PVC, ABS or Copper…Which pipe is right for you?
Before you decide to use PVC, ABS, or copper pipes in your home or business, it’s important to know more about each and what sets them apart. One type may work for one project, while another will be best for another. You’ll also want to check your local government’s building code regulations. Some do not allow PVC pipes, while others forbid ABS pipes to be installed.
Copper carries a separate list of things to consider. While copper pipes fit easier into small spaces and are more attractive than PVC or ABS pipes when exposed, they’re also more expensive.
What’s the difference between PVC and ABS?
ABS stands for Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene and PVA stands for Poly Vinyl Chloride. The difference between the two are fairly minor. The biggest difference is that ABS contains BPA while PVC does not. This alone is enough to give homeowners ABS pipes the red flag as BPA has been linked to serious health conditions including cancer.
Let’s take a closer look at the pros and cons of PVS, ABS and copper pipes below.
Pros and Cons: PVC pipes
- More flexible than ABS and copper pipes
- Quieter when in use than ABS and copper pipes. PVC pipes do a good job at muffling the sound of running water
- Strong, lightweight and durable
- Requires a two-step process to connect
- PVC pipe ends must be treated with a primer before applying cement
- Over time, PVC joints can break and leak
Pros and Cons: ABS pipes
- More shock-resistant than PVC
- Will hold up in below-zero temperatures better than PVC
- Can be bonded instantly using a special cement and with a one-step process
- Contains BPA
- Less heat-resistant. Can warp when exposed to extreme heat and constant direct sunlight
- More expensive than PVC pipe
Pros and Cons: Copper pipes
- Longer lasting than PVC and ABS pipes
- Easier to fit into small spaces and thinner walls
- Cleaner than PVC and ABS pipes. Some homeowners choose copper pipes because of concerns that ABS and PVC pipes are potentially harmful to your health
- More flexible at the joints, so less likely to leak and break
- More attractive than plastic pipes
- More expensive than PVC and ABS pipes
- Potential for corrosion, especially if exposed to acidic water
- Noisier than PVC and ABS pipes
- More difficult to install and may require a professional because they need to be soldered
Bottom line: Whether PVC, ABS, or copper – the choice really depends on what works best for your home and budget (and your city building codes). There are strong pros and cons for all types. If you’re still not sure, contact your plumber. We can help you decide what pipes are best for your needs.