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The plumbing in your home is a major part of the value, and it is also a critical system that you use daily. Fresh, clean water flowing through your pipes might make its way into drinking glasses, cooking pots, and the bathtub/shower. All of these applications mean that the water needs to be safe, and the materials used in a repair must meet stringent local building codes to ensure your health and safety. One of the most common DIY errors in plumbing repair starts with selecting the wrong materials and scheduling a professional plumbing repair technician to fix the problem.
Plumbers from bluefrog Plumbing + Drain can discuss all of the material options and give you the information you need to make an informed choice about the right types of pipes. Pipes can be made from metal or modern materials like PVC or PEX. Here’s a quick guide to the various pipe materials available and where they are safe to use for plumbing repair.
Some of the most common pipe materials include polyvinyl chloride (PVC), acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), cross-linked polyethylene (PEX), copper, cast iron, or galvanized steel.
PVC Piping Uses and Benefits
Made from a type of plastic, PVC is durable, inexpensive, easy to repair and does not rust. All of these factors combine to make it a great choice for drain lines, vent stacks, water mainline, and high-pressure applications. It is not a great choice for hot water lines or outdoor installations that are above grade. Both heat and UV rays can degrade PVC, making it problematic for some uses. Discuss this option with your plumbing repair tech to find out what codes might apply and the best options for your specific needs.
Should You Opt for ABS?
If you’re looking at a new car, ABS is a great choice, but for plumbing repair, ABS refers to a plastic pipe material that is more rigid than PVS and more prone to degradation. Not only can it warp in the sun, but this plastic might also loosen around joints due to temperature changes. While many plumbers no longer recommend this option for indoor use, ABS may be a solid choice for underground pipes. Consult an expert in plumbing repair who is familiar with local building codes to find out whether ABS is an option in your area.
Upgrading to PEX
It might be strange to think of one of the most inexpensive pipe options as an upgrade, but PEX has a lot to recommend it. Highly durable and unlikely to corrode, PEX is also flexible and curves around corners. That flexibility allows plumbers to weave PEX through existing pipe systems, using it to retrofit or re-pipe a home without the added cost of demolition or removal. Another benefit of PEX is that is can expand and contract, making it freeze-resistant and reducing the number of fittings needed during installation. Fewer fittings mean better water pressure at the faucet.
While PEX is a great choice for many interior installations, it can’t connect to the water heater and some regions may have local codes that limit your options for new piping.
Keeping the Copper
Copper is often the gold standard for piping inside your home. These pipes work well with hot or cold water, resist heat and corrosion, and have anti-microbial properties that are particularly valuable in water pipes. Copper is highly durable and typically lasts at least 50 years before it needs replacing. You can install copper indoors and underground, though pipes may need a sleeve depending on the soil composition. So, if copper is still the best, why consider alternatives? Cost.
The price per foot of copper is two to three times more expensive than comparable plastic pipe alternatives. Plus, when scheduling a plumbing repair, the labor on copper pipes is also higher. Talk about the costs of repairing or replacing copper pipes with your plumbing repair specialist.
Drainpipes in Cast Iron
Older homes may have cast iron drainpipes. These pipes are durable, heat resistant and help with sound reduction–all benefits for residential installations. However, cast iron can rust over time, which is one of the reasons new homes often come with PVC instead. One of the nice things about cast iron is that you don’t need to rush to replace every pit of pipe immediately. Instead, you can swap out the cast iron as it breaks down, replacing it with modern materials. Just be sure to have your pipes inspected regularly to avoid an expensive and unexpected plumbing repair.
Retrofit Galvanized Steel, Quickly
While popular at one time, homeowners and plumbers quickly realized that galvanized steel does not make an ideal pipe. Yes, galvanized steel is safe for use with water pipes, but the zinc coating does not prevent rust for long, leaving you with a constant series of leaks. The short lifespan of this piping makes it a reason to consider replacing every inch of this pipe with newer and better materials.
Is It Time to Replace Your Pipes?
Even if you don’t notice any problems with your plumbing, you should have your home inspected for lead pipes if it was built before 1950. Even if you only have lead drainpipes, any lead pipes are a sure reason to replace that part of your plumbing system. Polybutylene pipes are another reason to think about a whole-house replacement. Popular between 1978-1995, these pipes are much more likely to leak or burst, leaving you with a costly plumbing repair and lots of things to replace. According to InterNACHI, as many as 10 million American homes may have this material installed.
If you have lead pipes or suspect that some of your pipes might be Polybutylene, contact us at bluefrog Plumbing + Drain to discuss replacement options. Newer materials can last 100 years or more with the right maintenance.
If you notice discolored water from the tap or bubbling drains, these could be signs that it is time for pipe replacement. Visit our website to find a local plumber or call us at 1-844-HOP-TO-IT to schedule a plumbing repair today.