DIY plumbing is common nowadays. But it needs some basic skills. That includes knowing the types of pipes and their uses.
So, what are the types of plumbing pipes and their uses? The most common plumbing pipes are PVC, PEX, rigid copper, stainless steel, ABS, galvanized steel, and cast iron. Their primary use in plumbing is to convey water and liquid waste from one point to another. However, each pipe has its specific role, while others are universal in their application.
This article reviews the different types of plumbing pipes and their specific uses. In addition, it also gives their features, pros, cons, and their cost per linear footing.
Types of Plumbing Pipes And Their Uses
Let’s look at the various types of plumbing pipes and their specific use in plumbing work.
1. Polyvinyl Chloride Pipe (PVC)
Polyvinyl chloride pipes, commonly known as PVC pipes, are widely used in plumbing fields due to their lightweight nature. They can easily be bent and cut to make joints and connection points.
The pipes are manufactured in various lengths and thicknesses, such as DIN 8061, ASTM D1785, and ASTM F441.
PVC pipes have good chemical and corrosion resistance, making them versatile and universal for domestic use. Their smooth surface allows for a faster flow of water with less friction.
- Used for making sewage lines
- For conveying irrigation water
- Used for water mains for domestic use
- Suitable for drainage lines in households
- Strong and durable
- Corrosion resistance
- Little risk of succumbing to thermal expansion or contraction
- Cost-efficient and easy to install
- Highly recyclable
- Surface oxidation and embrittlement due to exposure to sunlight
- Can be easily damaged when force is applied on them
- Has a heat limit of 140°F hence limiting its application on HVAC
PVC pipes cost between $4 and $8, depending on the type and thickness.
Related read: How to Secure PVC Pipe to Wall
2. Cross-Linked Polyethylene Piping (PEX)
Cross-linked polyethylene piping is commonly referred to as PEX piping. Its uniqueness is based on its flexibility to be used on hot and cold-water lines. PEX replaces hot and cold-water lines by combining their application under one pipe.
PEX pipes are solid and durable to withstand high water pressure and temperature. Its flexibility is advantageous in plumbing works as it allows the plumbers to maneuver through small spaces easily.
These pipes are produced with different colors indicating different water temperatures.
- Red color PEX pipe – Hot water
- Blue color PEX pipe – Cold water
- White color PEX pipe – Both hot or cold water
- Gray color PEX pipe – Both cold and hot water
- Used to convey hot and cold water in the solar heating system
- Used for domestic mains water lines
- Helps in electric cable insulation
- Great for heating and cooling systems
- Strong and highly durable
- Can withstand high water temperatures
- Resistant to corrosion and freezing
- Easy to install
- Affordable and cost-efficient
- Non-resistant to UV lights hence cannot be used in outdoor plumbing work
- Prone to attack by rodents
PEX pipes cost between $2.5 and $3.5 but may vary depending on the location and your supplier.
Related read: How to Straighten Pex Pipes? Easy Ways
3. Stainless Steel Pipes
Stainless steel pipes have been in plumbing applications for decades due to their rugged durability and flexibility. The pipes are hardened with chromium and steel alloy to improve their hardness.
They can withstand high temperatures and pressure. Stainless pipes are primarily used in coastal areas with high humidity levels and a high rate of corrosion that cast iron pipes cannot withstand.
- Convey water for domestic mains water lines
- Used in coastal areas with high humidity and a higher rate of corrosion
- Used for sewerage networks
- For conveying waste materials
- Used in heating and cooling systems
- Flexible with the use of couplings
- Strong and durable
- Resistant to corrosion
- Hardened with steel alloy
- Relatively lightweight
- Stainless steel pipes are clean and need less maintenance
- Less flexible while fitting
- Has differential heat transfer when used on heating systems
Stainless steel has varying costs depending on the gauge and type you purchase. Find a cost table here.
4. Rigid Copper Pipe
Rigid copper pipes have recently gained popularity due to their durability and long-lasting resistance to corrosion. Copper pipes are safe for conveying drinking water as copper elements kill the virus and bacteria in water.
Copper pipes come in four types. The most common types include types K, L, and M and are used for residential and commercial plumbing purposes.
The drain waste vents (DWV) are used for sewerage and drainage waste systems.
- Preferred for domestic water lines – copper kills viruses and bacteria, making drinking water safe
- Used for main water lines
- Also applicable to underground water lines
- DWV pipes are used for DWV plumbing lines
- Highly durable
- Long-lasting resistance to corrosion
- Can withstand the high pressure of up to 1000 psi
- Can be installed outside
- Copper pipes can be recycled
- Expensive to install – requires soldering and additional joints
- Copper may add a metallic taste to drinking water
- Cannot withstand acidic water
The rigid copper pipes cost ranges between $2 and $8 depending on the supplier’s terms and the thickness of the pipe.
5. Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS)
The acrylonitrile butadiene styrene pipes, commonly known as ABS pipes, are preferred for their flexibility and lightweight. They are similar to the PVC pipes but black to distinguish them from PVC.
These pipes are resilient to cold temperatures and hence, are used in cold regions. The ABS pipes are easy to install with simple joints and couplings.
- For residential and domestic water lines
- Used for vent and drain lines
- Can be used for underground water conveying
- Can be used for electric cable insulation
- Used in drainage systems
- Easy to install
- Fairly durable if well maintained
- Cheap to purchase
- Highly flexible and fits in small plumbing spaces
- Highly resilient to cold water temperatures
- Can warp or burst when exposed to direct sunlight
- ABS pipes are noisier compared to other plumbing pipes
- Expensive to maintain and cannot withstand high temperatures and pressure
ABS pipes are cost-effective, and their cost ranges between $2 and $3, with the price ranging from one supplier to another.
6. Cast Iron and Galvanized Steel Pipes
Cast iron and galvanized steel pipes were used in old designs due to their durability in sewer lines and other drainage systems.
Their use has faded with time as the PVC, PEX, and ABS pipes have replaced them. Cast iron and galvanized steel pipes are prone to corrosion with time. Hence, these pipes are unsuitable for domestic use.
- Used to convey domestic water
- Applied on sewer and drainage lines
- Used in water heating systems
- Suitable for underground water lines
- Durable and robust
- Has reduced noise from water flowing in them
- They are heat resistant
- They can withstand high pressure and don’t freeze water
- Prone to corrosion and rust
- Expensive to install
The prices of galvanized steel and cast-iron pipes have been reduced due to decreased usage. Consult your nearest supplier for the correct cost ranges.
Below are frequently asked questions on types of pipes and their uses –
Both pipes are made of good quality materials and are versatile in their application. You can use PVC pipes on basic domestic water lines. The PEX pipes are used on heating systems and water lines. Pick the right pipe guided by the intended purpose.
Yes. PVC pipes are easy to install due to their flexibility and lightweight. They easily bend when subjected to heat, forming joints and loops. Their installation is made easy by the use of couplings and joints to connect the pipes.
Different plumbing pipes have varying life expectancies. However, most of these pipes enjoy a life span of 30 to 50 years with proper maintenance.
Check for the manufacturer’s manual’s specific life span and consult on the warranty given.
Plumbing pipes come in different types and sizes for specific purposes in the plumbing field. PVC, ABS, copper, stainless steel, and PEX pipes are the most common types used due to their flexibility and resistance to corrosion and rust.
These pipes are basically used to convey water in households and drain sewerage systems. So, before DIY plumbing or done by a professional plumber, get the best pipe that fits your intended application and fits your budget.
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