties.

Home builders also should be aware that, in the long run, the cost of copper plumbing is competitive with plastic when higher home-sale prices and life-cycle costs are factored in. Real estate agents confirm that a copper plumbing system can actually add to the resale value of a home. Surveys also show that copper has a higher perceived value than plastic, and copper is more often requested by homebuyers. Plumbing contractors prefer it, too-nearly 90 percent of all plumbers nationwide have copper plumbing in their own homes.

To learn more about how copper can improve your next homebuilding project, a wealth of information is available on CDA's Copper In Your Home section.