There are several different types of piping materials to choose from to use in your home. If you have an older house with older pipes, it may be time to replace them. Your trusted plumber at Cal’s Plumbing can help guide you through the process of making the best choice for your situation. In this short guide, we will go over the most common types of piping materials, their uses, and some of the pros and cons of each.
What Are Pipes Used For?
Before we get into the different materials used to make pipes, let us briefly go over some of the uses for pipes within the home. One of the main uses for pipes is to transport cold and/or hot water to and from your appliances and plumbing fixtures. They are also used as drain and vent lines and connections between lines. Other types of pipes you may have in your home are gas lines.
Materials Used for Piping
Pipes come in several different types of materials, depending on the purpose. Most water lines use either copper or some type of plastic piping. We will now go over the different types of piping and their uses, pros, and cons.
Rigid Copper Piping
The most popular type of plumbing used in homes to carry water is copper pipework. Copper can last up to 75 years before needing replacement, minimizing repair costs. They run through your walls and use T connections and joints to connect to your plumbing fixtures and appliances. Even though copper does eventually corrode, it is unlikely to contaminate your water, unlike some other materials. They are, however, one of the more expensive options and are not suitable for highly acidic water like you would find in a well. There are three types of copper piping—L, M, K—with L being the most commonly used in residential housing. They are a half-inch thick and can handle both hot and cold water.
A newer innovation in piping is PEX pipes. These pipes consist of cross-linked polyethylene, which is a plastic material. It is very flexible and is color-coded blue for cold water and red for hot water. This is becoming a less expensive alternative to copper piping for hot and cold water. It isn’t allowed in some building codes and is not recyclable like metal piping is. It can also develop leaks by rodents chewing through it. They are most commonly half-inch to three-quarters-inch diameters and are easy to cut and join. PEX can also be used as hydronic piping and distribution, like for radiators.
ABS stands for acrylonitrile butadiene styrene and is for drain and vent lines. These pipes carry wastewater to the sewer line or septic system from under sinks and other plumbing fixtures. These pipes are black and rigid and are easy to connect and cut. ABS pipes are less expensive than PVC and more shock resistant and durable. Like most other plastic piping, it can be louder than metal pipes, so you may hear water running through them. They also cannot be exposed to UV light or high temperatures, as they may release BPA into the water, which is why they are not used as supply lines.
Flexible piping, also known as braided piping, is usually made from flexible PVC surrounded by stainless steel. It is used for short connections to your water heaters, toilets, and sinks. This material and type of piping is not used inside walls, but only in exposed areas connected to your plumbing appliances. Copper pipes or other piping in your walls connect to them. These pipes can handle high pressure and rarely burst. It is one of the most expensive materials, which is partially why it is only used for short connections. This type of piping requires replacement every five to 10 years.
PVC is polyvinyl chloride piping and is a white plastic pipe. These pipes are usually used for drainage, waste and vent lines. This is because they are not made to withstand high pressure. These pipes are also found underground for exterior irrigation. PVC pipes are fairly inexpensive and durable and have mostly taken over the use of galvanized steel pipes for these purposes.
A CPVC pipe—chlorinated polyvinyl chloride—can be used for cold water supply lines. These are a good option if you have a well and your water is acidic since it is resistant to corrosion. It is, however, only capable of transporting cold water as hot temperatures will melt it.
Galvanized Steel and Cast Iron Piping
Galvanized steel and cast iron pipes were commonly used for water supply lines. Copper has mostly replaced them for that purpose now. You may still find these pipes in older homes used for water drainage and gas supply.
Galvanized steel is resistant to corrosion and is rigid, making it durable. It can last for up to 100 years. It is, however, expensive to install and is no longer used in new construction. They have threaded ends that screw together and are one of the biggest types of piping at 4-6 inches in diameter. This thickness helps them be a good option for underground waste lines as they are resistant to crushing. Since they are metal, they can leech into your water, which is why they are no longer used as water supply lines.
Cast iron pipes are dark gray and rigid. They can be used for drainage and sewer lines as well but are also more expensive than other materials. They are also thicker and heavier. They can last for up to 100 years just like galvanized steel, but can also leech metal into the water, which is why they are only used for drainage and waste lines.
If you use natural gas in your home for your stove, boiler, or other appliance, then you may find black pipe connected to them. This piping is made from steel and is rigid. It has threads on both ends to connect them. Even though it is used for gas, it is still considered a plumbing pipe in most places, so a licensed plumber needs to work on it. Since it is made from black steel, it is durable and can last for up to 100 years. There are no seams, so leaks are less likely, which is important when transporting natural gas throughout your home.
Professional Plumbers in Tucson
At Cal’s Plumbing, we can help you install new piping in your home. We only use the most high-quality materials, either copper or PEX, so you know you are getting the best. Our company has been in business for over 70 years and is family owned and operated. We pride ourselves on providing quality service to all our customers whether it be fixing a leaky faucet or re-piping your whole house. You can trust us with all of your plumbing needs.
Contact Cal’s Plumbing today for more information about our piping and other plumbing services in Tucson!