A Guide to Choosing Between Plumbing Pipe Types

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copper plumbing pipes

Got a leaky pipe? When trying to decide what type of plumbing pipe to use to fix a leak, there are many choices. The right choice will keep water flowing throughout your home without backlog. The wrong choice for the wrong job can cause quite a few problems.

Many different types of plumbing pipes can be used in a residential home or commercial building. PEX, copper, and PVC are different types of plumbing pipes that can be used. The choice of one or the other depends on where they’re used and where they need to be installed. Brass and galvanized piping can be used for other types of plumbing.

This article will discuss the various types of plumbing pipes and what they’re used for. You’ll find pros and cons for each type, so as a homeowner you can be aware of the bets use for each kind.

What Are the Different Types of Plumbing Pipes?

If you’re in the marketing for new or replacement plumbing pipes for your home, below find an explanation, as well as pros and cons of each. With this knowledge you can make an educated decision for your home.

Copper Plumbing Pipes

The most traditional plumbing pipes that is used are copper pipes. They are incredibly durable and reliable. They resist corrosion, can be managed efficiently and are good to use for both hot and cold water. Copper pipes aren’t prone to leaking and will stay fitted tightly. Copper piping also won’t pollute the water that runs through it. This type of pipe is heat tolerant, has a long life span, and can be recycled.

The major con of copper pipes is the price. One hundred feet of straight copper pipe can run about $285.

These types of pipes need to be soldered together, and could require additional fittings, so you’ll need a plumber who is experienced at soldering. Also good to note that if you have copper pipes in an older home, they could have been installed with lead-based solder.

Galvanized Steel Plumbing Pipes

Galvanized steel pipes aren’t used as frequently even though they are extremely strong. Each end of the pipe is threaded and screwed into one another with connecting joints.

A downside of galvanized steel pipes is that they are heavy, which makes them difficult to work with.

They’re also prone to internal rusting, caused by the zinc coating. Plus, lines can clog over time, which creates reduced water pressure.

If the pipes become corroded, lead can be released into the tap water, and the water can become discolored.

Cast Iron Plumbing Pipes

Cast iron piping can be found in older homes, and despite an aged appearance, this is a viable type of piping that can be used until it rusts through completely. It’s usually used in sewer lines and is more substantial than other pipes. Joints are either bell-and-spigot or threaded. Threaded joints are more expensive.

The smallest size of this pipe is 4 inches. Since cast iron is extremely heavy, it has to be supported while the joint is assembled.

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) Plastic Plumbing Pipes

PVC pipe is lighter to work with than galvanized steel. It’s used for hot and cold potable water, and also for sewage. PVC pipe varies in the configuration and thickness depending on where it’s going to be used. PVC pipes that are used for sewer pipes are not the same ones that are used for pressure water pipes. PVC pipes designated for potable water applications are marked with either an “NSF-61” or an “NSF-PW” to show that they comply with health requirements of NSF/ANSI Standard 6.

PVC plastic plumbing pipes don’t corrode, degrade or rust over time. This type of pipe is excellent for toilets, bathtub drain lines, sinks and vent stacks. It also stands up to high water pressure.

The downside of PVC piping is that it can’t handle hot water. Pipes will warp when the water is too hot.

CPVC Plastic Plumbing Pipes

CPVC is easy to work with which make them the perfect pipe for DIYers. It can be used for both hot and cold water supply. These pipes also contain extra chlorine, ensuring safer drinking water. They are also more flexible than using PVC pipes.

However, CPVC pipe will split if frozen, and old pipes can’t be recycled.

Cross-Linked Polyethylene Plumbing Pipes

This type of piping is also called PEX piping, and it’s used only for water supply lines. It’s a favorite pipe of DIYers because it’s flexible, color-coded, light to work with, easy to cut and easy to join. It requires minimal maintenance, installs quickly, and is leak free. It passes through walls easily, and one piece can extend across an entire house. Cross-linked polyethylene plumbing pipes are heat resistant and can be used for both cold and hot water.

Note that this type of piping can’t be used outdoors because the plastic layer can be damaged by UV rays of the sun. Also, initial cost is high, but that’s offset by little to no maintenance.

What Type of Plumbing Pipe is Best?

When considering which type of plumbing pipe is best, it comes down to the type that’s best for the job at hand. Here are the best choices for homeowners.

PEX or Cross-Linked Polyethylene Plumbing Pipes: PEX can be passed through walls, around corners and other obstructions without any seams. There’s no soldering where joints are needed. It easily used by DIYers, leak-free and installs quickly. Cost is around $30 for 100 feet.

CPVC: Another great plumbing pipe for DIYers. It doesn’t require any special skills or tools. It can be cut easily with a handsaw and put it together with adhesives and matching fittings. Cost is around $50 for 100 feet.

PVC: It can be used for both hot and cold water and for sewage. Different size and grades of pipe can be used according to what the job needs.

When buying types of pipes for plumbing, be sure to choose the right one for the job. New piping for plumbing should always be used where it’s supposed to be used.

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