Explore the nuances of different pipe types and when, where and how they are best used in your projects

If there’s one thing that nobody wants to deal with, it’s a piping problem. A major leak or break in your pipes can not only be costly but also compromise the integrity of your home, take time to fix, and cause major stress or safety concerns for you and your loved ones. Not to mention having a kitchen or bathroom (or more) out of commission.

One way to avoid potential disasters down the line? Checking your plumbing pipes and making sure they’re high quality and in great working condition. To do this, though, you need to know what types of plumbing pipes are available, and the pros and cons of having each type. If your pipes are already installed, having this information can help you understand what kind of maintenance and pipe repairs you’ll need or what problems you might face as your pipes begin to age.

What are the types of plumbing pipes?

First thing’s first: what are the types of plumbing pipes, and what are the differences between them?

Well, over time, many different materials have been used to manufacture pipes including terracotta, plastic, and galvanized steel. Today, you can still find many different types on the market including:

  • Copper (both rigid and flexible)
  • PVC
  • PEX
  • Galvanized steel
  • CPVC

There are other types of piping including:

  • Stainless steel
  • Cast iron
  • Polybutylene
  • High-density polybutylene
  • Black iron

That said, these piping options are not as efficient, and they are not used as frequently as the highlighted options on our list below.

The pros and cons of each type of pipe

Each of these pipe types came into being to serve a purpose and provide functional benefit to homeowners, business owners, and, of course, plumbers the world over. But each type also has its pitfalls if not used in the proper way. To help you better understand the types you have or what your plumber could be choosing between, let’s take a closer look at each.

Copper Piping

The pros

Copper pipes are a very traditional, old-school piping option, and they still remain popular today. There is good reason for this. Copper piping boasts:

  • High longevity, lasting for 50 years or longer
  • Great temperature tolerance
  • Good safety, as it won’t pollute water running through the pipes
  • Durability
  • Recyclability

The cons

That said, copper piping is significantly more expensive than other options on the list, particularly in today’s economy. What’s more, the copper mining process is not very sustainable, which can be off-putting for environmentally- conscious homeowners. Finally, copper pipes can be more prone to bursting in freezing temperatures.

PVC Piping

The pros

Polyvinyl chloride pipes, otherwise known as PVC pipes, are made out of a combination of plastic and vinyl. This pipe material has become popular in recent years thanks to a variety of benefits:

  • Available in many thicknesses and configurations
  • Suitable to many uses
  • Not subject to corrosion or rusting
  • Very long-lasting
  • Handle high water pressure
  • Very inexpensive
  • Lightweight for easy transport and install

The cons

While PVC piping can handle high water pressure, it is not equipped to handle high temperatures or outdoor conditions. Like all plastics, PVC pipe will warp or melt when exposed to very hot water. Additionally, the fittings for PVC pipes tend to be bulky, which make it a difficult choice for small spaces.

PEX Pipes

The pros

Cross-linked polyethylene pipes, or PEX pipes, are a relatively new, flexible plastic piping option. In general, PEX pipes are easier to work with and join. They are also:

  • Built to last
  • Easy to use
  • Temperature tolerant
  • Inexpensive

The cons

Like PVC pipes, PEX pipes are not suitable for outdoor use. Additionally, some users have reported changes to the taste and smell of their water, which can be off-putting.

Galvanized Steel Pipes

The pros

Galvanized steel pipes are very strong, and they are available in wider diameters than copper pipes or PVC pipes.

The cons

When it comes to galvanized steel, the cons seem to outweigh the pros, which is why this type of piping has not been used regularly in recent years. For one, galvanized steel pipes have a relatively short lifespan on 20-50 years, even if they’re coated in zinc to prevent rusting. What’s more:

  • Significant risk of rusting
  • Risk of lead contamination as the pipes corrode
  • Heavy weight makes them difficult to install and work with
  • Clog easily as minerals build up in the pipes over time

CPVC Pipes

The pros

CPVC pipes, or chlorinated polyvinyl chloride pipes, are very similar to PVC pipes. That said, they’re chlorinated, and this distinction makes them able to withstand the high temperatures that PVC can’t deal with. CPVC pipes are also available in more sizes than their PVC counterparts. Other benefits include:

  • Longevity
  • Great ability to handle high pressure
  • Low cost
  • Ease of use

The cons

If low costs are a deciding factor for you, it’s important to note that CPVC pipes cost slightly more than their PVC counterparts. Additionally, these pipes are not appropriate for outdoor use, as the sun can break down the pipes over time.

How long do plumbing pipes last?

As we mentioned, the longevity of your pipes will depend largely on the material that you use. In general, though, your pipes should last for at least 20 years.

That said, people are rarely building a home from scratch and installing pipes on their own. When you move into your home, then, it’s important to call residential plumber. That way, they can:

  • Tell you if there are any potential or active leaks or bursts
  • Tell you what pipe material is in your home
  • Help you come up with a proactive maintenance plan

Turn to the pros for your pipes

You may not be a professional, but knowing the basics when it comes to piping types – and understanding which type is in your home – can help you make informed repair or replace decisions. It can also help you understand what issues you might eventually face and how much money resolving those issues will cost. This information, in turn, can help ensure the safety and the longevity of your home’s infrastructure.

When it comes to all things piping, homeowners in Canberra turn to our experts. We’ve been helping new and existing property owners evaluate the integrity of their pipes for over 12 years. We have the pros and cons of every material and modality memorized, so you’ll have impeccable service and repairs when you need them.

We make sure every job is done right the first time, so you have the right pipes put in place by licensed and insured professionals. If you have any specific questions, or you’d like to talk to a team member about your piping issues, feel free to contact us directly here or on 0411169327.