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PEX: The Pipe of Choice

Although I've successfully worked with CPVC, I've recently started using PEX (short for cross-linked polyethylene) because it's easier to install and holds up in almost all conditions. PEX is flexible and can be repeatedly bent as it is pushed and pulled during installation. PEX requires no solder or glue, so there's no danger of igniting a fire and the installation is free of noxious fumes. If a PEX line gets a kink in it during installation, heating it up with a heat gun returns the material to its original shape. PEX also saves money - especially on new construction, where it goes in very quickly. But even on more labor-intensive repiping jobs, where cutout and drilling costs are the same no matter what material is used, there are still modest savings compared with copper because there are fewer connections and because the material is easier to snake through finished walls and ceilings.

Estimating

Over the years, I've found that estimating repiping jobs is as easy as counting the number of fixture drops and accurately assessing the degree of difficulty for each one. I use a straightforward estimating scheme, charging between $250 and $500 per drop depending on how hard it will be to get from the primary run to the fixture (Figure 2).

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Figure 2.

The author uses this simple worksheet to count fixtures and fittings and estimate the total cost of the job. A straight shot through easily accessible wall and ceiling bays goes for $250 a drop, while a time-consuming run through an inaccessible attic area or a long detour to avoid damaging fancy wallpaper costs $500 a drop.