A Guide for Choosing Plumbing Piping Materials

Learn About the Different Types of Piping Materials

Sometimes plumbing projects can be daunting, especially for someone who is new to DIY plumbing. If you are making home renovations or replacing old piping, the first step is to figure out what material to use for piping. Choosing piping is a tough task, but can be made easy if you know the pros and cons of all the major types of piping materials. That's what we will be looking at in this post.

Before you can decide what type of pipe to use, you need to consider what it will be used for. Is it delivering water? Draining it? Will it be outdoor? Indoor? Underground? High pressure or low? As you can see, you need to answer a lot of questions before making a decision. We can't answer all of those questions for you, but we can help you make that decision once you have the answers. Keep reading to learn about each of the major players in the plumbing pipe scene.


Here at PVC Fittings online, we love all things PVC for good reason! When looking at all the different types of plumbing pipe, PVC stands out because of its low cost, minimal weight, ease of installation, and impressive structural integrity, just to name a few of its great qualities. PVC (which stands for polyvinyl chloride, a real mouthful) is a type of plastic piping that uses a system of pipe and fittings, joined together with PVC primer and cement, to transport liquid.

PVC is typically the least expensive per foot, with a largely consistent sizing system and no risk of rusting. It also insulates much more effectively than metal piping. PVC, regardless of its great qualities, does have a few drawbacks. First, it is not rated for hot water use and will start to break down at temperatures higher than 140F. Second, many building codes do not allow PVC pipe to be used for drinking water. This is because when exposed to UV rays, PVC can corrode and release toxins into its contents.

Common PVC Applications: Toilet drains, sink drains and bathtub/shower drains.

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CPVC (chlorinated polyvinyl chloride) is PVC that has gone through an extra chlorination. This may not sound very significant, but it solves PVC's major problems. CPVC can handle higher temperatures, making it safe for hot water applications. It is also rated for drinking water. While it is slightly more expensive than regular PVC, CPVC is still an low-cost plumbing option that can operate as the primary pipe material for an entire building's plumbing system.

CPVC is so useful, in fact, that it is often used to replace copper pipe when systems are repaired or updated. When compared to copper, it is almost always  a smarter option. CPVC is not as loud, heavy, expensive, or hard to install as copper pipe. The main advantages of copper are its high pressure tolerance and the fact that it deals better with low temperatures. If water freezes in CPVC, the pipe can crack, so it is only recommended for indoor use.

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Common CPVC Applications: Home plumbing, hot water, potable water, hot water drains.


PEX (short for cross-linked polyethylene) is a type of plastic tubing constructed from high-density polyethylene. It is a relatively new innovation in the world of plumbing, but that does not mean it's not already famous. PEX tubing is durable, with the ability to withstand high pressures and temperatures. It is also inexpensive, costing much less to buy and install than Copper. But what really sets PEX pipe apart from the rest is its flexibility. PEX can literally be bent, curved, and snaked to get around corners without the use of fittings! This makes installation much easier than other types of piping! And did I mention PEX is color-coded for hot and cold sections?

When connections do need to be made in PEX systems, fittings are typically made of brass, which provides a solid hub. To make connections, users do not need glue, cement, or welding. Instead, metal crimp rings are used to squeeze tubing to fittings. A special crimping tool must be used to make these connections. PEX, which is also very resistant to chemicals and corrosion, also has a few negative aspects. It, like PVC and CPVC is not recyclable. PEX tubing also degrades very quickly in ultraviolet light, so it is not rated for outdoor use.

Common PEX Applications: New homes, remodeling, low ventilation zones.

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Copper piping has been the standard for plumbing systems since the 1960s. This is due to its many great qualities, including high pressure tolerance, impressive temperature rating, and wide ranging chemical resistances. It is a tough material that can last a long time and take punishment. Where copper continues to shine, even with all the new innovations in plumbing, is in low temperature applications. It does not crack or burst when water freezes inside the pipe, unlike PVC and CPVC.

Despite all its advantages, copper falls behind in many respects. First, and most importantly, copper is expensive. Not only is the piping itself several times the price of CPVC or PEX, it is also more expensive to install, requiring a professional who knows how to weld. Aside from price, copper piping is also loud and heavy. Finally, copper conducts heat, meaning it does not preserve the temperature of hot water very well at all. Despite how common and standard copper has been in the past, you may want to consider using a more modern plastic material.

Common Copper Applications: Commercial and residential plumbing, potable water.


Brass piping is an even older option than copper with many of the same advantages. It naturally resists corrosion from water and many chemicals. It also has impressive strength, with even thicker walls than copper. This makes brass one of the best types of piping materials for high pressure systems. It is also a material most plumbers are familiar with and know how to install, which is helpful when using a contractor.

Brass has some of the same problems as copper, however, which is why it is not typically used as a go-to piping material anymore. In addition to noise, weight, and cost, brass can also contain trace amounts of lead. Today, most brass is lead-free, but you should never purchase any brass plumbing materials for potable systems until you are sure they are 100% lead-free. Check local plumbing code before using brass for your system.

Common Brass Applications: Water supply lines, gas lines.

Galvanized Piping

Galvanized piping is usually made from steel or iron. The word "galvanized" refers to the zinc coating covering these pipes and fittings. The coating gives the pipes a shiny gray look and makes them excellent at resisting rust. Galvanized metal is often used in construction, but it also works for water pipes. One of the most helpful qualities of galvanized piping is that it can be installed outdoors or underground due to it's strength.

Galvanized pipe should not be used for gas, as gas can remove the galvanized coating. These systems can also be difficult to install, depending on whether you are working with iron or steel. As always, check local code to ensure you are able to use this pipe.

Common Galvanized Applications: Water supply lines, underground & outdoor applications.