Types of Plastic Pipe Found in Residential Construction

Written by rebecca burdick
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Types of Plastic Pipe Found in Residential Construction
Many types of plastic pipes are used in residential construction. (construction material image by Greg Pickens from Fotolia.com)

In residential construction, there are a few types of plastic piping used throughout the project. All of these pipes are meant to carry water, sewage or vent gases. Each type of pipe has a different use, different properties and different costs. It's important to know what type of piping you're working with because it is nearly impossible to join some different kinds of piping together without creating a problem.


Poly-vinyl chloride (PVC) piping is white. It is found very frequently in sprinkler systems. If can withstand a lot of pressure, but breaks down in sunlight. It is suitable for burying underground, and in some areas it is even approved for carrying drinking water. PVC is joined by cleaning the joining surfaces, priming them and then using a PVC solvent to liquefy the plastics, which then must be joined very quickly.


Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) is a black plastic piping material. It is porous in nature due to the way it is manufactured. Its porosity lessens the strength of the material, but also reduces manufacturing costs. It's typically used for drains or vent stacks. Vents stacks are simply a vent to allow air to escape up through the roof, and drains have very little pressure. This makes ABS a good material for these purposes.


Cross-linked high-density polythene (PEX) is a flexible pipe made for carrying water. It is used for radiant heat floors, in which hot water is run through pipes laying just under the flooring surface. This role can also be reversed to have cold water run through the floor piping should the owner so desire an installation like this. PEX is also an amazing alternative to traditional copper plumbing. Red and blue PEX piping, hot and cold respectively, can be run from a central manifold to each separate water outlet in your home. Since the pipe is flexible, it means that no soldering or brazing is necessary and far fewer holes need to be drilled. This allows for all of your water to flow from one central manifold in much the same way that all of your electricity stems from one central breaker panel. This makes it possible to shut off individual parts of the house or the entire house all from one easy-to-reach location.


Chlorinated PVC (CPVC) is orange in colour and is generally only used on indoor fire sprinkler systems, although it can be found in some other places. It is not suitable for drinking water, but is able to withstand higher pressures than other types of PVC.

Electrical PVC Conduit

This PVC is grey in colour and is made for carrying wire. It is unsuitable for carrying drinking water, and is not rated for high pressure. It is purely made as a conduit for electrical wiring. Some circuits that need to be buried can use this grey PVC pipe as a less expensive alternative to coated metal piping.

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