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Common Types of Pipe—and their Problems

Learn what causes common plumbing problems with various types of pipe

Common Types of Pipe—and their ProblemsAre you having trouble with leaks or blockages in your plumbing? The type of pipe material you have may help explain what’s causing your troubles. Here are the most common types of pipes along with their weaknesses.

Galvanized Iron: This type of piping, which consists of a steel pipe coated with a protective layer of zinc, is rarely seen these days, because it was popular before the 1960s and typically lasts only about 25 years. The main problem with galvanized iron is that over time the zinc coating on the pipe will erode. This leads to corrosion. Pipes may become blocked and/or leak.

Polybutylene: If your home was built between the 1970s and 1990s, it could have polybutylene pipe. This type of plastic pipe has a tendency to become brittle, especially when used to carry water with a high chlorine content. When polybutylene pipes start to leak, they must be replaced because this material is no longer code-compliant.

PVC & CPVC: Polyvinyl Chloride and Chlorinated Polyvinyl Chloride pipes are actually very strong and durable. They do have two main weaknesses though. First of all, this plastic material does not have a lot of give to it and can easily break if the building or ground shifts, such as in an earthquake. Secondly, if PVC is exposed to sunlight it will degrade and become brittle.

Clay: Some properties may have old clay sewer pipes connecting the buildings to the main sewer line. These types of pipes are very vulnerable to incursion by tree roots, which can cause leaks and clogs in the pipe.

Copper: According to some estimates, about 80 percent of the buildings in the US have copper pipe. Copper is a very durable pipe material and usually lasts 25 years or more, but it can fail much earlier if it develops pinhole leaks. This may occur if the pipe is too small for the pressure and flow of the water, so that the water rushes through so fast and forcefully that the protective coating erodes and the copper is exposed and left vulnerable to corrosion, or if you have hard water with a pH between 7 and 7.8, which can cause pitting.

PEX: The latest type of plumbing pipe to become popular in the US is PEX pipe. This strong, flexible plastic pipe has many advantages, including being easy to install behind walls and around corners with no joints, and being resistant to bursting and shearing. The main issue with PEX is that it cannot be exposed to direct sunlight or used underground.

Need to Repipe Your Home?

If you have an older, leaky pipe system in your home, you might be better off replacing it rather than making yet another repair. Call US Comfort now for a quote on PEX repipe or copper repipe.

Posted on October 26, 2015