From copper to cast iron to everything in between, home plumbing uses a variety of pipe materials. No matter what your situation is, it’s helpful to understand the types of pipes used in home plumbing and how they affect the performance and functionality of your plumbing system.
One of the newest materials on the market is polyethylene cross-linked piping. Also known as PEX piping, this is a popular choice for pipes that carry water supply. Why? PEX doesn’t rust or leach chemicals, which can’t be said for other commonly used materials, such as copper and plastic.
Not only is PEX piping tough enough to stand up to high water pressure, it’s also flexible and easy to use across your home –– in your walls, ceiling, and floors.
PEX piping can also be used outdoors. However, it has some limitations. All PEX piping needs to be underground. Just like other plastic based pipe materials, PEX is sensitive to sunlight and can be broken down by UV rays.
Copper pipes are popular for water supply lines. In terms of home plumbing, copper has been around for a while. It’s been used for decades and continues to be a popular choice for its durability.
Like PEX, it can also be pricey, but that comes with a long lifespan. Copper pipes also don’t corrode as easily as other pipe materials.
Copper piping is a material that requires training. It can be hard to deal with you and need special tools. So, unless you have some specialized equipment and knowledge, working with this material should be left to the professionals.
You were waiting for this one, weren’t you? PVC stands for polyvinyl chloride and is a material beloved for its many DIY applications. Do you have a saw and some glue? Congratulations, you have everything you need to get started working with PVC.
However, as with all good things, PVC pipes have their limitations. Since most joints are sealed with glue, it can be difficult to establish a strong, long-lasting seal. This translates into PVC being a less-than-ideal choice for water supply lines.
The high pressure can cause the piping to burst. What’s more, glued PVC joints can’t be easily undone, so you have to cut them and start over. PVC also doesn’t react well to sun or heat — both degrade the material. Although PVC is a great choice for DIYs of low-pressure systems, it’s not the ideal solution for just any project.
Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) piping has a lot of similar applications to PVC. One thing ABS has over PVC, however, is better durability in high-pressure systems. You’ll often see ABS used under sinks for this reason.
ABS used to be a popular choice in plumbing maintenance, but it’s fallen out of favor over the years as superior materials hit the market. Like PVC, ABS joints aren’t durable and are susceptible to bursts.
ABS also degrades and warps worse than PVC, especially when exposed to direct sunlight. Hence why it’s used under the sink, where there’s usually near-total darkness.
Galvanized steel was a popular material in home plumbing for many decades. Keyword: was. Sometimes, galvanized steel is used for gas lines, but it’s rarely used for water supply lines anymore.
This material handles high-pressure systems well, so what gives? Unfortunately, it’s galvanized steel itself. This material corrodes over time, clogging pipes and leaching rust and chemicals into water supplies.
Because galvanized steel was so popular in home plumbing for so long, it’s very common to find it in older houses. If you find yourself with a plumbing problem and galvanized steel pipes, the best choice is to replace them with modern materials instead of trying to repair them.
Don’t be a DIY hero. Galvanized steel is definitely a material that should be left to the professionals.
Like galvanized steel, you’ll find cast iron pipes in a lot of older homes. Cast iron is less common than galvanized steel, though, because it’s much heavier and difficult to handle.
To make matters worse, this material rusts very easily, which can degrade the entire system and contaminate the water supply. If you have an older home and a cast iron system, this is another project that should be left to the professionals.
Like galvanized steel, cast iron should be replaced instead of repaired, and this definitely isn’t the kind of project you can perform as a casual DIYer.
Looking for professional plumbing maintenance with expertise you can count on? With Service Champions, we’ll make recommendations for the right types of pipes for your specific needs.