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Common Plumbing Pipe Materials

The pipes in your homes and business can be manufactured from a variety of different materials. With all this variety, which one is best for your home or building? This depends on the application process and project conditions. Each material has its own advantages and disadvantages and depending on what you’re looking to do, you may be considering the wrong type of piping material. We’ll go over some of the most common piping materials and help you determine which option is best for you.

Galvanized

Galvanized steel pipes are in a stack in a warehouse.

These types of pipe are some of the oldest varieties of plumbing pipe and have been used for many decades for hot and cold water transfer in residential and commercial spaces. These pipes are found internally within a structure, but they are often buried underground to move water outside of the structure.

Advantages

Galvanized coating is designed to prevent corrosion and rust. It is also manufactured to keep other minerals, such as calcium, from building up on the pipes. It can last for years depending on the quality of coating and application.

Disadvantages

Despite its longevity and corrosion resistance, galvanized coatings are still subject to chipping or cracking. Galvanized pipes are also heavier than other materials and are frequently environmental hazards.

Copper

Closeup of copper pipes and connectors.

Copper pipes are a more durable option, but an expensive one. Copper has been used as a traditional plumbing material since the 1960s and has remained one of the most popular options available. Copper piping can be more labor-intensive to install because proper types of copper must be used in the right applications and all must be soldered precisely. We suggest keeping this in mind before choosing copper.

Advantages

Copper plumbing pipes have been proven to be incredibly durable. It’s known to be able to handle pressures of up to 1000 psi and it can last you for more than 50 years. Copper piping can also withstand both cold and hot temperatures and are less likely to freeze during the winter months.

Disadvantages

The main drawback of copper piping is the price. It’s an expensive material and may be tempting for thieves when exposed. It also requires additional soldering and fittings, especially when using it for your entire home or building. It is also not “green” friendly because of the damage copper mining can do.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel pipes in a warehouse with ball valves.

Typically, when contractors choose a piping material, stainless steel is overlooked due to its price compared to other piping materials. Because it’s commonly overlooked stainless steel isn’t always readily available and is harder to find. While a majority of contractors avoid stainless steel pipes, it does have some advantages.

Advantages

The biggest benefit to stainless steel is that it is corrosion and stain resistant, allowing for the safe delivery of sanitary water. Stainless steel is also very durable and because it is considered a reliable metal, it will last you decades.

Disadvantages

Stainless steel is very heavy and can sometimes cost more than copper. We suggest using stainless steel in coastal areas or if thermal conductivity is a necessary part of your project. If neither of these factors is a part of your project, then stainless steel isn’t the material for you.

PVC or Plastic

White PVC Piping suspended from a ceiling in an office setting.

PVC or polyvinyl chloride piping is one of the favorite pipe materials used for DIY and remodeling. This completely safe, non-corrosive, and reliable pipe material is best used for carrying high water pressure, and so can be used for most plumbing elements.

Advantages

PVC pipes are a low-cost option and are easy to install. Because of the plastic, they are resistant to corrosion and high water pressures. PVC piping is also a very durable pipe and is non-conductive. These are perfect for sanitary waste lines, vent pipes, and drain traps.

Disadvantages

Because of the plastic, PVC is not suitable for high water temperatures. It also degrades with UV light, which means it cannot be exposed to sunlight. It is also not safe for drinking water and is not a “green” option.

PEX

This type of plastic pipe (cross-linked polyethylene) carries some unique advantages compared to its metal counterparts. Some contractors will argue that PEX pipes are considered one of the biggest innovations in plumbing because of their flexibility. It can bend around edges and because of its fittings, it does not require glue. Plumbers most often recommend this pipe because of how innovative it is.

Advantages

PEX pipes can be easily used with existing piping, including copper, making it a great option for retrofits. Typically, PEX pipes have lower installation costs and the maintenance is minimal. This type of piping is both heat resistant and freeze resistant making it a great option for your home or business.

Disadvantages

Some studies have shown that water contamination and PEX piping are related. However, PEX has been approved in states with stringent regulations. This type of piping also requires a special tool to fit it and cannot be connected directly to a water heater.

Which One Is Best?

The short answer is that it depends on your project. With the wide variety of piping materials available, choosing the right plumbing pipe can be a challenging decision. If you aren’t sure about which piping material to use on your next project, contact us! We’ll take into consideration your needs and your budget.

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