Saturday, March 22, 2014

Guide to Plumbing Pipes

Visiting your local hardware store prior to doing your own plumbing can be a confusing experience. Which type of pipe should you choose? You'll find that the answer isn't as clear as it may have been in the past--when there were much fewer plumbing pipe choices. Here are the main types of plumbing supplies you will use:

PVC Pipe - Polyvinyl Chloride

PVC pipe has been a very big deal in the plumbing industry in the last few decades, because it is lighter and easier to work with than traditional galvanized steel pipe. You will mainly be using PVC pipe for drain or waste pipes, or stacks (those pipes you often see sticking up out of the roofline), and not as supply pipes. PVC pipe is easy to install, and requires little more than a hacksaw, miter box, and solvents which essentially "glue" the pipe together. Diameters are clearly marked on the white surface of the pipe. If not easy to read, diameters can be determined with a sizing tool such as Pi-Piper.

Rigid Copper Pipe

This is your water supply pipe. Rigid copper is easily cut with a hacksaw or Skilsaw, or with a special copper tube cutter. Connection is a different matter, as it requires a practiced hand to solder copper pipe together (advice: buy extra copper pipe to practice on). Rigid copper pipe is great for water supply because it resists corroding, and does not carry the health risks that PVC has.

ABS Pipe

ABS pipe looks very much like PVC pipe, except it is black. ABS is basically the "older version" of PVC, and is often not allowed anymore by plumbing codes. Like PVC, ABS pipe is used for drain and vent pipes. If working with ABS, the best advice is to replace with PVC.

Flexible Copper Tubing

Flexible copper is used for short runs. You have probably seen it leading up to your water heater, or for cold water supply in tight spots. Flexible copper tubes can be cut with ease with a hacksaw, and bent to fit around corners. Because it does not stand up well against extreme temperatures, flexible copper is not recommended for exterior use.

Galvanized Iron Pipe

Galvanized iron pipe is the pipe of popular imagination: it is what we think of when we think about plumbing pipe. It is made of galvanized steel, with each end of the pipe threaded. Individual pipes are screwed into each other with connecting joints. While extremely strong, galvanized pipe is rarely used for new home construction, and is not recommended for the home renovator.


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