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Common Plumbing Pipe Materials

Plumbing pipes, no matter the material, serve a common purpose. The materials used in the pipes vary based on the nature of the plumbing system and the date in which the structure was outfitted with plumbing. Metal pipes have historically been the only material used for plumbing pipes, but plastic is now a common material in modern plumbing systems. There are important distinctions between various pipe materials. Some metals are more susceptible to corrosion over others, for example, and others are considered less efficient for certain plumbing applications. Here is a look at the most common varieties of plumbing pipes.


Galvanized steel pipes are in a stack in a warehouse.

These types of pipe are some of the oldest variety 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. Galvanized pipe is heavy and typically a cheaper option for pipe as it is fairly resistant to corrosion and likely to last for many decades, though the metal is susceptible to rust on the threaded ends of the pipe. These are often found in older structures.


Closeup of copper pipes and connectors.

Copper pipe is one of the most expensive varieties of metal and is a very popular plumbing material. Copper carries a high market value as a metal for its durability and versatility. For plumbing applications, copper pipe is ideal since it is highly resistant to corrosion, has a high heat tolerance, and is perfectly suited for hot and cold plumbing. Copper pipe fittings are also unlikely to come loose over time since they are soldered into the pipe. Compared to galvanized or plastic PEX pipe, copper is considerably more expensive. Copper pipe can be more labor intensive to install as a complete plumbing system since the proper types of copper must be used in the right applications and all the pipes must be soldered precisely.

Stainless Steel

Stainless steel pipes in a warehouse with ball valves.

Stainless steel is an expensive metal for plumbing and, as such, less common and often not readily available as an option in many places. While most homes and environments are suited to any variety of plumbing pipe material, there are certain conditions in which stainless steel pipe is advantageous. Because of its very high resistance to corrosion, stainless steel is ideal for plumbing in marine and coastal environments where saltwater corrosion presents a big risk to plumbing. For most homes and businesses, however, more standard materials are perfectly suitable for plumbing.

PVC or Plastic

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

PVC, or poly0vinyl 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. Low-cost, easy to install, and durable in hot or cold weather, this is a good option for sanitary waste lines, vent pipes, or drain traps.


This is a type of plastic pipe (cross-linked polyethylene) that carries some unique advantages compared to its metal counterparts. Because it is plastic, corrosion is not a problem and the material is both durable and flexible. This variety of plastic is also resistant to heat and is ideal in hot and cold plumbing applications. PEX pipe is becoming a more popular option for materials for its lower cost and ease of installation. Plumbing an entire structure gets expensive and is labor-intensive, so keeping costs down and increasing efficiency is important. This type of pipe is a safe and economical alternative to heavy metals and is a great option for upgrading old, deteriorated pipes.

If you have any questions about your pipes or need plumbing services, give Shamrock a call at (801) 505-9505.

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