Estimated reading time: 19 minutes

Home » Types of Plumbing Piping: A Comprehensive Guide

Types of Plumbing Piping: A Comprehensive Guide

Plumbing systems are an essential part of any home or building, ensuring the flow of clean water and eliminating waste. Understanding the different types of plumbing piping is crucial for property owners, as it helps make informed decisions during construction, installations, and repairs. Materials used in these pipes vary, and they each have their unique advantages and drawbacks.

Types of Plumbing Piping

Links To All Articles On This Website

Copper pipes have been a popular choice for decades because of their durability and resistance to corrosion. On the other hand, PEX (cross-linked polyethylene) piping is a flexible and cost-effective alternative that is gaining popularity in recent years. PVC and CPVC pipes are commonly used for cold water applications and are known for their chemical resistance. ABS pipes are similar to PVC but are primarily used for drain-waste-vent systems, while galvanized steel and cast iron pipes can be found in older homes, providing strength and durability despite being prone to rust and corrosion.

Selecting the correct type of plumbing pipe for your project depends on factors such as water pressure, temperature requirements, chemical exposure, and building codes. Connection methods also play a role in determining which materials are best suited for specific applications. To help you make the best decision, carefully consider the characteristics and usage of different pipes.

Key Takeaways

  • Different types of plumbing pipes offer unique advantages and drawbacks.
  • Selecting the best pipe material depends on various factors, such as water pressure, temperature, and building codes.
  • Connection methods are crucial in determining the most suitable materials for specific applications.

Understanding Plumbing Pipes

As you embark on your plumbing project, it’s essential to understand the various types of plumbing pipes available. By being knowledgeable about these pipes, you can choose the most suitable option for your specific needs.

Plumbing pipes come in a range of materials, each with its advantages and drawbacks. Some of the commonly used types include:

  • PEX (Cross-linked Polyethylene): PEX is a durable and flexible plastic pipe that can be woven throughout walls, ceilings, basements, and crawl spaces. It is less expensive than many other materials and is often used for water supply..
  • Copper: Copper pipes have been a reliable and long-standing plumbing material mainly used to supply water to appliances. They are resistant to corrosion and suitable for both hot and cold temperatures.
  • PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride): PVC pipes are known for their versatility, lightweight nature, and blockage resistance. They are commonly used for sink, toilet, shower drain lines, and home water supply systems.
  • ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene): ABS pipes are another type of plastic pipe that resembles PVC but is notably more sturdy and rigid. These pipes are usually used for drain, waste, and vent systems.
  • Galvanized Steel: Galvanized steel pipes are made of steel and coated in a layer of zinc to prevent rust. They used to be the standard in home plumbing, but nowadays, they have been predominantly replaced by other materials due to their tendency to corrode over time.
  • Cast Iron: Cast iron pipes are heavy and durable, often used for waste and vent lines. They have been replaced mainly by PVC and ABS pipes in modern plumbing installations, but they can still be found in older homes.

As a homeowner or a plumber, it is crucial to consider the specific needs of your project before deciding on the type of plumbing pipe you will use. Budget, installation requirements, and local building codes might influence your choice. The links provided above can serve as a helpful starting point for further research and ensure a successful plumbing project.

Materials of Plumbing Pipes

Regarding plumbing pipes, you have various materials to choose from, depending on the application. Let’s explore a few common types.

Copper pipes have been a popular choice for a long time due to their durability and resistance to corrosion. They work well for hot and cold water supply lines and can be soldered together, creating leak-free solid joints.

PEX (Cross-linked Polyethylene) is a flexible and lightweight material gaining popularity in residential plumbing. It is durable, resistant to temperature changes, and requires fewer fittings than traditional materials like copper. PEX is easy to install and often used with push-to-connect or crimp fittings, making it a great choice for long water supply runs.

Galvanized steel pipes were commonly used in the past, but they tend to corrode and accumulate rust after some time. They are generally replaced with other materials, such as copper or PEX.

Cast Iron is a heavyweight material mostly found in older homes, mainly used for drain and waste lines. These pipes have excellent sound-dampening properties but can be prone to rust and challenging to work with due to their weight.

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) pipes are lightweight, easy to cut, and chemical-resistant. They are generally used for drain and vent lines and have heat-resistant versions for hot water applications (CPVC).

Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) pipes are a thermoplastic material similar to PVC but with added strength and durability. It is used for drain and vent lines in residential plumbing.

Stainless steel pipes, although expensive, offer excellent corrosion resistance and strength. They are mostly used in industrial or specialty applications and less frequently in residential homes.

Other materials you might encounter include polyethylene pipes used for underground water mains, polypropylene pipes for high-temperature water, and brass pipes for decorative purposes and as an alternative to copper.

Each material has its benefits and drawbacks, so it’s essential to select the right plumbing pipe based on your specific needs, budget, and intended application.

Copper Pipes

Copper pipes are a popular choice for plumbing systems due to their durability, corrosion resistance, and ease of installation. They come in both rigid and soft varieties, with the rigid copper pipe typically available in lengths of 10-20 feet, while soft copper is bendable and often found coiled on a hardware store shelf.

You might come across a few different types of copper pipes when selecting materials for your plumbing project. The most common are Type K, Type L, and Type M, each with distinct characteristics and suitable applications.

Type K copper pipes have the thickest walls and are the most durable among the three types. They are ideal for use in underground service lines and other high-pressure applications. Their robust construction ensures long-lasting performance, making them an excellent choice for residential and commercial projects.

Type L copper pipes are a versatile option, with a slightly thinner wall than Type K but still offering excellent durability and corrosion resistance. They are suitable for various applications, including water supply and HVAC systems. Because of their reliability, Type L pipes are commonly used in residential and light commercial construction.

Type M copper pipes have the thinnest walls and are thus more affordable and lightweight than Type K and L pipes. However, they can still handle normal water pressure in residential plumbing systems. Primarily used for indoor applications like water supply lines and waste lines, Type M pipes may not be the best choice for demanding or outdoor environments.

When choosing copper piping for your project, carefully consider your application’s specific requirements and conditions. Always ensure that you are using the correct type of pipe to avoid plumbing issues down the line and maintain your plumbing system’s safety and efficiency.

PEX Pipes

PEX pipes, or cross-linked polyethylene pipes, have become popular for modern plumbing systems due to their flexibility and affordability. PEX is a durable and cost-effective alternative to traditional copper or galvanized steel pipes. Being flexible, PEX pipes are easier to install and can bend around corners, reducing the need for additional fittings and connectors.

When you install PEX pipes, you’ll notice they come in various colors. The different colors serve a purpose, typically indicating the type of water being carried: red for hot water, blue for cold water, and white or gray for hot or cold. This makes it easier to identify the pipes during installation and future maintenance.

PEX pipes offer several advantages over copper and galvanized steel. Not only are they more affordable, with half-inch PEX tubing costing about one-third the price of copper, but they are also more resistant to corrosion and pipe scaling. This means PEX pipes have a longer lifespan and lower maintenance requirements than other materials.

Another benefit of using PEX pipes is that they are available in various diameters, with common sizes being 1/2-inch and 3/4-inch, and can be found in diameters up to 3 inches. This makes PEX a versatile option for both small and large-scale plumbing projects.

It is essential to note that while PEX pipes have numerous advantages, they require specific tools and fittings for installation. There are several types of fittings for PEX, such as crimp, clamp, press, and compression fittings—all of which need specialized installation tools. Be sure to factor in the cost of these tools and additional fittings when deciding on PEX for your plumbing project.

In summary, PEX pipes offer a flexible, affordable, and durable solution for your plumbing needs. Their color coding makes them easy to identify, and their corrosion resistance ensures a long-lasting, low-maintenance system. Remember the need for specialized tools and fittings when considering PEX for your project, and you’ll be well on your way to a successful and efficient plumbing installation.

PVC and CPVC Pipes

When working on a plumbing project, knowing the differences between PVC and CPVC pipes is essential. Both materials are types of plastic pipe used for various plumbing purposes. They share some similarities but also have significant differences that affect their suitability for specific applications.

Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipes are widely used in residential and commercial plumbing applications. They are lightweight, durable, and resistant to corrosion and buildup. You can quickly identify PVC pipes by their white color. They are most commonly used for waste lines, drain piping, and vent piping. One of the main advantages of using PVC pipes is their affordability; they are relatively cheap compared to other pipe materials. However, they are unsuitable for hot water applications, as their maximum service temperature is around 140°F (60°C).

On the other hand, chlorinated polyvinyl chloride (CPVC) pipes are similar to PVC pipes but have additional chlorine, which increases their resistance to high temperatures, making them suitable for both hot and cold water applications. CPVC pipes can handle temperatures up to 200°F (93°C), which makes them a popular choice for potable water distribution, fire sprinkler systems, and hot water lines.

When choosing between PVC and CPVC pipes, consider the specific requirements of your plumbing project. PVC pipes are ideal for low-temperature drainage, waste, and vent systems. CPVC pipes, on the other hand, can handle a more comprehensive range of applications, including hot water lines and high-temperature environments.

As you work on your plumbing project, it’s essential to select the right material to ensure a durable, long-lasting, and efficient system. Carefully consider the properties of PVC and CPVC pipes and match them to the requirements of your specific plumbing needs.

ABS Pipes

ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) pipes are popular for various plumbing applications. They are constructed from a sturdy and versatile plastic material, which offers numerous advantages for residential and commercial projects. In this section, you will learn about ABS pipes’ key features and applications.

One of the primary benefits of ABS pipes is their durability. The material’s chemical resistance ensures it can withstand harsh substances, making it ideal for drain-waste-vent systems and underground drainage lines. Additionally, ABS pipes have notable impact resistance and can tolerate extreme temperatures, meaning they won’t crack or shatter when exposed to high or low-level heat.

Installation of ABS pipes is relatively straightforward, with their smooth surfaces and lightweight nature allowing for easy handling. This also means they can be cut, joined, and fitted without significant challenges, further enhancing their appeal in plumbing projects. However, it’s crucial to note that ABS pipes are not typically used for carrying drinking water due to their BPA content.

In conclusion, ABS pipes offer many advantages for plumbing projects, primarily in their strength, durability, and ease of installation. Although not recommended for transporting drinking water, these pipes excel in drain-waste-vent and underground systems, making them an efficient and cost-effective choice for various residential and commercial situations.

Galvanized Steel Pipes

Galvanized steel pipes are made of steel coated with a layer of zinc. This zinc coating helps protect the steel from corrosion and rust. When you use galvanized steel pipes in your plumbing system, you can expect a robust and durable material that resists the effects of water and other corroding substances.

Installing galvanized steel pipes in your home is a straightforward process. You can easily cut and thread these pipes, suiting various configurations and needs. They offer a solid, rigid structure that supports heavy fixtures like sinks and bathtubs.

However, galvanized steel pipes have their drawbacks. Over time, the zinc coating can erode, exposing the steel to rust and reducing its lifespan. This corrosion can lead to a build-up of minerals inside the pipes, restricting water flow and causing potential pressure problems. In addition, they have a higher chance of reacting with minerals present in hard water, resulting in leaks and bursts.

In more extreme cases, the corrosion can cause lead to leach into your water supply, posing health risks to you and your family. Therefore, monitoring your galvanized piping for any signs of severe corrosion or damage is crucial, and consider replacing them with more modern and efficient plumbing materials, if necessary.

To summarize, galvanized steel pipes offer a robust and durable option for plumbing systems; however, you should be aware of the potential drawbacks, such as corrosion and mineral build-up. Continuously monitor your pipes and plan for eventual replacement if needed.

Cast Iron Pipes

Cast iron pipes have been a popular choice for plumbing systems for a long time due to their durability and longevity. There are two main types of cast iron pipes: grey cast iron pipes and ductile cast iron pipes.

Grey cast iron pipes are known for their high strength and resistance to wear. The material’s natural rigidity makes it suitable for use in underground applications, such as sewer lines, and in above-ground applications, including water distribution systems. In contrast, ductile cast iron pipes are more flexible and have a higher tensile strength, making them a preferred choice for high-pressure water supply systems.

Installation of cast iron pipes involves joining techniques, such as hub and spigot or hubless connections, depending on the type of pipe. With hub and spigot connections, one end of the pipe (the spigot) is inserted into the hub (a wider section) of the adjoining pipe, and a gasket is used to create a watertight seal. Hubless connections, also known as no-hub, use couplings and gaskets to connect pipes without needing hubs.

Cast iron pipes come with various fittings to accommodate different plumbing configurations. You can find various elbows, tees, wyes, and reducers that easily fit into your plumbing system. These fittings offer a secure connection while maintaining the same durability and longevity as the pipes.

Some advantages of using cast iron pipes in your plumbing system include their resistance to corrosion, fire resistance, and sound insulation properties. Cast iron pipes can last for decades without showing signs of wear, making them a cost-effective solution in the long run. Additionally, they provide excellent sound dampening, which can be especially useful in multi-story buildings to minimize noise transmission.

In summary, cast iron pipes are a reliable and durable option for your plumbing needs. Whether you choose grey or ductile cast iron, these pipes will provide strength and longevity to your water distribution and sewage systems. Their range of fittings and joining methods allows for versatile installation and adaptation to various plumbing configurations.

Comparing the Plumbing Pipes

When choosing plumbing pipes for your home, it’s essential to compare their characteristics to select the best option. This section will explore the various types of pipes, focusing on their lifespan, cost, pros and cons, and suitability for DIY plumbing projects.

Copper pipes are known for their long lifespan and excellent performance. They can last up to 50 years and are resistant to corrosion. However, copper pipes can be expensive, and their installation may require a professional plumber, making them less suitable for DIYers.

PEX pipes have become popular recently due to their flexibility, low cost, and quick installation process. They have a lifespan of around 25 to 40 years, making them a good choice for homeowners looking for an affordable option. PEX pipes are easy to install and a favorite among DIY plumbers. However, they are susceptible to UV degradation, so they should not be used in areas exposed to sunlight.

Due to their affordability and lightweight properties, PVC pipes are commonly used for drain, waste, and vent (DWV) systems. They have a lifespan of about 40 years and are easy to install, making them ideal for DIY plumbing projects. However, PVC pipes are unsuitable for hot water applications and may become brittle with age.

ABS pipes are similar to PVC pipes but have slightly different chemical compositions. They are primarily used in DWV systems and have a lifespan of around 40 years. ABS pipes are less expensive than PVC pipes and can withstand minor temperature fluctuations better, but they may be prone to cracking in extremely cold conditions.

When comparing these plumbing pipes, consider factors such as your budget, the specific application in your home, and your comfort level with DIY installations. Each of these pipe options has pros and cons, so weigh your options carefully before deciding. Remember that proper installation and maintenance can significantly impact your plumbing system’s performance and lifespan, so choose wisely and consult a professional if needed.

Usage of Different Pipes

When it comes to your plumbing system, selecting the correct type of pipes is crucial for efficient water supply and waste drainage. This section will teach you about the different pipes and their uses.

PEX pipes are versatile and can be used for your house’s hot and cold water supply lines. Their flexibility allows for easy installation in tight spaces, and they can also be used in hydronic heating systems and radiant floor heating systems, making them a popular choice among homeowners.

PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) and ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) pipes are often used for drainage systems. These pipes can handle wastewater and function as drainage lines for various plumbing fixtures and appliances. PVC pipes are best suited for drainage purposes and can be used for your shower drain line, while ABS pipes often find applications in vent systems.

Copper pipes have long been a reliable choice for water supply lines. They connect plumbing fixtures such as faucets, toilets, and sinks to your main water supply line. Copper pipes are suitable for hot and cold water distribution systems because they can withstand a wide range of temperatures.

When using reclaimed water in your home, it is essential to distinguish potable water from non-potable sources. Purple PEX pipes can cycle recycled water, allowing you to identify what type of water is flowing through them with a simple visual cue.

Lastly, understanding your local building codes is always essential when installing or replacing pipes in your home. Consult a professional plumber who can help you choose the best type of pipe for your specific needs and comply with all the necessary regulations.

Factors to Consider when Choosing Pipes

When selecting plumbing pipes for your home or building, it’s crucial to consider various factors affecting their performance and durability. Understanding these factors will help you decide and select the most suitable pipes for your needs.

One crucial factor is the pipe material’s resistance to corrosion and rust. Choosing corrosion-resistant materials, such as PEX, copper, or PVC, will ensure the pipes last longer and maintain their integrity over time. This is especially crucial when using pipes for drinking water or potable water systems, as rust and corrosion can lead to contamination.

Another aspect to consider is the pipe’s ability to withstand direct sunlight and heat. If the pipes will be exposed to the sun, you should opt for materials that are heat resistant and won’t degrade when subjected to high temperatures. This can help prevent leaks and other issues related to heat exposure.

In addition to durability, you should consider the local building codes and the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) requirements when selecting plumbing pipes. The pipes you choose must adhere to these regulations to ensure safety and performance standards compliance.

Consider these key factors when choosing plumbing pipes for your home or building:

  • Corrosion and rust resistance
  • Exposure to direct sunlight and heat
  • Compliance with building codes and ANSI standards

Considering these factors when selecting plumbing pipes will help you make a well-informed decision and find the best piping system for your specific needs.

Connecting the Pipes

When dealing with DIY plumbing, connecting different types of pipes using the appropriate fittings is essential. You’ll be looking for strong, durable connections that can withstand regular use and changes in temperature and pressure.

First, let’s talk about fittings. Fittings come in various shapes and sizes and are designed to join pipes of different materials or sizes. Some common types of fittings include couplings, adapters, and reducers. Couplings slip over the outside of two pipes to connect them, usually permanently, while adapters are used when connecting two pipes of different types. Reducing couplings, also known as reducers, allow you to connect a larger pipe to a smaller one, reducing the flow in the process.

To achieve a strong, durable connection, be mindful of the various methods used to join different types of pipes. For example, you might need to apply solder when joining copper pipes. Soldering creates a watertight seal by melting a filler metal with a lower melting point than the pipe material, ensuring the connection holds under pressure.

When working with plastic pipes like PVC or PEX, you might need other methods like compression fittings or push-fit connections. Compression fittings consist of a nut, an olive (or ferrule), and a threaded fitting. When tightened, the nut and olive compress against the pipe, creating a watertight seal. On the other hand, push-fit connections rely on an internal locking mechanism, which locks the pipes into place when inserted into the fitting. Both methods provide secure connections without the need for solder or adhesive.

Here are some general tips for connecting the pipes in your plumbing project:

  • Make sure to cut the pipes cleanly and squarely to ensure the best fit.
  • Always use the appropriate fittings for your specific pipe material and size.
  • Use a deburring tool to remove any burrs or edges from the cut pipe ends.
  • Once connections are made, test for leaks by turning on the system’s water supply and inspecting your work.

Armed with the right knowledge, fittings, and tools, you’re ready to tackle your DIY plumbing project confidently. Remember to follow all local codes and regulations and prioritize safety when working with plumbing systems.

Frequently Asked Questions

What are the most common materials for plumbing pipes?

Several common materials are used for plumbing pipes in residential and industrial settings. These include copper, PVC, PEX, ABS, CPVC, and galvanized steel. The choice of material depends on the application and specific requirements. Each material has its unique properties, advantages, and drawbacks.

Which pipes are best for residential water supply?

PEX and copper pipes are often considered the best choices for residential water supply lines. Copper pipes have been a popular choice for many years due to their durability and resistance to corrosion. PEX pipes have gained popularity more recently thanks to their flexibility, ease of installation, and cost-effectiveness.

How do PVC and PEX pipes compare in plumbing applications?

PVC and PEX pipes both have their advantages in various plumbing applications. PVC pipes are best suited for drainage systems as they are lightweight, durable, and inexpensive. On the other hand, PEX pipes are more versatile and can be used for hot and cold water supply lines, making them a popular choice over PVC pipes.

What pipes are typically used in industrial settings?

Different pipes are often chosen in industrial settings based on their ability to withstand specific factors, such as high temperatures, pressures or corrosive substances. Copper and stainless steel pipes are common in industrial settings due to their durability and resistance to corrosion. PVC or CPVC pipes may be used for chemical or wastewater applications, whereas specialized metal alloy pipes like Hastelloy or Inconel are used in extreme environments.

What factors should be considered when choosing plumbing pipes?

When choosing plumbing pipes for your project, you must consider the intended application, budget, local building codes, and environmental factors. For example, some pipes are better suited for high-pressure applications, while others are more cost-effective. You should also pay attention to the pipe’s corrosion resistance, durability, and ability to withstand temperature changes.

Are certain pipes better suited for outdoor water lines?

Yes, certain types of plumbing pipes are better suited for outdoor water lines. When selecting pipes for outdoor use, you need to consider factors like the local climate, temperature fluctuations, and potential exposure to freezing or thawing conditions. Pipes made from materials like copper or PEX generally resist temperature changes. They could be suitable for outdoor water lines, whereas PVC pipes may become brittle and less durable in cold temperatures.


Scroll to Top