When you’re at most hardware stores, you’ll likely be inundated with lots of different ways to build a plumbing system. There’s an incredible number of different fittings and pipes made from different materials, such as copper, PVC, vinyl, and PEX. It can be quite confusing if it’s your first time in the plumbing aisle.
Most of us aren’t certified plumbers. And we don’t want to pay a certified plumber to build our camper. We just want to find a material that is easy to customize, simple to put together, and won’t leak. And that’s exactly why PEX pipes are the best choice for RVs and camper vans.
In this post, we will discuss why PEX pipes are the best solution when building your camper’s water system. We’ll also look at which components and fittings we used, in conjunction with PEX pipes, to build our sink and shower plumbing system.
So if you’re ready, let’s get to it!
Why PEX Pipe Is Best For Van Conversions
PEX pipe offers 4 distinct advantages for those building a camper van and/or RV.
1. Quick & Easy Installation
It’s hard to over exaggerate just how easy it is to piece together different PEX pipes. You simply cut the PEX pipe to size, insert the tube over a metal fitting, and crimp a copper ring to keep the pipe in place. It really is that simple.
Compare this to having to weld copper pipes together or use messy glue to hold together PVC tubes.
We link to a useful YouTube video at the end of this post showing how easy it is to put together a PEX pipe plumbing system.
2. Flexible Tubing
PEX pipes are made out of flexible plastic (cross-linked polyethylene), which is perfect for DIY van conversions. Because this material can flex and bend, the pipes are much more forgiving if your measurements aren’t 100% accurate. This is perfect for plumbing beginners, like us!
Unlike traditional copper pipes used in homes, PEX pipes are lightweight. They’re essentially a non-factor in deciding the overall weight of your camper.
4. High-Grade Plastic
The cross-linked polyethylene material resists high-temperatures, corrosion, and abuse. Which is perfect for camper vans that intend to travel in a wide range of temperatures and climates.
Building a camper van? Download our free e-Books with intuitive electrical, solar, and plumbing diagrams.
What Size PEX Do Campers Use?
You can easily find PEX pipes that have an inner diameter of ½” and ¾”. But for camper vans and RVs, the ½” pipes will be sufficient. The ¾” pipes are primarily for main water lines that enter a residential home.
In order to build a complete plumbing system you’ll need to pair PEX tubing with several types of metal fittings. These fittings allow you to:
In order to connect the PEX tubes to these fittings, you’ll need to crimp a copper ring over the PEX tube and fitting to create a water-tight connection. You’ll need some hand strength to do this, but it’s an easy, straightforward procedure.
We talk about this below.
How To Crimp PEX Pipes
To crimp the copper ring over the PEX tube and fitting, you’ll need a specific crimping tool.
We recommend getting the IWISS Ring Crimping Set. It not only comes with the tool you’ll need to crimp the ring over the PEX tube and fitting, but it also comes with a pipe cutter and 20 ½” copper rings, which should be enough for most basic plumbing builds.
Check out the below video to see just how easy it is to construct a PEX-based plumbing system.
PEX Materials You Need
Where To Buy
1/2" PEX Pipe
Primary plumbing materials.
Redirects PEX tube 90-degrees.
Splits line into two lines.
Used to crimp PEX tube and fittings together,
PEX Crimping Tool
Crimps copper rings over PEX tube.
Download our Water System eBook (with diagrams) to visualize which wire sizes you need.
Can PEX Pipes Resist Freezing Temperatures?
PEX pipes are proven to be more flexible and durable than their PVC counterparts. This makes them more resistant to bursting when water begins to freeze in sub-zero temperatures.
However, PEX tubes are not freeze-proof. Meaning, if you plan to travel in areas that will expose your PEX pipes to freezing temperatures, you should still take the proper precautions to winterize your pipes to prevent permanent damage to your plumbing system.
We hope this post convinced you that going with PEX tubing is the best option for your camper van plumbing build. Of course, PEX is just one of the many components in building a complete system for your sink or shower.
To learn more about how to build a complete water system, check out our articles below.