All pipes in your home’s plumbing system are the same, right? Not the case. There are actually many different pipe materials. Some are intended for different uses and some are easier to work with than others.
If you plan on doing any type of DIY plumbing work in your home, here are six different types of pipes you may come across or need to install.
- Rigid Copper
The go-to pipe for many years, rigid copper is used for water supply lines in homes. It has fallen out of favor for many plumbers lately because of its high cost and durability concerns.
Copper does some things really well, including handling heat and pressure. It also does not pose any health risks. Pipes can be cut with either a hacksaw or a copper tube cutter. For connections, copper requires soldering skills and equipment – making it more difficult to work with for most homeowners.
The major downside to copper (in addition to price) is durability. Over time, copper pipes can corrode from the inside and develop pinholes. However, since copper is recyclable, you can usually get money back for your scrap material.
In recent years, PEX pipe has emerged as a new and popular plumbing option. The two biggest benefits to PEX are that it’s inexpensive and easy to work with – especially for DIYers. The flexible material makes it easy to cut and install pipes in tight spaces and around other objects.
Connections are fairly simple to make with either clamp or push-fit fittings. PEX pipes come in two colors – red for hot water lines and blue for cold water.
Since PEX is new, not as much is known about its long-term durability and use. Also, the material is not recyclable.
Made of a type of plastic and usually available in white color, PVC is a common pipe used for drain, vent, and irrigation lines. It comes in many different diameters and is easy to cut with a saw.
PVC can be connected with special glue, although this makes it prone to leaking. Once a PVC pipe is glued, it can’t be disconnected – so you’ll have to cut and replace that section. Also, PVC can be fragile and is prone to breaking under pressure.
Short for acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, ABS looks very similar to PVC pipe except for its black color. Another difference is that inside the walls of the pipe is a layer of foam, where PVC is solid plastic. ABS is primarily used for vent and drain lines.
While ABS is actually stronger than PVC and more resistant to cold temperatures, it’s not always permitted by building codes, which limits its use. These type of pipes can also degrade and warp under direct sunlight and hot temperatures.
- Flexible copper Pipe
Flex lines made of copper are typically used to connect another type of pipe to an appliance or outlet such as a faucet, water heater, or refrigerator. They’re convenient because they can bend around corners, fit in tight spaces, and easy to cut.
However, flexible copper pipe isn’t a good choice for longer lines because it is expensive and not very durable.
- Galvanized Steel and Cast Iron
If you have an older home, you may still have some galvanized steel or cast iron plumbing. These materials are outdated and rarely used in new installations. Galvanized steel was used for many purposes, including water supply lines, drainage, and gas supply. Cast iron was typically used for drainage and sewage.
As you can see, there are a handful of different types of pipes, each with their own advantages and disadvantages. When doing your own plumbing project, it’s important that you use the right pipe, otherwise, you’ll be wasting your time and money.