The Most Common Pipe Material Used in Plumbing

Plumbing pipes form the backbone of any home’s plumbing system. They transport water from a source into your residence and take waste away to a sewer line for disposal.

Pipe materials come in a range of pros and cons; the ideal choice for your project depends on its requirements as well as the conditions present.


PVC is the most widely-used pipe material to transport fluids, particularly water. It’s lightweight and durable, easy to maneuver, and chemically inert; furthermore, PVC has a low breakage rate without welding required – making it an ideal choice for plumbing projects.

This chemical process utilizes ethylene gas and chlorine from rock salt (NaCl). When heated, the solid transforms into a thermoplastic polymer similar to other olefins which are also plastics.

Polymers are also manufactured with heat stabilizers to prevent decomposition and enhance their physical characteristics. This increases their resistance to heat, sunlight, and weathering.

C-PVC, on the other hand, has a chlorination process which makes it resistant to extreme temperatures. This kind of PVC is commonly used in residential and commercial construction projects.

In certain instances, PVC can be modified to increase its tensile strength and impact resistance. Flexibility is further improved through the addition of plasticizing agents.

PVC offers many advantages, such as its resistance to chemicals and fire. Unfortunately, there are also some drawbacks.

One major concern is the production of PVC creates toxic chemical pollutants such as dioxin. These have been linked to serious health issues like cancer and neurological damage.

PVC is commonly manufactured with phthalates, which are endocrine disruptors that can be absorbed through the skin or inhaled. Phthalates have been known to cause reproductive and developmental disorders in both adults and children alike.


ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) is the most commonly used pipe material among plumbers. Its black color makes it easily distinguishable and it boasts impressive strength and thickness, plus resistance to rust – making it an ideal choice for underground use.

Another advantage of ABS is its recyclability, making it eco-friendly. However, some homeowners are concerned about the presence of Bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical which may leach into your water supply in small amounts.

Though BPA in these pipes may cause concern, studies have not proven it to be harmful for human health. It’s a chemical commonly used to harden plastic, present in many household items; however, animal studies have suggested some potential issues.

Despite these reservations, many plumbers recommend ABS for most residential plumbing applications. In some instances, it can be cheaper and simpler to install than PVC piping, especially when dealing with large numbers of pipes.

Finally, ABS pipes can be joined to other pipes without glue. PVC must be connected using special cement which requires cleaning up after application and takes time to dry.

When selecting pipes for your plumbing project, the best way to decide is to consult with an expert at Reliable Drain & Plumbing. We can assist you in selecting the appropriate material and installing it cost-effectively in the long run.


One of the most commonly used pipe materials for plumbing is cross-linked polyethylene (PEX). This plastic can be found in new construction homes and offers several advantages over copper and PVC plumbing, such as flexibility, heat resistance, durability, bendability and curveability. PEX also makes bending and curving easier compared to other materials like copper or PVC pipes.

PEX piping can easily be snaked through existing pipes, making it an ideal choice for retrofits and repairs. It’s also perfect for homeowners looking to add a new water supply line into their home.

Another key advantage of PEX piping is its versatility; it can be run through walls and floors without interfering with main lines. This feature enables one length of pipe to connect directly to a PEX manifold or central water control system and then wind its way throughout your house until reaching each hot and cold water fixture.

This is a major advantage over traditional copper and galvanized steel systems, which require separate connections for each line leading to each fixture. If one of these connections leaks, the entire water system could be irreparably damaged.

Unfortunately, PEX also suffers the same fatal flaw as polybutylene: degradation caused by hot, chlorinated drinking water. This can break down stabilizers that make the pipe resistant to chlorine, leading to collapse. Furthermore, excessive exposure to sunlight weakens and discolors the piping.

Galvanized Steel

Galvanized Steel is the most frequently used pipe material in plumbing, but it also has many other applications. As a corrosion-resistant and long-lasting metal, galvanized steel helps you save money on maintenance expenses over time.

Galvanization is a manufacturing process that coats iron or steel with zinc to protect it from rusting. While this technique can be applied to many metals, iron and steel are the two most frequently galvanized.

Corrosion occurs when metal oxide atoms come into contact with oxygen-rich environments like air or water. As a result, the metal will lose its strength and function, making it more vulnerable to breaking or collapsing.

Galvanized metals have long been used as a protective layer, due to their rust-resistant properties that make them an ideal choice for applications requiring protection from harsh environmental elements, such as outdoor structures and buildings.

Galvanized steel is most often hot-dip galvanized. This process involves immersing the steel into molten zinc, which bonds with iron present in the metal to form a protective layer on all surfaces.

Due to its corrosion-resistant qualities, this metal is ideal for telecommunication equipment. It’s used in phone wiring, phone towers and equipment boxes. Furthermore, this low-maintenance solution offers a cost-saving option for structures needing corrosion resistance that need to last over time – saving both time and money on maintenance in the process!


Brass is a widely-used pipe material, particularly in hot water supply lines and large-scale water distribution systems such as tanks, wells, and pumps. It’s long-lasting, tough and reliable while being easy to work with.

Metal alloys like zinc-copper are composed of different proportions of copper and zinc, along with other elements like iron, aluminum, silicon and manganese. The end products possess unique properties as well as color variations which may be useful in certain applications.

For instance, brass alloys with high concentrations of zinc improve its strength and ductility; similarly, brass alloys with high levels of lead and tin provide resistance to corrosion and tarnishing. As such, these durable materials are ideal for residential and commercial plumbing applications.

Another key characteristic of brass is its malleability, or ability to be formed into various shapes. This depends on how much zinc is present in the alloy; those containing more than 45 percent zinc must be hot-worked for workability.

Brass alloy was traditionally created by heating copper with calamine, an oxidizing agent that releases zinc. This golden-colored metal could be used for many purposes such as musical instruments and tools.

Today, brass is a highly-recycled alloy that can be created from various raw materials and processes. It can be melted, recast into billets, and extruded into pipes and tubes for use as insulation.

Cast Iron

Cast iron is the most common pipe material, an alloy composed of 2-4 percent carbon and minor amounts of silicon, manganese and other elements. It can be identified by its grayish-gray color (though white iron can also be cast).

To create the material, iron ore is smelted and mixed with scrap metals and other alloys. Once cooled, this molten mixture is then poured into molds to solidify.

Cast iron is produced through several methods, such as pit, horizontal and centrifugal casting. In the pit method, sand-lined molds are placed vertically in a pit then filled with molten iron.

Horizontal methods, on the other hand, employ multiple-lipped ladles to draw molten iron from beneath molds. This prevents impurities from sand from getting into the iron during its melting stage.

Another method, ductile iron, involves adding small amounts of magnesium or cerium to the cast iron mix in the molten state. This slows down graphite precipitates and produces a material less brittle than malleable iron.

Underground water and gas lines, as well as many older buildings still using cast iron piping, should be checked periodically for signs of corrosion and biodeterioration.

Maintaining and inspecting aging cast iron pipes is essential to avoid expensive future repairs. Fortunately, modern plastic pipe materials like MDPE and uPVC are less susceptible to corrosion than older cast iron, so they are often replacing older cast iron in many cases.

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