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Should I Use Copper or PVC for Outdoor Shower Plumbing?

When choosing between copper or PVC for outdoor shower plumbing, it is important to check with your local building codes, since some cities have specific regulations that may require the use of one material over another. If there are no certain limitations, the choice depends mostly upon personal preference and skill level.

Benefits of Copper or PVC Plumbing

Copper plumbing is an easy material to work with and solder joints set almost instantly, making it possible to enjoy the benefits of an outdoor shower within ten minutes of installation. Copper plumbing is compatible with a wide range of water temperatures. Unfortunately, copper plumbing requires external insulating to prevent thermal loss and freezing. Copper is also flexible, unlike PVC, and can be maneuvered around obstacles. Copper plumbing is fire resistant and beneficial for those in earthquake zones since they are flexible and avoid breaking. Copper is also compatible with PVC plumbing, enabling materials to be interchanged to make faucet and fixtures easier to install. Copper plumbing also comes with a long warranty and increase the resale value of the home.

PVC plumbing is resistant to corrosion and withstands acidic water and unbalanced pH levels better than copper. PVC also does not conduct electricity, making it ideal for outdoor applications. For many do-it-yourself homeowners, PVC is easier to work with and requires no special skills or tools aside from a pipe cutter and the appropriate glue. Unlike copper, PVC plumbing is insulated, minimizing thermal loss when in use. PVC is also considerably cheaper than copper plumbing, making repair jobs and installation projects more affordable for the average homeowner.

Drawbacks to Copper or PVC Plumbing

Copper plumbing is subject to rust and excessive sweating, which can lead to corrosion and decreased water flow. Copper plumbing is not suitable for acidic water that has a pH level of 6.5 or less. Acidic water will pull copper elements from the plumbing resulting in potential health risks. A neutralizer may be needed to remove contaminants.

PVC plumbing is susceptible to brittleness after many years and may require repair and general maintenance after several years of use. It may be required by city codes to use C-PVC plumbing that is designed for hotter temperatures than regular PVC pipes. PVC pipes, unlike copper, are susceptible to damage caused by UV rays.

Tips for Installing an Outdoor Shower

When running plumbing lines for an outdoor shower, it is wise to consider digging a trench below frost level to prevent pipe freezing during the winter months. However, this step can be avoided if the shower is portable or you intend to blow out the pipes at the end of season. Never leave water in the pipes, since they will freeze and break, resulting in costly repairs. When installing an outdoor shower, ensure that the water drains to a lower level away from both the shower and home where it can cause structural damage to both. You may want to consider adding privacy enclosures and plumbing lines for hot and cold water for increased comfort and relaxation.