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Choosing the Right Plumbing Pipes
At first glance, plumbing may appear simple if viewed solely from a homeowner’s or business owner’s perspective. However, from the viewpoint of professional plumbers, plumbing systems can be remarkably intricate. Different pipe shapes, sizes, and materials exist, and it may be unclear which ones are necessary and why.
Why Are There So Many Kinds of Pipes, Anyway?
While it may seem straightforward to bring fresh water into your home and carry wastewater away, plumbing involves more than just one or two kinds of pipes. Apart from the “in” and “out” processes, there are various stops along the way, including water heaters, softeners, and appliances, where water temperature, softness, and pressure can be modified. Different types of pipes are required to make these modifications possible.
Additionally, the passage of time has led to changes in the types of pipes used. Some pipes that were once commonly used in construction are no longer used. Even older properties that have been updated with modern fixtures may still have original pipes made from uncommon materials.
Different Pipes for a Variety of Purposes
To ensure that you select the appropriate pipes for a plumbing project, it is advisable to review the following information before replacing a damaged pipe or installing new plumbing for an appliance.
Copper pipes are commonly utilized to provide water to appliances and fixtures, such as the kitchen tap and HVAC refrigerant lines. This type of plumbing pipe is a traditional option renowned for its long-lasting durability and resistance to corrosion. Copper pipes are suitable for hot and cold water, and they can be manipulated to fit into tight spaces. Nonetheless, they are somewhat costly.
Soldering or special fittings are necessary when working with copper pipes, and an experienced professional is recommended to handle these tasks. Additionally, it is crucial to select the appropriate thickness of copper pipe wall for the intended use.
Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipes are the most frequently utilized type of pipe for residential properties. They are well-suited for drainage pipe purposes, including disposing of dirty water from sinks and toilets.
They can also serve as the main water supply since they are resilient and durable in high-pressure situations. PVC pipes are notably less expensive than metal pipes.
PVC pipes, which are lightweight and white in color, come in different sizes and shapes and can accommodate a variety of fittings. They can be easily joined together without the need for soldering. PVC is resistant to rust and other forms of corrosion since it is not a metal. However, PVC pipes can warp when exposed to heat and deteriorate with prolonged exposure to sunlight. Therefore, they are unsuitable for hot water applications and should only be employed indoors or underground.
Stainless steel is a highly durable and robust material, as you may already know if you’ve been around stainless steel appliances or fixtures. When it comes to plumbing pipes, stainless steel is an excellent choice for applications that are highly prone to corrosion.
Areas that are frequently exposed to moisture, salt, or other corrosive substances may benefit from corrosion-resistant stainless steel pipes. It is important to note that these pipes should not be confused with galvanized steel pipes, which serve their own distinct purposes.
Cross-linked polyethylene (PEX) is a plastic pipe that has recently gained popularity in residential and commercial plumbing. Unlike rigid and sturdy PVC pipes, PEX pipes are thin, flexible tubes that can be threaded through walls and floors effortlessly. PEX pipes are particularly resistant to leaks and ruptures due to their lack of joints and seams, as well as the plastic’s ability to expand and contract.
However, similar to PVC, PEX’s plastic material can deteriorate when exposed to UV or hot water. As a result, PEX tubing is unsuitable for outdoor use, and any applications involving hot water should be handled by connecting to copper piping.
Brass is one of the most long-lasting plumbing pipes and an excellent option for hot water supply lines and large-scale water distribution systems such as tanks, wells, and pumps. Brass is an alloy, and its properties depend on the ratio of copper used in its production. Brass is soft and can easily form a tight seal, and if the brass contains approximately 67-85% copper, it is highly resistant to rust.
However, brass alloys may contain lead, so it is crucial to ensure that pipes used for water supply are lead-free. If lead-free pipes are used, brass piping is just as safe for drinking water as copper. In fact, brass was commonly used throughout homes before copper piping became widely used in residential applications.
Galvanized pipes, which are primarily made of steel or iron and coated with a layer of zinc to prevent rust, have fallen out of use in recent years. While the zinc coating provides some corrosion resistance, interior rust buildup can still occur in small-diameter galvanized pipes over time.
These pipes, like water supply lines, were often used for outdoor and underground purposes and are still found in many older homes and businesses. Despite their susceptibility to rust, galvanized pipes are incredibly durable and can last up to 100 years.
Cast iron pipes were frequently utilized for distribution and drain-waste-vent (DWV) systems. They were a popular choice in older construction because they were one of the most robust materials available at the time, before plastic alternatives like PVC were developed.
If you own a property constructed in the early to mid-20th century, it is possible that your plumbing system may include cast iron pipes that are nearing the end of their useful life. When the time comes to replace them, you should seek out pipes made from more modern materials.
Not Sure What You Need? Call the Experts
If you lack knowledge and are uncertain about the types of pipes suitable for a particular job, it’s best not to attempt any repairs or installations on your own. With easy access to the internet and DIY tutorials on platforms like YouTube, it may be tempting to try to tackle what seems like a simple project.
However, choosing the wrong pipes or executing poor workmanship may result in even more severe problems. In some cases, well-intentioned plumbing efforts may cause damage, requiring costly repairs by professionals later. To save yourself from such issues, you should have your home repiped by experienced plumbers such as those at MET Plumbing & Air Conditioning.
Get Professional Plumbing Installation, Repairs, and More from MET Plumbing & Air Conditioning
MET Plumbing & Air Conditioning is dedicated to providing reliable plumbing services for homes and businesses in the Houston area. Our team of skilled professionals can assist with a range of plumbing needs, from installing water heaters to replacing entire water mains. We have the knowledge and resources to help you select the best pipes and components for your particular requirements and budget.
Count on our experienced and courteous technicians to address all of your plumbing needs, including but not limited to:
- Drain cleaning/unclogging
- Installation and repair of:
- Water heaters
- Water softeners
- Filtration systems
- Garbage disposals
- Plumbing inspections
- Sewer maintenance
- 24-hour emergency assistance and repairs
If you’ve got a question about pipe materials or want to schedule plumbing services, call us today at 281-603-9949.