CPVC vs Copper in Hotels: Is there Still a Double Standard?

Summary:  Is the risk for engineers specifying CPVC in hotels still higher than for specifying copper?

CPVC for domestic water appears to be an accepted product by the industry and is no longer judged by a different standard than copper when a failure occurs.

Over the past ten years I have investigated many cases of pipe failures in hotels.  Of those cases, there was always a different view of a failure of CPVC (or PEX) as compared to a similar failure of copper piping.  If there was a failure of CPVC, the insurance company immediately launched a massive investigation looking for someone to blame and another insurance company to subrogate.  But if a copper pipe failed, there appeared to be far less litigation involved.

As an example, one hotel in San Francisco about six months after completion had a lav fitting fail simply because it was not actually soldered.  (It is amazing how flux and a tight fit can hold water for a limited period of time.) Anyway, there was a quarter million dollars of water damage, but little fan fare.   But in a hotel in Seattle, the CPVC pipes failed due to poor isolation of the pipe from the fire stopping and a huge insurance investigation followed.

The copper failure in San Francisco was simply poor quality control, not the systematic failure of a piping system.  The CPVC failure in Seattle was a systematic failure of a product incompatibility. (The fire proofing dissolved the CPVC upon contact, and metal tape was used to separate the pipe from the caulking.  Any tear in the tape would result in consistent failure.

Any time an engineer specifies a product that is considered non-traditional, there is a greater risk of liability for a similar failure compared to a traditional product.  It appears, however, that CPVC has had sufficient time in service to expose and correct the deficiencies of the early product. I generally do not specify CPVC, but if a developer requests the product as a cost savings, I am OK specifying it.

7 Responses to “CPVC vs Copper in Hotels: Is there Still a Double Standard?”

  1. John Griffith Says:

    Have you ever seen Kitec in any hotels?

  2. Hotel CPVC Expansion Joints | Mark Robison, P.E. Says:

    […] P.E. Dedicated to Hotel MEP Design and Operation « Two Zone Hotel Recirc Systems CPVC vs Copper in Hotels: Is there Still a Double Standard? […]

  3. Mark Says:

    John: No, I have not seen Kitec in a hotel. I have only seen CPVC and PEX. The web has articles on the failure of Kitec, so what is your experience? Thanks – Mark

  4. I P Singh Says:

    Dear Sir

    we are in final stage for Plumbing Tender for Sheraton Bangalore, India, need advice on using copper Pipes Vs CPVC for Hot Water System Piping as our commerical department investigate their is huge saving but I am against it. Starwood agree to use copper for internal & CPVC in shaft & Ring Main. I understand Copper piping is much far superior & safe solution & maintenance free. Prompt reply will be appreciated

  5. Mark Says:

    Tell me more about why you are against using CPVC? I’m sure my readers would appreciate your perspective.

  6. S.S.Karikalan Says:

    PE AL PE composite pipes will be un doubtedly the best bet for plumbing. If the installation is properly done and tested the only least problematic and and least failure and also the best available piping material is pe al pe composite pipes only. Many hotels which has used in Chennai more than seven years enjoying trouble free ervice life. Kitec is only a brand name and the failure is reported in the brass fittings.

  7. TANDU Says:

    Can we use in a 5 star hotel CPVC pipes for PHE lines? cost is a consideration.

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