PEX clamp vs crimp tools: differences and best options
How to not love them? You’re saving a lot of money compared to copper piping…without sacrificing on quality.
That’s neat, but all the PEX tools available might leave you a bit confused.
On one hand, you’ve got what we call PEX crimps. The best example would be this full Iwiss kit. This type of tools work with copper crimp rings and are quite popular with DIY home owners.
Then there are the PEX cinch (or clamp) tools like the extra convenient Watts ratcheting model. Compatible with stainless steel clamps, PEX cinches require less force and are better suited for narrow areas.
However, it all boils down to which PEX method you yourself prefer. Because realistically, these two differ quite a bit.
I’ll outline the main differences between PEX cinches and crimps so you can get a better idea of what might work better for you…and your pipes.
After that I’ll do a review on the best PEX crimp and cinch tools.
PEX crimp vs clamp tools explained
PEX crimpers work with copper crimp rings. They also tend to tighten the whole ring when you use them which requires a bit more force.
As it’s not a one-size-fits-all solution, you’ll need different crimp tools for the different sizes you’re working with.
However, some crimping tool kits come with various sizes included. A good example is the Iwiss set I mentioned – it comes with 3/8″, 1/2″, 3/4″ and 1″ interchangeable jaws:
PEX cinches, also known as PEX clamp tools, switch from copper to stainless steel rings.
Here you pinch only the tab on the ring, instead of the whole body.
Cinches usually work with multiple PEX pipe sizes. That makes them more flexible than crimpers and more of a one-size-fits-all product.
A common saying is that the stainless steel clamps are more durable than the copper crimp rings. They’re more resistant to corrosion.
As you’re only compressing the tab on their side, clamps are also easier to remove if you made a mistake. With crimp rings, removal is a more complicated task.
The trade off? I feel that with the copper rings you get a little bit tighter, more secure seal due to compressing the whole body.
One important thing about PEX crimpers
Where are you going to be working with those PEX pipes? Are you going to be DIY-ing in narrow spaces?
The thing with PEX crimping tools is that they can be a little uncomfortable in extra tight places.
This is because you need to open it all the way around the copper rings. As you can guess, that calls for increased perimeter.
Smaller-sized crimps for narrow spaces do exist, but their performance has nothing on the real deal.
4 Best PEX crimp & cinch tools [Reviews]
1. Best PEX crimp kit:
IWISS F1807 Set
Will you work with a lot of sizes? Do you want an extra durable crimper?
This is a heavy-duty kit that gives you versatility no other crimping tool will give you. Let’s take a quick look at what’s included:
Default crimper (1″), with 3 bonus jaws at 3/8″, 1/2″ and 3/4″
Crimp ring removal tool – goes from 3/8″ to 1″, same size as jaws
A go/no-go gauge to calibrate things properly
A free pex cutter included
A pretty sturdy case to keep all parts inside
If you ask me, that’s more than enough to take any DIY home plumbing challenge. It also works for plumbers with hectic schedules.
Sure, it might cost a tad more, but considering the customization and all-around quality, this is a kit that’s worth it.
Note that as a crimp tool, you’ll need some additional space. The crimper’s arms will need to be opened wide to compress the copper rings properly, no matter their size.
To add to this, IWISS is actually a pretty reputable brand with a history of producing quality tools for DIY-ers and plumbers alike.
2. Best PEX cinch tool:
Watts Ratcheting one-hand tool
Yes, you read that right. This is an easy to use clamp for those who prefer one-handed operation and not having to apply ridiculous force to do their PEX tasks.
The ratcheting PEX clamp goes from 3/8″ all the way to 1″. While Watts recommend pairing it up with their own stainless steel cinch rings, it should work fine with other rings too.
Just make sure they correspond to the appropriate size, of course! Namely, 3/8″, 1/2″ or 1″.
This model is best suited for those projects that require narrow spaces. Not needing to spread the cincher’s arms that wide or apply extra pressure to fasten the PEX is a godsent.
Where crimpers will feel inconvenient and frustrating, the Watts cinch tool for PEX pipes excels.
3. Best budget clamp for PEX:
Apollo hand tool
This one is quite popular because of its ridiculously great price. It’s a total bargain considering you can work with 3/8″, 1/2″, 3/4″ and 1″ sized cinch clamps.
So once your eyes lock into that future PEX-fastener, you might wonder:
Where’s the catch?
Well, you might need to sweat a bit if you lack power. Unlike the more expensive Watts cinch, here you’ll need both of your hands and more efforts to compress those taps.
The Apollo is also in no way as heavy duty and convenient as the higher end Watts clamping tool.
If you’re the tougher type of guy (or girl) – unlike me, you shouldn’t have any issues with that though. Given its price and decent performance, this cincher is a DIY home owner’s best pal for some PEX action.
Supported steel clamps include Oetiker, Apollo and Murray. Probably some other brands are also supported, but I haven’t tested them out.
4. Popular crimp tool:
SharkBite 1/2″ & 3/4″
Almost every home improvement fan has heard of SharkBite. A fitting name for a brand, given how secure their crimpers do the job.
This PEX tool for crimping doesn’t have the bells and whistles like the IWISS set. Instead, it focuses on limited utility for people who know the exact sizes they’ll be working with.
And these sizes would be 1/2″ and 3/4″.
The rugged steel build ensures heavy-duty crimping without any compromise. Even better: on a very affordable price.
As far as I know, SharkBite also manufactures their crimpers locally here in the US. Something that not many other brands do.
The fine print is…well, this fella is quite big. It’ll require some perimeter cleared around you, even more than some other crimpers.
But! As long as you know the sizes you’ll be working with, as well as the space for your DIY project, this is yet another no-brainer.
Great price, performance just like a shark’s jaws and awesome grip. What’s not to like?
Why pick PEX pipes exactly?
PEX pipes vs copper pipes
I spoke briefly about that in the beginning of the post, but PEX seems to be the future of pipes.
Sure, some people still prefer copper, but to me the benefits of PEX are overwhelming.
First of all, there’s the price. High quality PEX pipes are still a few times cheaper than the copper equivalent.
A part of this also has to deal with the fact that PEX is easier to transport (weighs less) which cuts down on any shipping costs.
Especially for DIY home renovators, this matters a lot. (Not only for them, of course.) Some people also mention how PEX tubing performs great in hard water areas.
Second, as my post shows, it’s relatively easy to grab a set of PEX crimping or cinching tools and do it yourself.
With copper pipes, installation is a more complicated process that definitely requires the work of a professional. Soldering, torches and all that copper jazz? Not needed anymore!
Last but not least, copper requires more joints.
The only significant drawback of PEX pipes are mouses/rodents. They can chew through PEX (good luck with chewing on copper!) If you have a rodent infestation problem, I suggest thinking twice about turning your back on copper plumbing.
An additional point to consider is UV/outdoor pipe positioning. PEX is susceptible to direct sunlight so it’s a pretty bad idea to go for this type of plumbing for outside purposes.
Also, make sure that PEX systems are approved by code in your city. Regulations vary across states!
Oh, we’re on the topic of local laws and water-related DIY projects? If you have a lawn you want to take proper care of, make sure you check out my comparison between Hunter and Rainbird. Two of the best sprinkler system brands out there.
Who knows, that DIY itch might become even more tempting?