Plumbing pipes come in a range of materials and types. You may not think much of it, but it’s important to know and understand how different types of plumbing pipes function and their good and bad qualities. Why? Because all of your water and gas comes through these pipes to provide you with water to drink and bathe in, along with many other things that help your home function well.

Modern plumbing usually uses either copper pipes or plastic. Newer houses will see this, but older houses may use different types of materials. We’ll run through each type of material in detail:

Copper Pipes

These are usually used for water supply lines, because they are safer on health than other materials such as PVC. It is also the most commonly used pipe material in Australia. Existing systems are now reaching as old as 60 years old and are still running strong.

The great thing about copper piping is that it is not as prone to corrosion, leaks and also act as a natural defence against bacteria growth.

Galvanized Steel

You’ll mainly find this material in older homes – built between the 1930s and 1980s. Galvanised steel is very heavy and is coated in zinc to help prevent rusting internally. Over time, these pipes can caused reduced water pressure and clogs. As this material corrodes, it can also release lead into your tap water, causing water discolouration and contamination.

If you have galvanised steel pipes, it is best to have these re-piped and replaced with either copper or PEX material.

Plastic Pipes

Plastic pipes are another modern, popular option because they are very durable and don’t rust, corrode or degrade over time. They come in a number of different types:

PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride): These are commonly used for basins, sinks and toilets and for moving rainwater to storage tanks or directly into an underground drainage system. They are easy and inexpensive to install and work well carrying high water pressure. If you’re having PVC pipes installed, be sure to check the pipes as they are configured to different water pressures. The downside to PVC piping is that they can be prone to warping when exposed to hot water.

CPVC (Chlorinated Polyvinyl Chloride): These are PVC piping with extra chlorine to help make it safe for transferring drinking water. They work well with both hot and cold water and are more flexible than normal PVC piping. However, they can split if they freeze.

PEX (Cross-linked polyethylene): Works well with both hot and cold water and is generally used for internal plumbing due to their flexibility and lightweight attributes. While some PEX piping does support UV stability, they are generally sensitive to this kind of exposure.

Types of Metal Pipes

Stainless Steel: This is similar to copper, being strong and corrosion resistant. However, it is more expensive than these other common options.

Cast Iron: Very heavy and very durable.