I’m pretty sure you’re one of those millions of homeowners who are clueless as to what type of plumbing pipes you have at home. But the thing is it actually makes a lot of sense if you know because it’ll help you fix plumbing issues later on. Having to know the kind of pipes at home also means that it’ll be easier and more convenient when it comes to asking a plumber’s advice in doing repairs.
Generally, plumbing pipes are classified into two, metal and plastic. But there are actually so many varieties of metal and plastic pipes.
EnlightenMe is a website that gives all sorts of information you need and I did find a very information post about the types of plumbing pipes traditionally used at home. I’m specifically interested on the article’s description of the different types of metal pipes.
Copper: This type of pipe has been used since the early 1960s and is very reliable but expensive. Copper pipes are highly resistant to corrosion, tolerant of heat, and not prone to leaks, since the connections are soldered and fittings stay tight. Copper pipe comes in three sizes: M (very thin walls), L (medium thickness), and K (thickest walls). Types M and L are usually used for interior hot and cold supply lines, while Type K serves for underground service lines. Copper pipe’s biggest drawback is high price, which is why copper is gradually being replaced by more economical plastic pipe types.
Galvanized Steel: These gray metal pipes are what most of us think of when we think of plumbing. They were used extensively in home plumbing in the 1960s, particularly outdoors. They were often buried and used as supply lines. Galvanized steel is only slightly resistant to corrosion and rust, and has a life expectancy of about forty years. They are usually replaced with copper or, more often, PEX and HDPE pipe in home plumbing. See also: What Is Galvanized Pipe?
Stainless Steel: Not seen as often in household use, stainless steel pipes are strong and highly resistant to corrosion but even more expensive than copper pipes. They’re most often used in marine environments where saltwater would erode other metal pipes.
Cast Iron: This type of pipe was frequently used in the past for drainage. It’s very durable but difficult to work with because of its weight. If you need to replace broken cast iron pipe, PVC is a good choice because it joins well with cast iron.
I think that copper is the most ideal choice of the four if you’re considering longevity. It is a top choice even in commercial and industrial settings because it has a long and proven track record. In fact, copper piping has been used for more than 80 years and it hasn’t been surpassed in performance by any other metal pipe variety.
Now how about plastic pipes for plumbing? I found this great video that explains three basic and widely used plastic pipes for plumbing. Figure out if any of these are found in your home.
You might be wondering – why do many homes prefer the plastic pipe instead of the more durable and long lasting metal variety? That’s because the use of modern technology in making these pipes actually has been very sophisticated nowadays that plastic is no longer seen the same way it was before. To give you a much better explanation of the “pros” of plastic pipes, I’m going to share this content I read from this website. The title of the post is “Your Plumbing System: A Guide to Plastic Pipe and Fittings,” but I’m actually more interested in a particular section of the article that reads:
Pros: How plastic pipes outperform metal pipes
Corrosion resistant — A plastic plumbing system pipe isn’t easily corroded by exposure to water and common household chemicals. Plastic formulas can be adjusted to allow them to stand up to the demands of various residential plumbing needs, including water supply and drainage.
Low heat conductivity — Unlike metal, plastic doesn’t conduct heat well so it’s better able to maintain the temperature of the water it carries. While copper pipes require insulation to prevent sweating and dripping, PVC pipes stay dry even with no insulation. That’s especially helpful with condensate drains for air conditioners, boilers and other appliances.
Non-reactive — Connecting dissimilar metals, such as copper and iron, can cause corrosion. Plastic pipes can be connected with each other or with metal pipes without the risk of damaging chemical reactions.
Easier installation — Because plastic pipes are light and easy to handle, plumbing jobs done with these pipes nearly always cost less than those that involve metal pipes.
Fewer blockages — Some plumbers find plastic drainpipes are less likely to clog than metal ones and are easier to unclog when they do.
All those reasons really count when someone is still in the process of building a home. But if you already have an existing plumbing at home that uses metal pipes, it’s just too impractical to replace them with plastic if you are not experiencing any major issues or problems with them. In the end, both metal and plastic have their pros and cons, but what really matters most is how you take care of your pipes so that they’ll be able to perform what they’re designed to do.