Before picking out furniture, appliances or even decor for your new home or remodel, take a step back and consider something you’ll hope to never see again—the plumbing pipes.
Many homeowners let their builder, remodeler, or contractor choose the piping material and never question or give it a second thought; however, their choice can impact the well-being of your family, how well your new space functions, project costs and other factors.
Your builder or contractor will have excellent knowledge specific to your area, but ask questions and know your options so you can be part of the decision and comfortable with your piping choice.
Two Piping Categories, Many Options
Plumbing pipes for your home are either metal or plastic, with options falling under each.
Metal plumbing pipe options:
- Cast iron
- Galvanized steel (increasingly rare)
Plastic plumbing pipe options:
- ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene)
- CPVC (Chlorinated Poly (Vinyl Chloride))
- PE (Polyethylene)
- PE-RT (Polyethylene of Raised Temperature)
- PEX (Cross-Linked Polyethylene)
- PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride)
- PP (Polypropylene)
How Piping Is Used in Your Home
Plumbing piping inside your home serves three main purposes:
- To bring water from the local water utility or other source to the house through water service lines.
- To deliver hot and cold drinking water to faucets, showers, devices and appliances through water distribution systems.
- To collect and remove water, sewer gases and waste from toilets, showers, sinks and appliances through drain-waste-vent (DWV) systems.
4 Factors to Consider When Choosing Plumbing Pipe
What is the best material for use in water pipes? Here’s what to think about:
One of the first factors to consider is knowing which piping systems are approved for use in specific residential applications by your local building department. You can ask your builder or contractor for that information or request it through your area’s building officials.
All major codes allow plastic piping. Some jurisdictions may have limitations on use of particular materials. However, there is often flexibility with these codes; if another product will meet your needs and is safe for use for your specific application, you can ask for acceptance of an alternative material, called alternate approval.
Do you know how corrosive your water is? The corrosion potential, also referred to as the aggressiveness, of water varies depending on the overall chemistry of your water. It’s an important factor in your piping decision because not all plumbing materials stand up to corrosive water as well as others.
If your water is very aggressive, you may want to limit your use of metal to avoid iron, copper or other chemicals leaching into your water (and staining your laundry!). In addition to chemical leaching, copper pipes are more prone to pinhole leaks and pitting (which can lead to mold or bacteria growth) from aggressive water.
Plastic piping is the best choice to avoid corrosion, scale buildup, and damage from highly aggressive water. Plastic piping is durable and better able to handle a range of water types, including well water, high salt content, highly chlorinated water and other elements that can put stress on your plumbing system.
Your builder or contractor should know about the water quality in your area, but you can also connect with your local water officials or building department for additional information.
Another big factor in your piping decision will be your budget. Contractors, plumbers and homeowners frequently choose plastic piping for its affordability and ease of installation, which impact the remodel or build’s cost and time for completion.
Metal also weighs more than plastic, so it’s more expensive to ship and requires more manpower and equipment to install. Copper piping is attractive to jobsite theft.
If you’re remodeling your home, plastic piping is a great option to help save money because of its flexibility and compatibility with existing systems. Some types of plastic piping easily snake through framing, so you can avoid having to tear open walls to run new lines, which is often required with metal piping.
Sustainability and maintenance
If you value sustainable products, plastic pipes and fittings are a great choice. Plastic pipes and fittings are a green building choice due to:
● Clean, low-energy manufacturing. Raw materials for metal pipes and fittings, on the other hand, require a lot more energy and resources to extract and to process into pipe.
● Transportation energy savings resulting from lightweight plastic, compared to heavier metal alternatives.
● More efficient delivery of hot water, so you waste less waiting for hot water to reach the showerhead or tap. Plastic distribution piping can have a higher velocity and lower wasted volume than metal.
Don’t want to worry about maintenance? Plastic pipes and fittings are virtually maintenance-free. Plastic piping is not subject to pitting and corrosion, and it can easily withstand most water treatment.
To explore the difference between some of the most common plastic piping, read our blog post comparing plastic piping solutions. Ready to talk to your builder or contractor about piping for your home remodel or build? Check out these questions to ask.