Plumbing pipes come in a variety of shapes, sizes and materials for plumbers to use. Home plumbing pipes fall into two categories for homeowners and plumbers to use: metal and plastic. Each different style of pipe provides its own set of pros and cons.
When using metal pipes, there are five different types of pipes people have the opportunity to pick from. The copper pipes have been used since the 1960s. These pipes are expensive for home plumbing, but the copper pipes are very reliable for the day to day use. The pipes come in three sizes: M, L and K: from thin to thick, respectively. K pipes are used for underground lines while both M and L are used for interior lines. Both M and L are suitable for hot and cold water usage. Copper pipes are not prone to leaks.
Galvanized steel lines were used for home plumbing almost exclusively during the 1960s. These are the gray metal pipes people usually see, in the house. These pipes usually last for about 40 years before they are replaced with plastic pipes. Stainless steel pipes are seen rarely in homes today. They are extremely strong, but also very expensive. Stainless steel pipes are usually used in marine environments where the salt water can erode other pipes.
Cast iron pipes were used in the past for drainage. The cast iron pipes are really durable, but the weight of the pipes made them hard to work with on a daily basis. If a cast iron pipe breaks, a PVC pipe is used in most occurrences due to the exceptional bond it can form with cast iron pipes. Black iron pipes are never used for home plumbing. Many people mistake them for plumbing pipes, but these pipes are only suitable for gas.
Plumbers are beginning to use plastic pipes on a consistent basis for home plumbing. The plastic pipes are more durable and a cheaper solution opposed to metal pipes. Polyvinyl chloride pipes, or PVC pipes, are white in color and are used for cold water use only. These pipes are typically used for a main supply line to the house. If using the PVC pipes for a drinking line, make sure the pipes are suitable for drinking water.
Chlorinated polyvinyl chloride pipes, or CPVC, come in a beige color. These pipes are suitable for both hot and cold water usage. The lines should never be placed underground because they will burst open if the line freezes.
Polyethylene pipes (PEX) are used extensively in newer homes due to their abilities to use both hot and cold water. PEX lines resist heat better than most plastic pipes. These home plumbing lines come in red, white and blue. Polybutylene lines (PB) were used in homes mostly from the 1970s until the 1990s. They are the only flexible plastic pipes approved for a hot and cold water supply, but are prone to leaks. Acrylonitrite-butadiene-styrene (ABS) lines are black plastic pipes used for drainage only. The ABS pipes are a low cost replacement for PVC pipes.