How Long Does Copper Piping Last? A Complete Guide

Up to about 10 years ago, copper pipes were the number one choice for water supply lines in residential and commercial plumbing. It’s one of the cleanest and safest type of plumbing pipe on the market, and can last upwards of 50 to 75 years.

However, like all plumbing pipes, copper pipes won’t last forever, and you’ll need to replace them at some point. If you’re wondering if your copper pipes are near their end and might need to be replaced, this article will guide you as you make your decision.

How Long Do Copper Pipes Last?

As we said before, copper pipe is one of the most durable materials in the plumbing world. It’s the same material that pennies are made of and is more durable than other metal pipes, such as lead and galvanized steel.

Copper is also much cleaner and safer for your drinking water because it doesn’t corrode from the inside out. As such, you don’t have to worry about clogs, contaminated drinking water, and other potential issues.

Best of all, the average lifespan of copper pipes is anywhere from 50 to 75 years. However, depending on how well you maintain your pipes, how much water you use, and how soft your water is, copper pipes can last more than a century.

On the other hand, if you have extremely hard water and one or more small leaks in your system, it can lead to corrosion, which will significantly shorten your pipe’s lifespan.

Factors That Affect How Long Your Copper Pipes Last

While 50 to 75 years is a general average, many factors can lengthen or shorten that lifespan accordingly.

Water Acidity

How acidic or alkaline your water is has a huge impact on your copper pipes. While acidic water doesn’t cause copper pipes to break down from the inside out, it does remove some of the copper from the pipes. As a result, small amounts of copper end up in your water supply, potentially contaminating it.

Acidic water can also eat away at the soldering joints that hold copper pipes and fittings together. When this happens, it can cause pinhole leaks. Once you have leaking copper pipes, it’s all over but the crying because leaking copper pipes need to be replaced.

Hard Water

Along with acidic water, hard water is the second biggest threat to copper pipes. Hard water, which means you don’t have a water softener, is full of chemicals, metals, and minerals that eat away at copper pipes.

In the short term, hard water doesn’t have much of an effect on plumbing systems. Over time, however, the minerals, metals, and chemicals in hard water can pit and eat away at parts of your copper piping system. The result is similar to having a cavity in your teeth. The pitting gets worse and worse until it finally eats through the pipe and creates a pinhole leak.


When there are pinhole leaks, cracks, or other leaks in your copper piping system, it will result in corrosion. Copper pipe corrosion happens when water that’s sitting on the outside of your pipes is exposed to oxygen. It will create a bluish powdery substance on copper water lines and is a surefire sign of a leak.

In addition to indicating a water leak, corrosion on the outside of pipes will start to eat away at them. This will further reduce the lifespan of your system, and you should have copper plumbing leaks repaired as quickly as possible.

Improper Installation

Just because a plumbing professional installed your plumbing pipes doesn’t mean they’re going to be perfect. One of the biggest knocks against copper water pipes is that they’re tricky to install. They require tons of soldering joints, and even one mistake can result in a leak.

Therefore, there’s always a chance that your pipes weren’t installed properly. This is especially true if you did the work yourself or someone inexperienced with copper works installed your system.

High Water Pressure Problems

In a properly installed plumbing system, high water pressure won’t cause issues with copper pipes. However, if one or more soldering joints weren’t done properly, they will be too thin and could break when exposed to high water pressure.

Drawbacks of Sticking With Copper Pipes

If you’re starting to have problems with your copper plumbing pipes, you have several options. You can either repair the damaged section, replace the entire system with new copper pipes, or replace the system with a different piping material.

For small, individual leaks, your best bet is to repair the damage by replacing the damaged section. If, however, your copper pipes are more than 30 to 40 years old and they’re looking worse for wear, you might be better off replacing them.

If you opt for a pipe replacement and are thinking about sticking with copper, here are several reasons that might not be the best option.


The biggest reason that people are turning away from copper pipes is because of how expensive they are. The cost of copper has been steadily rising for the past decade, and it’s as high as it’s ever been. Therefore, you’ll likely pay two to three times as much to install a copper plumbing system in your home as you would for PEX or PVC.

You’ll Have the Same Issues Later

If you have hard water, high water pressure, acidic water, or other problems that damage your copper pipes, the same things are going to happen again unless you fix your water. As such, it’s smarter to switch to a material that isn’t as adversely affected by hard or acidic water.

Difficult Installation

Even if you have the greatest copper pipe professional in the world install your copper plumbing pipes, it will still take significantly longer than installing a PEX or PVC system.

Every time you make a connection with copper pipes, the ends of the pipes need to be thoroughly cleaned and prepped. Then, to make the connection, you must heat up the end of the pipe so that you can apply solder. As a result, the cost of installation is much higher for copper than other types of pipe.

Consider PEX Pipes When Replacing Copper

If your once-reliable copper pipes are starting to have one problem after another, consider upgrading to PEX. PEX pipes are made of a hard, durable plastic consisting of cross-linked polyethylene. It’s a relatively new plumbing material that has become extremely popular in the United States in recent years.

Advantages of PEX Over Other Materials

Many of the disadvantages of copper pipes are the advantages of PEX. Here’s a quick rundown!


One of the biggest advantages of PEX pipes is that they are extremely affordable. PEX can be up to 80% cheaper than most types of copper pipes, 20% cheaper than PVC piping, and a fraction of the price of galvanized steel pipes.

Easy Installation

PEX is also the easiest type of plumbing pipe to install. It’s very lightweight so it requires fewer supports than other pipes, and the process of cutting it is also much easier. Additionally, PEX is very flexible and forgiving, which is important if speedy installation is a priority.

Low Risk

Because of how PEX is designed, it isn’t susceptible to rust, corrosion, or contamination from water flowing through it. PEX also requires fewer fittings and connections, which means there are less places where installation error can occur.

Extremely Durable

While copper is fairly durable as a plumbing material, PEX is even more durable. While copper pipes may corrode or develop pinhole leaks over time, PEX is built to withstand all the things that copper is susceptible to. The only thing that can cause a leak with PEX is if you accidentally cut into it, or if there’s a loose crimp.

Know the Lifespan of Your Copper Pipes

If you currently have a copper plumbing system in your home, it’s important to understand lifespan. If your pipes are more than 30 years old, you should have them inspected by a professional plumber. That way, if they are nearing their end, you can have them replaced before your water gets contaminated or leaks start to form.

The same is true if you have copper drain lines. Copper drain lines are prone to the same issues as supply lines, and have a similar lifespan. Once again, it’s a good idea to have a professional plumber inspect your entire plumbing system so you know what the best course of action is. 

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