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An Expert Guide to the Best Plumbing for Cold Weather

frozen plumbing pipe with ice cycles

No matter where you reside (even Texas, as we saw from the severe winter storm in 2021), it’s important to understand how freezing temperatures affect plumbing. Frozen pipes can burst, causing severe water damage that’s dangerous, disastrous, and expensive to repair. In fact, Winter Storm Uri left Texas with damages costing around $10 billion. If you want the best plumbing for cold weather, it’s important to know which plumbing pipes withstand freezing temperatures.

At Falcon, not all of our modified shipping container structures require plumbing – we often create storage units and equipment enclosures alongside our container-based offices, living spaces, and bathrooms – but our plumbing expertise is rooted in thoughtful design from the professional plumbers we have on staff. Working at the crossroads of the manufacturing and construction industries, we know how important great plumbing is to safety and disaster preparation. Here’s our take on the best plumbing for cold weather.

Copper vs. PVC in freezing temperatures

maintenance on copper pipe

Copper and PVC pipes are two of the most common plumbing pipes. Copper is the most conventional plumbing pipe because it’s considered reliable, strong, and resistant to corrosion. Copper pipes are common in older structures since plumbers have gravitated to them for a long time thanks to their longevity. Additionally, they can handle exposure to UV rays better than other pipe alternatives. And yet, copper pipes can easily burst in a freeze.

PVC plumbing pipe dripping water into a puddle

Plumbing pipes made from copper lose heat quickly. The material doesn’t expand when water freezes, instead the pipes burst or split open. On the other hand, PVC pipes are made from plastic (polyvinyl chloride). PVC pipes are often cheaper than copper pipes and simple to install yet have a shorter lifespan than copper. Although PVC is a great choice to maintain heat, keeping the water inside the pipes quite hot, PVC doesn’t do well in freezing temperatures. Plastic is brittle, so at low temperatures, PVC can crack. The same goes for CPVC pipes, which are also made from plastic, just stronger than PVC and with a higher maximum temperature.

Freeze resistant plumbing

frozen water spout on brick wall

At this point, the likelihood of purchasing freeze-resistant plumbing is looking bleak. Two of the most used plumbing pipes are likely to crack in freezing temperatures, when we know freezing temperatures are often unavoidable. And yet, there is a better solution out there: PEX pipes.

PEX vs. PVC and copper in freezing temperatures

PEX piping is better at expanding with frozen water than alternatives. Additionally, PEX requires minimal maintenance and is often less likely to leak. It is often more expensive than copper or PVC, but many users find that the cost is recoverable over time. Although, keep in mind that PEX is not the end-all-be-all solution for plumbing. UV rays will damage the pipes, so PEX is not meant to be exposed to the sun. And, of course, PEX is not crack-proof. It can still burst with considerable pressure in freezing temperatures.

Make the right plumbing choices

red, blue, and copper plumbing pipes

No matter which pipes you choose for a project, it’s vital that you find a good plumber. Much of what makes a great plumbing system is due to how the plumber puts the pipes together, not just the material used. Similarly, if you’re unsure what type of pipe is best for your application, contact the plumbers in your area, they are your local experts and can advise based on their experience and expertise.

If you already have pipes and are concerned about freezing temperatures, there are preventative steps you can take to minimize the chance of bursting pipes.

  • Insulate your pipes in attics or crawl spaces with heat tape, heat cables, or foam pipe covers (according to your manufacturer’s instructions).
  • Seal leaks that could otherwise let the cold air inside.
  • Disconnect or secure outdoor hoses, valves, and faucets.
  • Leave faucets with a running water drip.
  • Keep your thermostat at the same temperature to reduce strain on your furnace.
  • Open cabinet doors to allow warmer air to reach the pipes.

Who is Falcon Structures?

Falcon Structures has created modified shipping container structures for nearly two decades working across many industries, ranging from retail to construction to oil and gas. Learn more about Falcon’s containers here or give us a call at 877-704-0177 or email us at for a consultation.

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