What's The Best PEX Tubing Size For Shower Valves?

Upgraded Home Team
by Upgraded Home Team

For a long time, cooper was the go-to option for home water supply lines. However, things have since changed, with many people preferring PEX for water supply lines due to its affordability, flexibility, and DIY-friendliness. If you’re looking to install a PEX water supply system in your home, one question will run through your mind; what’s the best PEX tubing size for shower valves?

Well, with PEX, ½ an inch is all that’s needed for showerheads and handholds. When replacing copper with PEX, it’s best to downsize one size so that you get the same flow rate (3/4″ PEX equals 1/2″ copper). Shower valves have an incredible flow rate of 2.5gpm, and therefore, using PEX guarantees a balanced flow of water.

An advantage of using PEX over copper is that PEX eliminates leaks and the risk of splicing when combined with your manifold system. Also, PEX comes in different sizes and thus accommodates varying water pressure and your household’s individual plumbing features, such as shower valves.

Types of PEX Tubes

If you’re looking to install a new plumbing system or overhaul the existing one and you’re considering PEX, it’s best to know about the different types of PEX. These are:

Non-Oxygen Barrier PEX

Nearly all plumbing systems that use potable water require non-oxygen barrier PEX tubes, and these are offered in different grades.

  • PEX-A has the best-in-class freeze and kink resistance and is the most flexible tubing. It’s ideal for use in the bathroom and kitchen. Thus, it’s the best tubing for shower valves.
  • PEX-B is less freeze-resistant and flexible than PEX-A and is ideal for other parts of your home.

Both types of non-oxygen barrier PEX tubing come in three colors; blue, white and red. Their diameters range from 0.25 inches to 3 inches. If you’re undertaking indoor plumbing and installing fixtures such as shower valves, the half-inch PEX tube will suit you best because it has a higher flow rate than cooler pipes of the same size.

Several sleeved versions of the non-oxygen PEX pipes are available at your disposal if you’re undertaking outdoor applications.

Oxygen Barrier PEX

Oxygen can cause most heating system components to corrode and rust. Therefore, radiant or baseboard heating applications require oxygen barrier PEX pipes. These pipes are generally offered in grades PEX-A and PEX-B. For shower valves, the half-inch size is commonly used. You can either choose the 3/8-inch, 5/8-inch, or ¾-inch oxygen barrier PEX tubes for other applications.

Aluminum Barrier PEX

These pipes are also known as PEX-AL-PEX. They consist of three layers, and therefore, you don’t need to keep holding them down every few feet during installation. In addition, the aluminum layer in these times acts as an oxygen barrier. Therefore, PEX-AL-PEX pipes are ideal for outdoor applications or high-temperature plumbing systems.

What are the Advantages of Using PEX?

For starters, PEX pipes tend to be long and flexible, which gives them an advantage over traditional pipes. When using PEX pipes, it’s easy to make long continuous runs without the need for joints and elbows. Likewise, it’s possible to snake long runs through studs and joists.

Unlike copper, PEX doesn’t corrode or wear out quickly in high-humidity environments such as bathrooms. The pipes are also resistant to bursting, even in situations where a plumbing line freezes solid. Moreover, joints are easy to make. All you need to do is crimp metal rings over barbed fittings with a special crimping tool.

There are lots of ways to connect your PEX pipes to fittings. Nonetheless, cinch clamps offer you the easiest route to do so. They are not only easily available but also affordable. It’s easy to tell whether you’ve installed it correctly because the clamp’s tab will be visibly pinched.

Connecting PEX pipes to shower valves is not only easy but also affordable. It’s quite easy to crimp special PEX water supply line shut-off valves into the current cold and hotlines. You can also use traditional shut-off valves with threaded fittings when transitioning to PEX.

Repairing or replacing kinks in your PEX supply lines is straightforward since all you need is a heat gun. However, it is best to keep in mind that PEX tends to re-kink in previously kinked spots, especially if the pipe has a bent at the spot. In this case, you may need to cut out the kinks and use the shorter sections or the PEX pipe elsewhere.

Another reason to choose PEX pipes is that water flows through them silently. This isn’t the case with copper and other types of pipes whose water flow is typically characterized by a hammering noise. Thus, PEX is ideal for those who don’t like noise around the house.

When installing PEX lines, soldering isn’t necessary. You’ll only need to solder your pipes if you’re connecting them to your home’s current supply lines. Hence, anyone can install PEX pipes as long as they possess some basic plumbing knowledge. With copper and steel lines, you’ll need to undertake considerable soldering during connections and transitions. This takes up too much time and equipment.

Since PEX pipes come in different colors, it’s easy for you to color-code your home’s water supply line. Nonetheless, the same cannot be said of steel or copper pipes, since they often come in a uniform color. Therefore, the availability of PEX pipes in different colors makes it easier for you to distinguish between hot and cold supply lines when installing and maintaining your water supply line.

Cons of PEX Pipes

Unlike copper and other metal supply lines, PEX isn’t suitable for outdoor use. Continued exposure to UV rays makes the pipes deteriorate quickly and burst. When installed indoors, PEX tubes can last for decades. However, if you install them outdoors and leave them exposed to UV, they are likely to harden and crack within a few months, thus necessitating costly repairs and replacement.

Unlike other plumbing materials, PEX cannot be reused or recycled because it doesn’t melt like traditional plastic pipes. However, with the increasing demand for PEX pipes in the plumbing industry, it won’t be long until a recycling technique is invented.

Indeed, PEX is the most DIY-friendly plumbing material you’ll come across. You don’t need any special expertise to install PEX pipes or even connect them to the existing plumbing system in your home. Besides, PEX is easy to work with because it doesn’t require any gluing. However, this comes at a cost because working with PEX requires special tools and a connector. Needless to say, this is something that an average DIY enthusiast doesn’t have.

Protecting Your PEX Pipes

Just like copper pipes, PEX pipes are vulnerable to damage. However, there’s so much you can do to minimize the damage and ensure the pipes serve you for as long as possible. An easy way to do so is to protect your pipes in the first place.

Generally, PEX pipes expand and contract with changes in the ambient temperature. The fluctuating temperature causes these pipes to shift back and forth. Regardless of how slight these movements might be, they are likely to wear down your pipes over time. If the pipes rub against an abrasive surface such as drywall, they are likely to wear out even faster.

To minimize the damage and ensure that your PEX pipes serve you for a long time, use abrasion clips to hold them in place and minimize back and forth movement. Also, consider covering the pipes using cheap pipe insulation. Better still, you can house them inside a larger pipe.

PEX pipes that are encased in concrete are already sufficiently protected because concrete prevents unnecessary motion. Likewise, PEX pipes that run straight through wood joists and studs are well protected. All you’ll need to do is protect the pipes in areas where they bend.

Transitioning PEX to Other Types of Pipe

As we mentioned earlier, you can use PEX pipes alongside other pipe types. For instance, you can have PEX pipes in the kitchen and copper plumbing pipes in other parts of your home. So, if you’re adding a guest bath to your home and you intend to use PEX, you don’t need to overhaul the entire plumbing system.

In this case, you’ll need to connect PEX to the current system. To do so, start by switching off your home’s main water supply system before draining the lines. Then, use transition fittings (they are available in local hardware stores) to connect the PEX pipes to your current PVC, steel, or copper lines.

After connecting the two lines, solder, thread, or glue on the transition fitting before crimping the PEX line onto the barbed fitting. If this route is too difficult, there are other options to explore. Simply go through the guide on how to join different water popping systems to get started.

Key Takeaways

In recent years, homeowners have been opting for PEX pipes because they are a cheaper and better alternative to traditional copper pipes. It’s also easy to work with PEX. So, if you’re installing PEX pipes in your bathroom, it’s best to have an idea about the ideal pipe size for your shower valves. This will prevent leaks and costly repairs after installation.

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Upgraded Home Team
Upgraded Home Team

We are a team of passionate homeowners, home improvement pros, and DIY enthusiasts who enjoy sharing home improvement, housekeeping, decorating, and more with other homeowners! Whether you're looking for a step-by-step guide on fixing an appliance or the cost of installing a fence, we've here to help.

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