When it comes to home improvement or remodeling projects, there are a dizzying amount of options out there today. The plumbing industry is no exception. Now more than ever, homeowners have access to some of the most durable materials, snazzy fixtures and innovative technologies.
You may not realize it, but having the proper piping in your home is essential to the longevity of your plumbing system. When older pipes become corroded they can create serious problems. If your older pipes are left unreplaced or unrepaired it could result in leaks or ruptures, which may lead to water damage and structural integrity issues.
Whether you are attempting a DIY repiping project or hiring a professional plumber, if you are a homeowner it is helpful to know your pipes and understand which type of piping materials are ideal for certain plumbing functions.
What type of pipe is best for the main water supply? What piping is ideal for underneath your sinks, for the sewer, drainage, and what kind of piping is suitable for underneath your home? Sometimes the answer isn’t so cut and dry. During a much simpler time, you may have had only two options to choose from, galvanized steel or cast-iron. That isn’t the case anymore. Let’s review some simple pros and cons of the most popular piping choices for modern homes.
Overview of Popular Piping Materials
The overall health of your plumbing system is mostly dependant on the quality and condition of your pipes. Not all repiping projects require that you replace every pipe in the structure. Rather, it could mean updating certain sections of pipe incrementally.
In some cases, like a whole home remodel where you’re bringing an older home up-to-date, it may be a wise investment to gut the plumbing entirely and start from scratch to ensure continuity. This would include replacing both the water supply lines and drain lines, but would remedy any chronic plumbing problems and prevent them from reoccurring in the future.
Common Piping Materials Used in Homes:
- Chromed copper for water supply lines
- Galvanized iron for water supply lines
- Copper piping is a popular choice for water supply lines
- CPVC (Chlorinated Poly-Vinyl Chloride) for water supply lines
- PEX (Cross-linked Polyethylene) for water supply lines
- Cast iron for plumbing waste lines
- PVC pipes for waste lines
- Chromed brass for plumbing waste lines
Whole house repiping projects can get complicated and may span anywhere from one to several weeks. It is largely dependent on how many levels the structure is, if there was any previous water damage, and what kind of pipe is replacing the old piping. Here is a more in-depth look at the more commonly used materials that are being installed in newer homes and businesses.
- PEX Pipe – PEX is short for cross-linked polyethylene piping. This is one of the newest piping materials to take over the plumbing industry. What makes PEX Piping so popular is that it’s strong enough to withstand high-pressure water supplies while also being flexible enough to be woven throughout walls and crawl spaces. PEX piping is mostly used for water-supply plumbing and is a hit with DIY plumbers and professional plumbers due to its versatile handling. It can be bent up to 90 degrees, is colored coded and can easily be integrated with copper piping. The drawbacks remain to be seen as it is a relatively new product.
- PVC Piping – Almost everyone is familiar with PVC piping at this point. PVC piping hit the market as a lighter solution to traditional galvanized steel pipes. Also referred to as polyvinyl chloride piping, PVC pipes are typically used for drain and vent line plumbing and are moderately easy to install. All one would need is a hacksaw to cut it and it can be glued together with a special epoxy solvent. The only drawback to that is once it’s glued together, it will have to be recut. PVC is also delicate in certain climates and temperatures, and also has a tendency to shatter.
- Copper Piping – Copper piping is widely considered as the best kind of piping material because of its strength and longevity. Some could argue that copper piping is a luxury and not a need, but it depends on who you ask. The list of ‘pros’ is proof enough. Copper piping doesn’t easily corrode, stands strong in extreme climates, isn’t prone to leaks and doesn’t pollute the water supply. It also can be recycled, which isn’t the case with PEX piping. The single deterrent for most homeowners and contractors is the price. Copper is still a pricey material compared to PVC or PEX piping. Additionally, copper piping is not ideal for DIY plumbing projects. Whoever installs the copper piping in your home or property will need soldering experience.
- Flexible Copper Piping – Flexible copper piping is a much more affordable option as it is only used for short runs so you shouldn’t need as much. It can easily be cut with a hacksaw, can be bent to fit around corners, and has a high heat threshold. Flexible copper piping is typically used to run water to refrigerators, water heaters, and sinks.
- ABS Pipes – Short for acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, ABS piping resembles PVC piping, except that it is slightly softer and is jet-black in color. It is also much stronger than your typical PVC pipings and is excellent for exterior plumbing projects and underground plumbing. Drawbacks include warping at certain temperatures and it may not rise to the standards of some city building codes.
It all comes down to what your needs are as a home or business owner, and if you intend to do-it-yourself or plan on hiring a professional. While some plumbing projects are absolutely within most people’s capabilities, it doesn’t mean that larger DIY plumbing projects are everyone’s cup of tea. Weigh your options, price out the materials and assess your skill level. Don’t be ashamed to call the professionals to relieve the pressure of taking on a repiping project all on your own.