Different types of plumbing pipes offer a variety of uses, from providing clean water to delivering wastewater to the sewage system. From copper, galvanized, terra-cotta, and steel pipes of the twentieth century to the modern evolution of safer alternatives, it’s important to have an understanding of what’s available.

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Here are the types of modern plumbing pipes:

  • PVC Pipes – Polyvinyl chloride pipes (PVC) are often implemented as a sink, toilet, or tub/shower drain line. One of the benefits of plastic tubing is that it avoids rust and corrosion. The material is lightweight, easier to work with, and able to withstand high water pressure. A smooth inner lining protects against sediment buildup and blockages. Without some kind of damage, the durability of PVC offers incredible longevity. A drawback is limited size options, issues with handling hot water, and potential toxicity from polyvinyl chloride chemicals.
  • PEX Pipes – Cross-linked polyethylene (PEX) pipes are affordable, prevent rust or corrosion from infiltrating the water, and are often used for water supply lines. The plastic tubing is especially easy to snake through walls, ceilings, crawlspaces, and basements. It’s affordable and flexible yet tough enough to handle the pressure of the water supply. It’s helpful that PEX pipes are color-coded to indicate hot and cold water.
  • ABS Pipes – Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) pipes are black in color and especially hardy when exposed to cold temperatures. It is commonly used for vent and drain lines. The easy installation is a benefit, but ABS pipes can warp with direct sunlight exposure and are considered noisier than other options.
  • Copper Pipes – An option for decades, copper pipes offer longevity. They commonly last more than fifty years and are found in sinks, tubs, showers, and other fixtures. They remain popular due to corrosion resistance. Copper pipes withstand high water pressure, tolerate both hot and cold water temperatures, and help to protect the quality of the water. They are, however, difficult to use in tight spaces and more expensive than alternatives.
  • Cast iron and galvanized steel pipes- Common in homes constructed in the early 20th century, these types of pipes are rarely used in new construction. They were often incorporated for sewer and drainage purposes. Cast iron pipes are especially durable and keep sound levels to a minimum but are susceptible to rust and corrosion. This gradually impacts the integrity of the water supply.
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