PEX pipe is the easiest DIY pipe for installing hot water to your shower, radiator, or even sink. However, it’s also incredibly vulnerable to UV and needs to be covered. In fact, if you don’t cover exposed PEX pipe, it will likely crack and leak within a few months at most.
Luckily, learning how to install a PEX pipe cover is relatively simple. In every case, you can buy an affordable cover from your hardware store. From there, installation is also simple.
How to Cover Exposed PEX Pipe
The easiest way to cover exposed PEX pipe is to buy a cover or a stub. These are fast, affordable, and do the job well. Most importantly, they fit well, because they are made for the purpose. If you’d rather not, there are a couple of DIY solutions you can try instead, but they won’t look as professional.
Keep reading to learn how to cover exposed PEX pipe in four different ways.
Installing a PEX stub out bracket with wall flange
In most cases, if you want to cover exposed PEX pipe, it’s the stub out of the wall. Normally, this runs from the wall to the faucet or the radiator. Here, the best way to cover your PEX pipe is to buy a stub out bracket with a wall flange.
A stub out bracket is a small tube with a flange at the end. They’re normally sold to match bathroom fixtures and the most common color is chrome. They also feature holes in the flange, which allows you to attach it to the wall.
- Hacksaw with a metal cutting blade
- 2 screws
- Wall plugs (or hollow wall plugs depending on your wall)
- Stub out bracket in an appropriate color and length
- Measuring tape
Installing a PEX wall cover is relatively easy. However, you’ll want to do it before installing the fixture. If you’ve already installed the fixture, you’ll have to take it off.
- Measure the distance between the fixture and the wall. Measure this onto the wall cover from the flange out. Use a marker to create a line around the PEX pipe wall cover where you want to cut.
- Use the hacksaw to cut the PEX wall flange to size. Make sure you cut the top (the side without the flange). You’ll also want to avoid putting pressure on the pipe, because it’s thin chrome and can bend. Use a file or a sanding pad to take off any sharp or rough edges.
- Place the stub out bracket over the pipe, with the flange to the wall. Use a marker to mark the holes. Then, take it off.
- Drill the holes and insert the wall plugs.
- Slide the flange back into place and attach it with the screws.
- If your wall flange came with a cover for the screws, you can attach it at this point. Most fit over the top of the PEX pipe and the cover and then screw down over the base of the flange.
From there, you can cut your PEX pipe to size and finish installing your faucet or fixture with copper crimping rings or expansion connectors. This method works for any fixture, ranging from a sink to a shower or a tub or even a radiator.
Installing a PEX pipe wall cover
If you’ve run a PEX pipe up a wall or to a radiator, you’ll have a longer exposed length. This means you’ll need a longer cover to prevent it from damage. Here, a pipe cover is your best option. These covers normally mount flat to a wall, over an attached pipe. In this case, you might have an option that attaches using wall brackets. You might also have an option that uses adhesive to stick to the wall. You should choose your option based on your wall.
- Pipe covers rated for plumbing usage. Electric covers might fall apart when exposed to heat.
- Any corners or connections you need to cover the pipe
- Cutters (usually a hacksaw or clippers or the same tool you used to cut the PEX)
- Wall attachment (brackets or adhesive). Read the package for the pipe covers you buy.
- End caps or silicone
Here, the most important part of installing the PEX wall cover is to line the cover up in a way that doesn’t crimp or bend the PEX. While PEX is flexible, most covers are not. If you’ve bent or rounded corners with the pipe, it may be difficult to cover without installing a box over the whole thing.
- Measure the length you have to cover. In most cases, this should be a few feet at most. However, if you have corners or places where the PEX curves, you’ll want to take note and work them the measurement.
- Cut the pipe covers to size.
- Line the pipe covers up on the wall and mark with a pencil where you want them. It’s a good idea to use a level to ensure the cover is straight.
- If you have corners, cut these and fit the connectors inside the pipe covers.
- Either mark and drill the holes for brackets or clean the wall and apply adhesive.
- Install the pipe covers, You’ll want to make sure the cover goes all the way to the wall and to the pipe end.
- If you’re using rubber ends to seal the pipe cover, you’ll want to fit these on. Otherwise, you’ll want to seal the ends with silicone to prevent light from entering the covers.
Most hardware stores sell pipe covers in a variety of sizes and formats. You can easily buy some to match your wall or fixtures.
Installing a box cover
If you don’t have the space for a wall cover or can’t find one, you can also build a box around the PEX. However, this can be ugly. Most people prefer to either install the PEX inside the wall or to use pipe covers.
- 1×2 wood
- 1×3 wood
- A saw
- Caulk or another adhesive
- Drill Bit set
- A measuring tape
Installing your wall cover is a simple matter of building a box. PEX pipe ranges from 3/8ths to 1-inch for residential usage. You can check which you have and get a smaller wood if you have 3/8ths (1×2) will be fine in this case.
- Measure the length of the pipe you want to cover, including any corners.
- Mark this out on the wood and cut it to size. You need three pieces of each length for two sides and a cover.
- Stand the board upright and mark holes for the screws at about every foot and on each end, plus anywhere there is a corner. Pre-drill the holes. You’ll want to use small screws and a small drill bit to avoid splitting the wood. Try to keep the holes centered.
- The 1×3 cover should have the holes on each side of the flat part of the wood. However, one on the top and bottom, staggered by 2 inches is more than enough. You’ll mostly want to rely on caulk or another adhesive to ensure your pipe cover looks good on the wall.
- Mark the holes on the wall and pre-drill these, then insert plugs. You can make this easier by putting the 1/3 in place and drawing a line up each side with a pencil. Then, set your screws ½ of an inch in from the outer side of the pencil.
- If you’re painting the wood, do so before you put it on the wall.
- Install the boards on the wall.
- Make sure your PEX pipe isn’t crushed or kinked in any way.
- Run a bead of caulk up each side of the boards.
- Install the cover.
You’ll likely want to touch up the paint to finish.
Installing PEX inside of PVC
If you don’t have access to a PEX pipe covertube and flange, you can almost always install PEX inside of a PVC pipe. This might be ugly. However, it does prevent the PEX from degrading while you find a better solution.
Here, you’ll want a PVC pipe that is slightly larger than the diameter of your PEX pipe. Here, PEX can be tricky. Why? It’s sized by the Copper Tubing Size (CTS) rather than the inside or outside diameter. That’s because PEX works with copper and CPVC fittings, not PVC fittings.
|PEX Tubing (CTS)||Outside Diameter||PVC Pipe Size|
You always want to buy PVC that’s larger than the outside, so that your PEX slides easily inside.
From there, you can simply cut the PVC to size. You might want to use fittings and corners as well. Slide the PEX inside the PVC and attach everything. Then, silicone or seal the ends in some other way.
If you still have questions about installing PEX pipe, these answers may help.
Can PEX Be Exposed?
PEX pipe cannot be exposed. It will degrade. The more UV light exposure, the faster the PEX will degrade. Therefore, it’s important to cover your PEX pipe as quickly as possible.
How to Cap Off PEX Pipe?
In most cases, you can cap off PEX pipe with a barbed plug or a copper expansion plug. These end caps are sold in the hardware store alongside PEX pipe. It’s important to check which type of plug you have. For example, if you have an expansion plug, you need an expansion tool.
Additionally, you can use a copper crimp plug. These are simply crimped over the ends, just like with crimp fittings.
How to protect PEX?
PEX should be covered wherever it is installed. You can use suspension clips, silicone, and foam pipe molding to protect PEX where it runs alongside joints and wood or holes. Installing a good cover is the most important step here because UV will degrade most PEX pipe.
Can I paint PEX?
PEX pipe contracts and expands a significant amount as it heats and cools. Therefore, paint will crack off the pipe. Instead, you’re much better off using a cover to protect your PEX pipe.
How long can PEX be exposed to sunlight?
If you’re wondering how long PEX will last without being uncovered, check the manufacturer’s instructions. However, most manufacturers recommend limiting exposure to a maximum of 30-60 days. Some UV resistant PEX can be stored outside or uncovered for longer.
Can I install PEX everywhere?
PEX should not be installed in high heat areas. For example, you shouldn’t use it to make direct connections to a radiator or to a water heater. However, you can run it to copper tubing to make the final connection.
How do I insulate PEX?
Pipe insulating foam is the best choice for PEX. Why? It expands and contracts with the pipe. Heat tape and other insulating methods might not be as flexible, which might result in eventual cracking and exposure.
PEX pipes are easy to install, color coded, and even flexible. At the same time, they have to be covered. Hopefully, this guide on how to cover exposed PEX pipe helps you do so with a minimum of difficulty. In most cases, you can finish the job with a simple PEX wall flange. In other cases, you might want to use piping. Whatever your choice, hopefully your plumbing stays in good condition for a long time to come.