Main Types of Plumbing Pipes

The Main Types of Plumbing Pipes Used in Homes

Overview: Learn the most popular plumbing pipes used in homes and understand how their uses vary 

Plumbing has come a long way from clay pipes used in ancient times to supply water and carry sewage away. Today, we have a variety of pipes separately for hot and cold water in every house with a vital drain and vent system. While there are 5 main types of pipes commonly found in every home (PVC, PEX, ABS, galvanized, and copper), not every pipe is suitable for all situations.

Daniel O’Brian, the technical expert for online plumbing retailer SupplyHouse.com, stated: ” Building codes set forth measures that should be adhered to, not only to ensure public safety but also to protect from property damage.” So let’s consider the most common types of plumbing pipes used, and why.

PEX Pipe:   

Polyethylene cross-linked pipe is an affordable plastic tubing, popular for water supply as it wouldn’t leach traces of rust or corrosion into the water. PEX is rigid enough to withstand water pressure in the pipes but flexible enough to weave through walls, ceilings, and crawlspaces. It’s also a more affordable option compared to others on the market.

PVC Pipes:   

Polyvinyl chloride pipe is the white pipe commonly used for waste lines. Initially, it gained popularity as a lighter and easier to work with option compared to copper and galvanized steel pipes. However, it’s more pricey (but its durability backs up the price).

PVC pipes are also easy to install, requiring just a hacksaw and a miter box to cut. You can glue these together with a solvent if you don’t want to contact a plumber.

Copper Pipes:   

Commonly known as rigid copper pipes due to their shiny brown appearance, these pipes are often used for water supply lines in residential areas. Copper pipes are valuable because they don’t come with health risks; unlike other pipes, they ensure a safe water supply that leaches chemicals. Rigid copper is durable, and you can easily cut it with a tubing cutter or a hacksaw. But keep in mind that they are more on the expensive side.

ABS Pipes:   

ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) pipes are made of a thermoplastic resin that looks much like PVC pipes. The only exception is that they’re black and slightly softer. Mainly used as a vent or drain line, these pipes are fairly durable through sun exposure and are a cost-effective choice. Before installing, check your local regulations, as this piping option doesn’t code everywhere.

Galvanized Steel Pipes:   

Galvanized steel is a rigid and corrosion-resistant pipe that people have used for decades for water supply, drainage, and several other purposes. Galvanized pipes are infrequently installed, usually in older homes, are far less common, and aren’t used for water supply in freshly constructed or remodeled projects.

While the durability of galvanized steel pipes is unquestionable, it’s pretty pricey to install. Each end of the galvanized pipe is threaded, and the pipes are screwed into each other with connecting fittings which is quite complicated as a DIY.


When choosing the best pipe for your home plumbing, one of the most important factors to consider is the function the pipe needs to perform (you also don’t want to forget the layout of the space you’re working with). And, of course, speaking with a contractor or plumbing expert can help you make proper measurements and informed decisions for your project.

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