< Expert Advice | 15.02.2018 |

Piping preference

Piping preference

Installers have long debated the merits of copper and plastic when it comes to plumbing, and there seems little sign of any consensus emerging.

The debate over the virtues of copper and plastic plumbing continues to divide the industry, with some believing plastic PVF to be a cost-effective, easy-to-install alternative to its metal counterparts.

On the other hand, many believe you can’t beat the reliability and performance of copper systems. It’s a subject most installers will have an opinion on, or at least a preference.

There are many variables to consider in such a long-standing argument, from breaking the habit of a lifetime and understanding the finer performance criteria of more complex applications, to balancing the hygiene requirements of a water system with the need for fast, cost-effective installation.

Broadly speaking, the industry agrees on three things:

  • It’s not a simple case of which material is better
  • Sticking to what you know is not always the best way to deliver great results
  • Specification should be based on the specific requirements of each application

To understand the debate more, we asked four industry leaders for their opinions.

Nigel Sanger, John Guest

Plastic plumbing is faster, easier and safer to install, delivering cost efficiencies and convenience on-site for the installer and other trades working in tandem. With no hot works, flexible lengths of pipe and fast-to-fit joints, almost all house builders are sold on the virtues of plastic. For the home owner, plastic systems mean no unsightly blackening copper pipes, plus reduced noise when the system is filling or cooling down, which meets the increasingly high expectations of the modern consumer.

Nigel Sanger, John Guest

Phill Jackson, Pegler Yorkshire

Copper is incredibly reliable, its versatility, strength and performance proven over time. It can be joined using press or push connections, making it a viable option for applications where hot works are not an option, or speed is imperative. When piping is on show, many prefer the rigid, smarter look of copper, compared with plastic, which buckles in long runs. Copper outperforms plastic in high-pressure and high-temperature applications, and has lifelong antimicrobial properties to combat bacteria such as Legionella.

Phill Jackson

Drew Styles, installer and UK Plumber of the Year 2017

It’s important to have the skills to install both copper and plastic systems. That said, I’m a fan of copper. There is a lack of education among home owners around the use of plastic systems, and many customers will think you are using a cheap DIY option. When it comes to larger commercial applications, I have found that plastic piping systems are often not available in the diameters required, so again I would use trusty copper.

Drew Styles

Graeme Dryden, Association of Plumbing & Heating Contractors

Copper is still widely used in retrofitting, and many feel a neater installation can be achieved with copper systems. The lines between plastic and copper can be blurred: construction sites often won’t allow hot works, so push-fit and crimping for both copper and plastics are available. For applications with challenging fluctuations in pressure, there are now semi-rigid plastics that may match the performance of their metal counterparts.

Graeme Dryden


Picture credit: iStock


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