Types of Underground Water Pipes

Updated February 21, 2017

Water pipes are some of the most basic and important elements in any building. When undertaking a building project, choosing what type of materials to use is sometimes one of the most challenging tasks involved. Many different types of water supply pipes are available, each with its own strengths and weaknesses. Learning what these are is important for anyone looking to create a building with plumbing.

Cast Iron Pipes

The most commonly-used type of pipe for water supply is cast iron piping. They are thick and heavy pipes, which means they can withstand a great deal of water pressure as well as wear and tear from outside. These pipes are extremely simple to manufacture, to lay out and to join together. They usually have an interior diameter of between ½ to 2 inches. However, because of iron's extreme weight, these pipes are usually made in short sections, meaning it takes contractors more time to join all the pieces together, as well as more time to transport the pipes.

Steel Pipes

Steel pipes are also frequently used for water pipes. Most commonly, they are used for longer distance piping needs where the water is under a considerable amount of pressure. Steel as a material lends itself especially well to welding. An advantage of steel pipes over cast iron pipes is the fact that steel pipes are sometimes made in longer sections, lowering transport and joining duration and cost. In addition, steel pipes are not as heavy as cast iron pipes.

Cement Pipes

Cement pipes are another favourite option for water pipes. Concrete makes a good choice because it is far less likely to corrode than iron or steel; however, concrete pipes are also heavier and more bulky than metal pipes and take a great deal of time to connect together.

Copper Pipes

Copper tubes were introduced around 1900 and became common around 1950; they are still in wide use today. Copper piping comes in three types, K, L, and M. Type K is most frequently used underground, as it has the thickest wall size.

PVC Pipes

Un-plasticised PVC (UPVC) pipes are also frequently used for piping water. Chlorinated PVC (CPVC) is also widely used. They have steadily increased in use since about 1980 and are a nice combination of lightweight and strong; therefore, you can transport them in large sections, unlike cast iron or concrete, and join them together easily. Another advantage is the smooth internal surface of these pipes; water can flow greatly unimpeded, saving on power costs. One big disadvantage comes with UPVC, however; you cannot use it in extremely hot environments.

Cite this Article A tool to create a citation to reference this article Cite this Article

About the Author

Justin Mitchell has been a writer since 2009. In 2002, he received a B.A. in theater and writing from the University of Northern Colorado. Mitchell worked as an ESL teacher in Europe and Asia before earning a master's degree in journalism from the City University of New York. He has written for the "New York Daily News" and, among other outlets.