Whether you are remodeling, looking to buy a home or planning to repair your plumbing system, the type of pipes is an important consideration. At Peterman Heating, Cooling & Plumbing, we offer installation and repair services for all types of pipes and plumbing systems in homes throughout Indianapolis and the surrounding area. Let’s go over your various options.
What Are the Main Types of Pipes in Homes?
There are five principal types of plumbing pipes that are used in residences in the Indianapolis area. Each type has specific uses, benefits and disadvantages. Your home may have pipes made of:
- Galvanized steel
- Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)
- Chlorinated polyvinyl chloride (CPVC)
- Cross-linked polyethylene (PEX)
Galvanized Steel Pipes for Residential Plumbing
Before copper pipes became popular, residential plumbing systems relied on galvanized steel pipes that are coated with a layer of zinc. You may find these in some older homes, and the material is still used to transport non-drinking water. If you do have galvanized steel pipes in your home, it is best to have them replaced.
These pipes can rust over time, and they only have a lifespan of about 20 to 50 years. Any rust inside the pipe will mix with the water going into your home, and galvanized steel pipes have been linked to lead poisoning. Other downsides of galvanized steel pipes are that they clog easily and weigh quite a bit. The protective coating on these pipes is relatively easy to damage, and this increases the likelihood of rust.
Copper Pipes for Residential Plumbing
Copper is the most popular type of pipe for residential plumbing applications in the Greater Indianapolis community. Your plumbing system may have sections of flexible and rigid copper pipes. Flexible copper pipe is typically used in smaller spaces where the plumber needs to run the pipe around joists, electrical boxes and other building elements. Rigid copper pipe is used in long extensions. It can be employed in almost every part of a home. Connections in copper pipe are soldered.
Thickness of Copper Pipe
In addition to rigid and flexible, copper pipe is categorized by the thickness. Type K is intended for underground piping and other environments where the pipes are exposed to harsh conditions. Type K copper pipe has the thickest wall to prevent damage and freezing of the water. The mid-range copper pipe is Type L, and it is typically used for lines that deliver hot and cold drinking water. The thinnest copper pipe is Type M, and it is used for venting, draining and waste removal. It may also be used for delivering hot and cold water.
PVC Pipes for Residential Plumbing
PVC pipe is constructed of vinyl and plastic, and this type of pipe is growing in popularity. It is usually used for main water supplies and other high-pressure needs, so you are most likely to find it buried in your yard. The benefits of PVC pipe include its affordability, longevity and rugged durability.
Many plumbers like PVC pipe because it is a lightweight material that is easy to maneuver during installation and replacement. Because the pipes are not made of metal, pieces are put together using glue rather than soldering. PVC pipe can warp, though, and there are limited sizes, so it may not suit every application.
CPVC Pipes for Residential Plumbing
CPVC pipe is made from the same materials as PVC pipe, but it is treated with a chemical that can withstand higher temperatures. Consequently, this type of pipe resists warping. It is also available in more sizes than PVC. CPVC is affordable, long-lasting, easy to install and ideal for applications where water pressure is high. This kind of pipe may not be appropriate for outdoor use, and you may need to go with PVC in those situations.
PEX Pipes for Residential Plumbing
PEX is another plastic plumbing pipe, but unlike PVC and CPVC, the material is flexible so it can be used on longer segments where PVC or CPVC might need to be cut and glued. PEX is great for small spaces with other construction elements, and you may need less of it compared to pipes that are made of rigid materials. PEX pipes are held together with clamps, so it is easier to install than piping that requires soldering or gluing.
PEX plumbing is affordable, and it can hold up to high temperatures. The benefits of PEX piping are why more plumbers are recommending the product to customers. There are some things to consider, though. First, the material is known to cause a unique odor and smell in water. You can avoid this by running the tap at least a few times each day. Second, PEX pipes can only be used indoors.
Less Common Materials for Plumbing
There are some less common materials that you may find in older homes or homes that have DIY modifications. The first is cast iron. The material looks like steel but has a blackish, uneven coating on it. Cast iron was used in homes during the early 1900s, but it is rare now because it has a tendency to rust, corrode and clog. Cast iron cast last for many years, so we are never surprised to find it in older homes.
The next type of plumbing pipe that we also see in Indianapolis homes is stainless steel. This is one of the most expensive types of piping, but it lasts and is resistant to rust and corrosion. Polybutylene and high-density polybutylene pipes have a gray color, and they’re made from plastic. The pipes were mostly used beginning in the 1970s and for about 20 years afterward. Plumbers stopped using this material because it became brittle and was prone to leaks.
The last rare plumbing pipe is black iron. Once used for supplying water to homes and businesses, the material is now limited to delivering propane and natural gas.
Choosing the Best Plumbing Pipe for Your Home
When you call Peterman Heating, Cooling & Plumbing to arrange an appointment with one of our plumbers, we’ll provide expert guidance on the best materials for the job. If you have a budget and need new pipes, we may recommend PVC, CPVC or PEX, depending on the application. If you have galvanized steel, cast iron or black iron pipes, we will likely recommend that these materials be replaced to ensure the longevity of your plumbing system.
Best “Green” Plumbing Materials
For environmentally-conscious homeowners in the Indianapolis area, we can help you decide on the best piping for your home. In these cases, we typically recommend a plastic-based product. The pipes will not break down into the soil, and they are quite durable. The pipes only need to be replaced if there is some type of damage, and a small section can be exchanged.
Plumbing Experts for Your Home
Since 1986, Peterman Heating, Cooling & Plumbing has helped homeowners in the Indianapolis vicinity keep their plumbing systems in excellent working order. To learn more about pipes, give us a call. We can also help with all your heating and cooling needs, including installation, repairs and maintenance.