Plumbers use different types of plumbing pipes in their day-to-day work, so it is important that you familiarize yourself with each one. Plumbing pipes will have different characteristics, and can only be used in specific situations. This guide will take a look at what each pipe material is and what its unique properties are.
Rigid Copper Pipes
Rigid copper pipes are primarily used for hot and cold water supply lines and have been around since the mid-1900s. They can be cut with copper pipe cutters and hacksaws, and they can be bent with the use of machine bending. Copper pipes can handle high pressure, are resistant to corrosion, and allow for smooth water flow due to their smooth copper surfaces.
Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) Pipes
PVC (Polyvinyl chloride) pipes are rigid plastic pipes that are heat-resistant and chemical-resistant. These pipes come in a few different thickness sizes, with Schedule 40 being the minimum thickness for pressure systems. PVC pipes are commonly found in the United States and are primarily used as sewer pipes, drain taps, and DWV (drain, waste, and vent) pipes. PVC pipes can be cut with PVC pipe cutters, hacksaws, and miter saws.
Polypropylene (PP) Pipes
Polypropylene pipes are plastic pipes found in plumbing systems. They are flexible, durable, and resistant to alkalis and acids. Due to their sensitivity to heat, Polypropylene pipes can only be used for wastewater under 200 degrees Fahrenheit (100 degrees Celsius). This also means they can be affected by direct sunlight. Polypropylene pipes cannot be solvent welded and can be cut with pipe cutters and hacksaws.
Polyethylene (PE) Pipes
Polyethylene pipes are flexible plastic pipes that are used for irrigation systems and cold water supply pipes. They are shock-resistant and have little issue with freezing weather conditions. Polyethylene is either blue or black in color, with blue indicating the pipe is medium-density, and black indicating the pipe is high-density.
Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) Pipes
ABS pipes are plastic pipes that are primarily used as DWV (drain, waste, and vent) pipes, sewer pipes, and drain taps. They are very durable and are sometimes used for mains cold water pipes. They can be cut with pipe cutters and hacksaws. Important to note is that ABS will degrade when exposed to UV.
Cast Iron Pipes
Cast iron pipes are heavy, tough pipes that are used mainly as DWV (drain, waste, and vent) pipes and sewer pipes. They are not as commonly used nowadays in part due to how difficult they are to work with. These pipes can be cut with a chain pipe cutter (also called snap cutters or soil pipe cutters), and hacksaws.
Galvanized Steel Pipes
Steel pipes are durable pipes that are used mainly for wet central heating systems, oil lines, and gas installations. Galvanized steel pipes cannot be used for water supply due to the pipe having a tendency to create rusty water. These pipes can cut with steel pipe cutters.
Polybutylene (PB-1) Pipes
Polybutylene pipes are plastic pipes that are designed for pressurized plumbing systems. They were first developed in the 1980s, and are flexible and non-corrosive. They have high temperature and pressure resistance, and have a low noise transmission . Something to note is that these pipes are micro-porous, meaning air can go through the walls of the pipe. Can be cut with pipe cutters and hacksaws.
PEX pipes are flexible plastic pipes that are mainly used for gas supply and hot and cold water supply. PEX is non-corrosive but will break down when exposed to ultraviolet rays. They can be cut with pipe cutters.