Types of Pipes

When tackling a plumbing repair or installation, it’s important to understand the different types of pipes and the way they’re used throughout the home. From PEX to copper, different types of plumbing pipes have various usages that are better suited for specific jobs. We’ll show you some of the differences and help you understand the best type of pipe for each scenario.

Main Types of Pipes by Material

Pipes are made of different materials that make each plumbing pipe type a great choice for specific application throughout the home.

PVC Pipes

PVC Pipes

PVC pipe is easier to work with than galvanized steel pipes and can be cut using a mitre saw or hacksaw. It can be glued together with primer and solvent cement or push-to-connect fittings and is best suited for long runs of pipe, such as drainage lines, waste and vent lines or cold-water supply. PVC pipes can warp with hot water. CPVC pipe can be used with both cold and hot water.

PEX Pipes

PEX Pipes

PEX pipes often replace copper for hot and cold-water pipes in residential remodelling. It is inexpensive, cuts easily and is strong enough to withstand high-pressure and heat, but flexible enough to be fit through tight spaces. Can be fed easily through walls, ceilings and other hard-to-navigate areas, and it is best suited for cold and hot water supply and high heat or pressure usages.

ABS Pipes

ABS Pipes

ABS pipes are stronger than PVC pipes and are mainly used for drain waste and vent applications. They can withstand higher temperatures without warping and can be connected with primer and solvent.

Galvanized Pipes

Galvanized Pipes

Usually found in older homes, galvanized pipe is mainly used for drainage, gas supply and other purposes. They’re dipped in zinc to help prevent corrosion and each end of the pipe has threads and can be screwed together to create a tight fit. Galvanized pipes are rarely used in new home construction, but were a popular choice up until the mid-1900’s.

Copper Pipes

Copper Pipes

Lightweight and durable, copper pipes are the standard for residential hot- and cold-water applications. Copper pipe can be cut easily with a hacksaw or with a special copper pipe cutter, but must be connected with a solder joint, so knowledge of soldering is a must when using it. Copper is best suited for cold and hot water supply, gas lines and high-pressure or heat delivery.

Black Pipes

Black Pipes

Traditionally used to relay propane or natural gas from the street to your home, black steel pipes have a high heat-resistance, which also makes them perfect for fire sprinkler systems. They are also corrosion and crack resistant and can be connected with threaded fittings. They should only be installed by professionals.

Best Types of Pipes by Usage

Below, you’ll find a handy reference chart to help you choose the right pipe for the job.

Pipe Application Pipe Material  
Cold Water Supply
  • PVC
  • PEX
  • Galvanized Steel
  • Copper
  • Tubes & Hoses
Hot Water Supply        
  • CPVC
  • PEX
  • ABS
  • Galvanized Steel
  • Copper
  • Tubes & Hoses
Gas Supply
  • Copper (except for natural gas)
  • Black Pipes      

Drain, Waste & Vent    

  • PVC
  • ABS     

Heating

  • Black Pipes

High Pressure

  • PVC
  • PEX
  • Copper
  • Black Pipes
High Heat
  • PEX
  • Galvanized
  • Copper

Tip: How to Measure Pipe Sizes for Pipe Replacement

How to Measure Pipe Sizes for Pipe Replacement

When replacing an existing section of pipe, you’ll need to measure the inside diameter and outside diameter of the old pipe to ensure that the new one matches it exactly.

To get the outside diameter, use calipers or a tape measure and measure from outside edge to outside edge. That will give you the width of the pipe, including the pipe material itself. That’s your outside diameter.

For the inside diameter, measure from the inner edge of the material to the other inner edge. This gives you the size of the actual opening of the pipe. That’s your inside diameter.

Once you have the two measurements, you’ve got everything you need to find your replacement pipe.

 

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