To PVC or not to PVC...

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice' started by PilotBrad, Sep 13, 2004.

  1. PilotBrad

    PilotBrad New Member

    I need to replace my main water line (from meter to house). We did all the necessary digging and are now ready to replace the 40 yr old corroded pipe with something new. The good news is that house was converted to copper a few years ago, so I am all set inside.

    I am in Northern California, and my big question is, should I use PVC or copper for the main supply line? Or maybe I should ask it another way... I would like to use PVC, is there a reason I shouldn't? The line is a straight shot of only 25', and my PVC cutting and gluing skills are much better than my copper soldering skills, hence why I am leaning towards PVC.

    Your comments or feedback are greatly appreciated!!! :D

  2. Gary Swart

    Gary Swart In the Trades

    Yakima WA
    PVC for mainline

    PVC is not legal for potable water. Moreover, copper is far better than plastic, and really isn't that much more difficult to install. Soldering is not all that complex. A decent pipe cutter and careful measuring is required, but you'd have to do that with plastic too. When soldering, you must be sure to clean the ends of the pipe and the interior of the fittings really well. The cleaning must be done just before assemble, not in advance. If you don't want to buy the fancy cleaning brushes, use emery cloth. When you assemble the clean, shiny joint, be sure to flux it well and seat the fitting all the way in. Heat the joint so that the heated copper melts the solder. Don't melt the solder with the torch. Let is set undisturbed to cool, then wipe it clean with a damp rag. Do not force cool the joint with a wet rag or water. You may not have a professional looking joint, but if you do the above steps, the joints will be strong and will not leak.
  3. PilotBrad

    PilotBrad New Member

    Really?!?! Interesting... a plumber came out a few months ago, and said he would use PVC. Actually, he was called out to fix something else, and I think the guy was somewhat of a rookie... he didn't seem real confident about anything.

    Thanks for the tips... I will give the copper a shot.
  4. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

    San Diego
    I believe PVC is OK for potable; just not for HOT water or inside the dwelling. I see lots of mains done in PVC.

    If you put in copper, get a long roll of soft copper. Any joints you put in the ground should be brazed, not soft solder.
  5. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Cave Creek, Arizona

    If PVC was not approved for potable water, then there is a "jillion" miles of it used for public water mains that will have to be replaced, besides another "jillion" water lines to the individual houses. Someone is overreacting and using hyperbole. In any case, since you have to use at least 3' of copper at either end, you will not avoid sweating joints, so if you use a continuous piece of copper, (which is the only way to go for a pipe up to 100' long), you will only have to make a joint at either end, rather than two at each end, plus having to worry about a break at the transition between the two materials.
  6. PilotBrad

    PilotBrad New Member

    If I understand you correctly, even if I did use PVC, I would need 3' of copper at the ends of the PVC. Example: Meter - 3' Copper - 19' PVC - 3' Copper - House. Is that what you are saying? If you don't mind me asking, why is that?

    If it is the case, using PVC doesn't really get me anything.

    Brazing... is that something a homeowner, like myself, can do? I can sweat solder pipes ok, but I have never done any brazing.

    Last edited: Sep 14, 2004
  7. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Cave Creek, Arizona

    You need it at the house to maintain an electric ground, and at the meter to eliminate stress. That is exactly why I do not know why plumbers here insist on spicing PVC in the middle even if it is only 20'. I guess they think they are saving money on material, even though they are spending a lot more on labor to make the connections. You can solder them. You do not have to braze the joints.
  8. RioHyde

    RioHyde Plumber

    Cincinnati, Ohio
    While PVC is approved for water mains here in Ohio, it is not approved for any other type of potable water supply. Perhaps the "rookie" in question was referring to CPVC? Just a thought.

    I, like most others in my area, prefer copper over any other type of material for a potable water. What is required here for a water service line is type K soft copper for the entire length underground. Mechanical joints are approved though frowned upon by many inspectors as brazed joints are preferred. However, with a run of only 25', the entire line can be installed without the need to braze a joint or install a mechanical joint fitting.

    Good luck! :D
    Last edited: Sep 24, 2004
  9. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

    San Diego
    All the schedule 40 PVC I see has the NSF (National Sanitation Foundation) certification stamped right on it. It is definitley OK for potable water; it is not approved for HOT water.
  10. captwally

    captwally New Member

    PVC is not legal for potable water??? In what community? If the PVC pipe has an 1120 ASTM qualification, it is legal for use as a potable water line, hot or cold. Whoever gave this information is misinformed or giving you information from a very silly municipality!

    CPVC and Grey poly lines as far as I know do have legal restrictions, and guess what, copper does too, but that is an entirely different subject. Schedule 40 PVC pipe has every qualification and pressure resistance to meet any household need.

    Copper pipe is good, very good. I would recommend it for hot water lines simply because it is metal. I would recommend it for pipes that are outside the house that go underground, such as sprinkler system lines with above ground valves or atmospheric vacuum breakers, simply because it is metal and will resist the torment caused by your average weed eater/trimmer. Most PVC domestic well systems are encased in schedule 40 PVC 2" well casing with shedule 120 thin wall 1-1/4" suction line and check valve before the pump.

    In the community where I live all the water mains are schedule 40 PVC, 8 inches, with rubber compression fittings. Hardly something you would see a government agency do if PVC (Poly Vinyl Chloride) was illegal and not approved by the NSF, an even bigger government agency! Makes one wonder why someone would say that PVC is not legal for potable water! If PVC is OK for the government to use to bring the water to your house, then why would it not be legal for you to use it IN your house??? Sometimes I wonder if the people reading and using these forums are trying to misle unsuspecting consumers and make a profit with inaccurate information. Maybe they should try to contact my City and make them replace the miles of 8, 10 and 12 inch Schedule 40 PVC water mains because it is illegal!!!
  11. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

    San Diego
    We all agree that PVC is NSF approved for potable water, and accepted in most codes for use in underground water mains. However, in any juridsiction I am aware of, it is NOT approved for use in domestic water distribution INSIDE a dwelling, because it is not approved and does not withstand HOT water ( dometic hot water, 140ºF).

    In perusing some manufacturer's and UL websites, this is the language that seems to always be attached to 1120PVC:

    "This pipe is intended for use in the pressure distribution of cold water at a service temperature of 73.4°F or lower and a pressure rise above maximum working pressure caused by surge (water hammer) that does not exceed that caused by an instantaneous velocity change of 2 ft/s."

    I found that CPVC is generally rated for a service use at 100PSI/180ºF, and is actually tested to withstand 150PSI@210ºF.
    Last edited: May 1, 2005
  12. miscommunicate the info to one another

    I dont think you guys are talking the same language here...

    some brands of plastic have been used for years underground....

    others are not , and the water compnay will make you tear them out.

    Personally I like copper, but in my own home,

    I have a black CRESTLINE hd cts hdr FLEXIBLE type pipe comming into my home from my water meter about 275 feet away in the front yard.

    it came in a 500 foot roll and is used all the time for water lines...

    its cheaper like 69c per foot, and comes in long long rolls....

    yes you got to put better groiund lines in for the electrical system too.


    but also I have had people call me to tell me that they insalled
    RIGID PVC pipe into their homes themselves and used the stuff you buy in hardware stores in 20 foot lengths,,,,, glueing putting couplings out in the front yard

    Now what is wrong with doing that?????

    So I want to know exactly what the guy is actually useing here???

    Some brand off a 200 foot roll that uses compression fittings on both ends

    or is he looking to glue couplings together in rigid pipe 10 foot or 20 foot length.he has bouight from home depot??? ... through a trench??? :eek:

    now if you dont know what is wrong with doing that,
    ask me and I will explain..
  13. mayoorpatel

    mayoorpatel New Member

    what is wrong using 20 feet pipe from Home depot or lowes

    that exactly what is used in the sprinkler system and last for years ....

    Why not to supply home ---

    And how about using schedule 80?
  14. call your local water company

    just ask the water company what they
    would like to see you use....

    they are most lkely not gonig to let you
    do much else but copper or crestlien cpvc pipe

    it would be prudent to do that before getting yourself
    into a mess that would have to be dug up and re-done
  15. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Cave Creek, Arizona

    probably 90%, or more, of the homes in this area have PVC pipes with couplings every 20 feet. Now what is wrong with that, if you can come up with a good explanation.
  16. peterd

    peterd New Member

    The plumber working on our new home here in Wisconsin stated the PVC can not be used for potable water. He is using CPVC instead in certain areas.

  17. good explanation

    the only thing I know is it is not
    very wise to put joints (couplings )
    underground, in any situation, dont you think??

    (yes , pvc is used extensively for irragiation THAT IS TRUE)

    reason #1
    you shouldent put pressurized joints underground ,
    or under a slab home either,

    thats common knowledge

    and you ought to know this already if you have done as much
    plumbing over the years as you claim.

    Our water company here in Indy wont
    stand for pvc and underground joints ..on their water service supplies

    The water company have seen too many
    hillbilley dumbasses try to hand dig out their own
    water services to save a buck.

    They go to home depot and get a couple lengths of
    pvc , a can of glue and a dozen couplings, and think they got it licked.

    Then they call me when the job is all dug up and ask me if I
    would hook up the yoke in the pit for $25 . I really feel for
    the poor fellow with 5 kids, no money ect and I
    honestly HATE to be the bad guy and tell him he has made this mistake...

    then eventually when the water company comes out and INSPECTS the work
    they are told to change it out to cpvc or copper....

    usually this ditch stands WIDE OPEN with a couple of cautioin barriors
    around it for quite a while as they argue with
    the water company.... guess who finally winns???

    reason #2
    Half the time just the BACK FILLING
    process alone can possibly break a fitting somewhere....

    or the settling of the dirt over time makes STRESS on the joints....

    the freeze level is considered about 4 feet here,

    the ground can shift and move ect.... WHY RISK IT???

    So you figure out why it might be smarter to run a

    sollid line of cpvc or copper......

    I just bought a roll of 3/4 black cpvc recently for my own home,

    a 500 foot roll and it only cost me $175.00 ---NOW THAT IS CHEAP!!!

    So why in the hell would you want to "shave a few pennies" off a
    major project that you hope will last you at least 50 years???

    Hi , please give me a good explanation why.

    Also, if you would like to call the Indianapolis water co which serves about
    1.8 million people and tell them that they are full of crap..
    heres the number... 317-263-6332
  18. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Cave Creek, Arizona

    #1. I have been in this business for over 55 years so I have installed a lot of copper and PVC water lines to houses. I have never installed a poly, CPVC, or PEX water line to the house. If you installed a 3/4" cts black CPVC, (I have never seen black CPVC only cream colored pipe, but maybe your area has something "different"), You might as well have used 1/2" copper since the bore is not much different between the two.
    #2. If backfilling breaks the joints, 1. the joint was not made properly, or 2. you are throwing big clods of dirt onto the pipe, or 3. you are not a very good backfiller, and 4. if half the lines are breaking when backfilled, a lot of plumbers are having to do their work twice, and someone is doing my share of it because I have never had a PVC line break while backfilling the ditch.
  19. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

    San Diego
    It is clear that there is no one "right" answer. There are at least 3 materials in widespread use: copper; white sch.40 PVC; black polyethylene; and in certain areas from certain time periods: blue polybutylene.

    We will all have our personal favorites. We can also tell horror stories, which often are the result of the installation, not the material.

    Bottom line: get the best recommendation you can from the best local professional you can find.
  20. just call the water co

    again, wherever you live,

    you are giving advice to "do it yourselfers here"
    not to be careful on what you advise them
    to do...

    So to me its just good --- PLAIN COMMON SENSE---

    for them to just call the water
    company in their area and ask them FIRST what they would
    prefer installed in the ground before they are waist deep
    in a great big mess.

    ------with only YOU to thank for the all the great advice--------...

    We all live in different regions of this great land...

    and things certanly seem to be different all over the country.....

    so use your own common sense first,

    then take the advice you find here
    that suits the area you live in....

    only in my opinion here , anyone who installs any form
    of joint under ground , copper or otherwise, is just asking for trouble sometime in the future.

    but of course , that is just where I live.

    maybe joints dont ever come apart underground elsewhere.

    I am going fishing now...
    Last edited: Aug 14, 2005

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