The Difference Between ABS Vs. PVC Pipes

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The Difference Between ABS Vs. PVC Pipes
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plumber installing PVC drain pipe

When it comes to plumbing projects, many homeowners prefer to use either PVC or ABS pipes instead of traditional copper pipes, iron pipes, or other metal pipes because plastic pipes are cheaper, easier to work with, and lighter in weight. However, there are some key differences between these two types of plastic pipes that you should be aware of before making a decision about which one to use for your project, and the goal of this article is to explain those differences to you so you can make a more informed decision the next time you need to install or replace pipes in your home.

Call Western Rooter & Plumbing if you’re unsure!

If you’re currently working on a DIY plumbing project and aren’t sure about the key differences between ABS and PVC, we always recommend calling a licensed and insured plumber (like Western Rooter & Plumbing). Trying to do plumbing DIY work by yourself without the proper knowledge or experience can result in serious injury, damage to your home, and even legal trouble. So unless you’re 100% confident in what you’re doing, it’s always best to just call a professional from the start.

This article is in no way a recommendation to DIY your next plumbing project, unless you’re either a licensed plumber or know exactly what you are doing.

What is ABS pipe?

ABS, or acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, is a black plastic pipe that is commonly used for drainage, sewage, and vents. It is also often used in DWV systems (drain-waste-vent), which are designed to remove wastewater from a home or business.

The reason it is ideal for these applications is because it is extremely durable and can withstand high temperatures, making it resistant to both chemical and physical damage. Additionally, it is not susceptible to corrosion like metal pipes are, so it will not rust over time.

One of the key benefits of using ABS pipe is that it is less likely to deform in high temperatures than PVC pipe, which means it can be used for both hot and cold water applications. ABS is also resistant to a variety of chemicals, making it ideal for use in industrial settings such as factories or laboratories.

However, one potential downside of using ABS pipe is that it contains a chemical known as BPA, or bisphenol A, which has been linked to a variety of health concerns. The BPA is a plastic hardening agent, which helps to preserve the lifespan of the pipe but can also leach into the water that flows through it.

The level of BPA contained in ABS pipes is considered the the FDA to be safe for use in food applications, however, so don’t worry – you’re going to be okay if you choose to use ABS pipes in your next plumbing project.

What is PVC pipe?

PVC, or polyvinyl chloride, is a white or light-colored plastic pipe that is most commonly used for plumbing and drainage. Like ABS, it is often used in DWV (drain-waste-vent) or sewerage systems to remove waste from a home or business.

PVC is similar to ABS in that it is durable and resistant to both physical and chemical damage, however, it has a few key differences that make it better suited for certain applications…

For example, PVC is more flexible than ABS, which makes it less likely to crack or break under pressure. One of the key benefits of PVC pipe is that it is not as brittle as ABS pipe and can withstand higher temperatures without deforming.

However, one downside of PVC pipe is that it is not as flexible as ABS pipe, so it may not be suitable for all applications.

As a rule of thumb, use PVC for indoor plumbing and ABS for outdoor and underground plumbing.

ABS vs. PVC pipes – which should you use?

The differences between ABS and PVC pipes can be summarized as follows:

  1. ABS pipes are black and made of a plastic called acrylonitrile butadiene styrene. They’re commonly used for drainage, sewage, and vents.
  2. PVC pipes are white or light-colored and made of a plastic called polyvinyl chloride. They’re most commonly used for plumbing and drainage.
  3. PVC pipes are more flexible than ABS pipes, making them ideal for a wide range of applications.

Make sure to check with your local municipality, because they may have specific requirements for which type of pipe to use in your home for what type of application to ensure the safest and most effective plumbing system possible.

When to use ABS pipe?

You should use ABS pipe when your application is completely underground, cool, and in locations that are not exposed to direct sunlight. This is because, over time, sunlight can degrade the quality of the pipe.

ABS is also a good choice for applications where chemical resistance is a key concern, such as in industrial settings or laboratories.

When to use PVC pipe?

PVC pipes are ideal for above-ground applications, such as in indoor plumbing, as they are more flexible than ABS pipes and less likely to break or crack. PVC pipes are also a good choice for applications where high temperatures are a concern, as they can withstand higher temperatures than ABS without deforming.

Can I use ABS or PVC for water supply lines?

You should only use ABS or PVC for drinking/potable water supply lines if the pipe is underground and is not in direct exposure to sunlight or heat.

Copper piping is always the safes option for carrying drinking water. Make sure to check with your local municipality for further guidance.

Still not sure?

If you’re still not sure about which type of pipe to use for your next plumbing project, we always recommend calling a licensed and insured plumber (like Western Rooter & Plumbing). We’ll be happy to answer any questions you have and help you make the best decision for your specific needs. Thanks for reading!

John, Larry, Mike, owners of Western Rooter & Plumbing

Need expert plumbing help?

If you’re having plumbing issues or emergencies, contact Western Rooter & Plumbing online or call our dispatch center at (626) 448-6455. We are the Los Angeles County and San Gabriel Valley’s number one plumbers – don’t wait, call now!

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