Types of Pipes Used in Home Plumbing

Types of Pipes Used in Home Plumbing.

Modern plumbing makes use of a lot of different materials for piping, all for different reasons. When you’re weighing options from a professional plumber, it’s good to understand the most common kinds of piping used in home plumbing and how they’re used.

PEX Piping

Polyethylene cross-linked (PEX) piping is the newest material used for plumbing maintenance. PEX piping is also one of the most popular materials of piping for water supplies, and for good reason: Unlike copper or plastic piping, PEX doesn’t rust or leach chemicals into the water.

PEX piping is one of the most popular Types of Pipes Used in Home Plumbing.

It also has desirable performance – it’s rigid enough to withstand the sometimes high pressures of water supplies, yet flexible enough to fit within most walls or ceilings. The downside? PEX is pricey — roughly three or four times more expensive than copper or plastic piping. Depending on the project, the extra cost is balanced by superior performance.

Copper Pipes

Copper is another popular choice for water supply lines. This isn’t new – copper piping has been used in construction projects for decades.

While copper pipe can be expensive, its durability and resistance to corrosion make it a great choice for most projects. There are two main types of copper piping:

  • Rigid copper: Like its name suggests, rigid copper piping doesn’t bend very well. This is a good choice for high-pressure systems.
  • Flexible copper: Flexible copper is flexible and suited for projects that require versatility. This piping bends easily, but it has a limit to how far it can bend without risking a kink. Flexible copper pipes are popular and well-suited for low-pressure systems, such as dishwashers.

Copper piping might seem like the ideal material to use for your project, but it does come with one downside: It must be welded at joints to create a strong seal. Unless you have a blowtorch handy and the skills to use it appropriately, this isn’t a great option for DIY plumbing jobs.

PVC Pipes

Even if you don’t know the first thing about plumbing maintenance, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) is a piping material you’ve probably heard of. Cheap and easy to manage, it’s a DIY go-to. All you need to get started on a PVC project is a saw to cut the piping and glue to fuse joints.

Unfortunately, PVC joints can be poorly sealed sometimes, which is part of why it isn’t the best for high-pressure projects like water pipes. Another problem with PVC pipes? Once that glue sets, there’s no turning back. The only way to replace PVC that’s already been set is by cutting it up and trying again. PVC also degrades in sunlight and at high temperatures. Because of this, PVC is a suitable option for low-pressure supplies like toilet drainage.

ABS Piping

Piping made from acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) — try saying that ten times fast — is similar in functionality to PVC. It also comes in many of the same sizes, making it easy to join systems made from both materials. ABS piping is stronger than PVC and can withstand high pressures, however.

Despite these benefits, ABS is less popular these days for a couple of reasons. Joints can easily come loose, and the pipes warp and degrade more than PVC. In fact, this piping material can’t be exposed to direct sunlight, which is why you’ll often see it used for under-the-sink plumbing.

Galvanized Steel

Galvanized steel is an oldie when it comes to plumbing maintenance. In this case, oldie does not mean goodie. Though galvanized steel is occasionally used for gas lines, it’s never used for water supplies in modern practice. Why? Because galvanized steel corrodes, leaching rust into water and eventually causing clogs.

Because of this, galvanized steel is often found in older homes, where it was used extensively. Galvanized steel doesn’t last as long as other materials, however. If you find yourself with some of these pipes that need upkeep, we don’t recommend spending the money to repair them. This piping material should be replaced as needed. Want another reason not to like galvanized steel? Replacing it isn’t DIY-friendly at all. Find a professional who can help you get rid of this pesky piping material and replace it with something modern, safer, and more convenient.

Cast Iron

Ah, cast iron. Great for pans, not so great for plumbing. This type of piping material was a popular choice for plumbing maintenance in older homes but has since fallen out of style. Although cast iron is a very durable piping material, it’s not a good choice for homes because of how easily it can rust.

Many older homes have cast iron pipes. Once these pipes rust, it’s a pain that requires professional help to replace. We recommend replacing cast iron pipes with newer piping materials.

Need an expert opinion on what pipes should be needed for your home? Schedule an appointment today.