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Thursday, October 23, 2014

Plumbing 101: Know Your Plumbing Pipes

By Kimberly Duncan

Want to prevent water damage caused by pipe bursts? Start by learning to know your plumbing pipesAs you may know, there are different types of pipes used in plumbing. To an average homeowner, it may seem unnecessary to know what exactly those types are. However, each pipe has its own purpose and learning about them can help you find out which type will best prevent pipe bursts and water damage.

First off, plumbing pipes fall into two main kinds - metal and plastic. Below are some of the specific types of metal and plastic pipes that are commonly used for plumbing.

Metal Pipes

Galvanized Steel Pipes

These are made of heavy metal and have been used in plumbing for many decades now to carry both hot and cold water to homes and, more commonly, they are buried underground to supply water outside the house. Today, though, galvanized pipes are usually replaced by simpler pipes made of heavy plastic. With its galvanized coating, these pipes are naturally resistant to corrosion, but they are not entirely rust-proof. The threaded pipe ends where the coating has been removed are susceptible to rusting.

Copper Pipes

These pipes are perhaps the most widely-used today for water supply lines running through the walls of houses. They feature high resistance to corrosion and high heat tolerance so they can be used for both cold and hot water supply. Also, copper pipes are very stable because soldered fittings are used to connect them. The obvious downside to this option, however, is that they are pricey.

Stainless Steel Pipes

This type of pipe is highly resistant to corrosion and would be the ideal pipe to use if you live somewhere where there are corrosive elements present such as near a beach. However, stainless steel pipes are also expensive and are not readily available.

Plastic Pipes

PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) Pipes

PVC pipes are the standard water pipes used in most homes. The most common PVC pipe used is the thick white one called Schedule 40, which has a slightly more durable version called the Schedule 80. There is also a thinner and lighter PVC pipe called the thin wall. PVC pipes are not built to work with hot temperature so they are used only for cold water supply.

CPVC (Chlorinated Polyvinyl Chloride) Pipes

As its name indicates, CPVC pipes undergo an extra process of chlorination compared to PVC pipes. It has good flexibility and although its walls are thinner than the standard PVC pipe, it is more heat-resistant and, therefore, more ideal for hot water supply.

PEX Pipes

These cross-linked pipes are made of polyethylene plastic. They are flexible and can be used to supply both hot and cold water to a home. Because it is extra resistant to heat, this pipe is commonly used for water-based (hydroponic) floor heating systems in modern homes. It has the same outer diameter as CPVC pipes and copper pipes so it is also used as a cheaper replacement for either pipe.

PolyPipe

This thick, high-pressure, black pipe is extremely durable and typically used outdoors for one purpose only - as the residential main water supply pipe. It is buried deep underground to prevent the pipe from freezing during winter. Different places have different standards as to the burial depth of the pipe.

While there is no single pipe that can be used for all applications that is impervious to damage, with basic knowledge of these pipes, you'll be able to tell which pipes in your home are more prone to corrosion or freezing so you can take necessary maintenance and preventive action.

Recommended Reading:
Preventing Water Damage from Burst Pipes with Proper Winter Care
Knowing What to do When a Pipe Bursts

Learn More about How Your Home's Plumbing Works in this Video:

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