While we all know what pipes are–the things that snake through your home and bring water to your sink and sewage out of your house–the average Joe would be hard-pressed to name any of the pipes (did you know they have names?) or describe how different pipes serve different functions.
As a homeowner, it can be very useful to know more about the pipes spanning your home so you’ll be better prepared when an issue arises and you need to consult a plumber. As plumbing experts, our team at Habberjam always appreciates when a customer can be more specific in describing their problem and which pipes are affected.
Here is a breakdown of some of the most common pipes you’ll come across and what purpose they serve.
You’ve probably heard talk about PVC pipes. PVC stands for polyvinyl chloride, and it’s essentially a new type of plastic that is used as a replacement for traditional metal piping. PVC is lightweight, versatile and blockage resistant. The smooth inner lining makes it less likely that sediment will build up inside, and it’s just flexible enough (compared to metal) that it holds up well to constant high water pressure.
It’s also very affordable so its use is increasingly popular. PVC pipes also cut down on transportation and labor costs because they are so lightweight and easy to manipulate.
PVC pipes are most commonly used for cold water systems, vent systems and drainage. For hot water systems, a similar but slightly more costly material–CPVC–is more often used as it resists high heat up to 150 degrees Fahrenheit.
PEX, like PVC, is a newer material that is quickly phasing out metal and copper pipes. PEX is very easy to install and uses a “crimping” method to fit pipe lengths together ( a ring is “crimped” into a pipe fitting using a special tool). Another advantage to PEX pipes is that they can easily be retrofitted into existing copper or PVC piping, which is useful for homeowners with older systems who are looking to slowly transition their pipes away from metal or copper.
Because this plastic-based material can withstand very high and very low temperatures, it’s most commonly used in water supply lines. Thay break down with exposure to UV light so they are strictly used indoors.
ABS pipes are recognizable by their black color and very long lifespan. ABS (Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) pipes are in the same family as PVC but can withstand colder temperatures. They are less flexible than their PVC counterparts and are easier to install (PVC requires application of a solvent and then cement for installation; ABS only requires cement).
ABS pipes are only used for waste and drain piping. They don’t muffle the sound of running water as well as PVC so they can be quite loud.
The gold standard of hard pipes in the plumbing industry, they have a lifespan that stretches well into 50 years and beyond. Copper pipes come in two forms: rigid and flexible. They also come in a variety of thicknesses and can withstand high water pressure and wide temperature fluctuations without corroding. Since copper can be recycled and reused, they are an environmentally-friendly choice. However, they come with a hefty price tag and their limited flexibility makes them unideal in tight spaces. Their durability and lightweight construction make them a reliable choice.
Copper pipes are used for plumbing and gas lines (they are fire-resistant). However, they are not recommended for water lines that are not connected to municipal water lines; they can give a metallic taste to drinking water originating from a well.
Galvanized and Cast Iron Pipes
While these are rare in new constructions, you may have cast iron or galvanized piping if your home was built in the early 20th century. While they are heat-resistant and muffle the sound of running water very well, they are unfortunately prone to corrosion and rust over time. These types of pipes are usually replaced with copper or plastic pipes as they deteriorate.
They are most often used for water lines and are still seen in water distribution systems across the country.
We hope this guide has helped demystify some of the most common types of piping you might find in your home.
Habberjam at Home employs a team of experts who can check your pipes and other plumbing system parts to determine the source of any issue. Prompt, reputable, and affordable, our company is ready to help— contact us to discuss your situation and see how we can help.