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The Different Types of Plumbing Pipes

Plumbing pipes have been constructed out of many different materials over the years. From lead in an ancient room to the PVC that we so commonly see today. Plumbing pipes have evolved over the years and new materials have begun to be available. There are many different reasons why plumbing pipes were conducted out of the materials they were, from durability to affordability. Here are the different types of plumbing pipes you may encounter today.


Cast iron was commonly used prior to 1960 because of its durability. The downside of cast iron plumbing pipes, however, is that it rusts over time. Rust is oxidation that forms on iron or steel, especially when moisture is around. Over time rust can eat through pipes and contaminate water causing brown water to flow out of faucets. This can affect the taste of water and cause stains on porous surfaces. Iron was commonly used in vertical drains, vent stacks, and horizontal drain lines. If you own an older home, there is a good chance you have iron plumbing pipes. If rust becomes a problem, you should contact a professional plumber to talk about your options.

Galvanized Steel

Another common material used in plumbing pipes in older homes is galvanized steel. Galvanized steel was introduced to replace iron pipes. The process of galvanizing means a protective layer of zinc is applied to prevent corrosion or rust. The problem with galvanized steel is that its lifespan is typically 50-70. Over time the zinc coating wears off and rust can start to build up. When rust starts to form it typically will eat the pipe from the inside out. This can be exacerbated by geographic conditions. Galvanized steel plumbing pipes should be replaced before a major plumbing problem occurs.


Plastic plumbing pipes in the form of ABS and PVC became widely used in residential construction in the 1970s. Plastic plumbing pipes are affordable and easy to use. ABS or acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene is commonly used for drain waste vent pipe systems and sewer systems. While ABS is easy to install it can be susceptible to damage from the sun. PVC or polyvinyl-chloride is a little more durable than ABS and more flexible. PVC is most often used for drain lines. Both ABS and PVC are non-toxic and resistant to abrasion. However, they can be susceptible to harsh chemicals so always watch what you pour down the drain, even liquid drain cleaners.


Copper plumbing pipes are used for water supply lines. Copper plumbing pipes are extremely durable and are also resistant to corrosion. While copper plumbing pipes are more expensive than plastic, they tend to last a lot longer. There are two different types of copper plumbing pipes: rigid copper piping and flexible copper piping. Rigid copper piping is fit together using a solder. Flexible copper piping is most often used for water supply lines on water-using appliances like dishwashers, refrigerators, and washing machines.

When it comes to making plumbing repairs it is usually best to contact a professional plumber, especially if you are unsure of what type of plumbing pipes you have. Professional plumbers are trained to know how to handle each type of plumbing pipe and can better diagnose the situation. Contact Courtesy Plumbing today!

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