ABS vs. PVC Pipes – What are Their Differences?

PVC pipes and sun ligth bacground.

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There are many reasons why plumbers and homeowners alike use plastic pipes in their plumbing projects. Plastic pipes are not only inexpensive, they are also lightweight and they never corrode. They are great in terms of keeping hot water hot, and they do not collect condensation from cold water, unlike metal pipes. However, not all plastic pipes are the same. The two most common plastic pipe materials are: Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) and Poly Vinyl Chloride (PVC). These two have some distinct differences.


If you are choosing between these two types, here are some things you need to consider:


Check the code first.

Some local governments have mandated building codes that determine which type can be used, but some leave the options up to builders and plumbers. Many of the key differences of ABS and PVC are either situational or minor, but there is only one difference that likely stands out to many homeowners: ABS pipes are made with Bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical commonly used to harden plastic and it is also present in all sorts of plastic materials such as containers for water and food.


While there is no evidence that BPA is not healthy for humans, animal studies have shown a growing range of concerns about possible neurological, hormonal and cardiological effects, among other probable problems.


Strengths and Weaknesses

One way to tell PVC and ABS apart is that PVC is white and ABS is black. Since pipes are not meant to be seen, plumbers are more interested in their other qualities.


PVC is more flexible than ABS pipes, but ABS is more shock-resistant, hence, it is stronger. ABS is also better at handling severely cold temperatures, but it can also warp with exposure to direct sunlight. PVC is believed to be better in terms of muffling the sound of running water.


When working with these materials, the biggest difference you should keep in mind is that ABS pipes have a one-step process for connecting them, while the PVC process has two steps. PVC pipes’ ends must first be treated with a purple primer before cement can be applied to, while ABS pipes can be bonded instantly using a special cement. For this reason, ABS pipes can sometimes be the most-effective choice even when they are more expensive than PVC.


If you need a more in-depth explanation on which pipe you should best use, give us a call today! Our expert plumbers will be more than willing to answer your questions!

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