What Are Your Pipes Made Of?

Your plumbing system is arguably the most important and indispensable mechanism in your home. Your plumbing system’s pipes are what make that system possible. Connecting each water fixture in your home directly with your sewer or septic system, pipes are responsible for transferring all the water you use in and out of your house.

Simply put, pipes make your home livable. You want to ensure they last as long as they can and work as well as they should. One of the best, simplest ways homeowners can make sure their plumbing stays effective is by learning what their pipes are made of. Pipes can be made of a lot of different materials, and each material has different advantages and disadvantages. Here are five of the most common pipe materials, and what it means if you have them.

Lead

Good news: No one makes pipes out of lead anymore, and there is no lead in the city of Dallas’ water system. Not-so good news: Lead is still frustratingly prevalent in American homes. Most homes built before 1980 have lead solder in pipe joints, and older houses might have lead pipes. As lead pipes corrode, fragments can wind up in drinking water. Lead in water is really bad for you. Lead is harmful even in trace amounts. Children are particularly vulnerable to lead poisoning.

If you suspect you have lead pipes or lead solder, find out immediately by requesting a water report, having your water tested, or following these steps. You could also call us for an inspection. If you do have lead pipes, get them replaced as soon as possible. In the meantime, consider investing in a lead filter on your faucets and showerheads.

Steel

Galvanized steel pipes came into plumbing-vogue after we collectively figured out that lead was a bad idea. Like lead, steel is almost never used in modern homes. It’s highly unlikely you have steel pipes if your home was built after 1980. Though it is among the most durable of all materials pipes can be made of, steel is also expensive, heavy, and difficult to install.

Steel pipes are susceptible to internal rust. Galvanized steel pipes are covered with a layer of zinc. Persistent contact with flowing water can cause this zinc layer to wear away over time. This causes corrosion buildup inside the pipe, which lead to clogs in your water supply. To find out if you have steel pipes, scratch the piping where it enters your house. If the scratch is silver-grey and has threads of metal, it’s probably steel. Steel pipes can create a lot of problems as they age. If you have them, consider getting them replaced sooner rather than later.

Copper

Now we’re talking. Copper is the modern gold standard for home plumbing piping. It’s lighter than steel, thinner, easier to install, and extremely durable. Copper has the longest effective lifespan of any piping. It can last decades without corrosion or wear, and resists heat more effectively than other pipes.

Great as it is, copper isn’t without disadvantages. First and foremost: it costs money (it costs money because it saves money!). Copper is in high demand, and its price reflects that. A lot of copper pipes still have lead soldering in their joints, too, and though it’s resilient, copper can corrode over long periods like other metals. Finally, copper can be susceptible to pin leaks if it’s exposed to frequent temperature fluctuations. Despite these drawbacks, if you have copper piping you should be sitting pretty. If you’re worried about the age of your copper piping, ask your plumber for an inspection the next time you see them.

PVC

PVC piping is one of the most common pipes used today. The rigid plastic is easier to install and cheaper than metal piping, and can’t corrode or rust. PVC also tends to clog less than other piping. PVC’s white plastic is distinctive and easily spotted, makes it easier to tell where repairs are required should something go wrong.

Though PVC is cheap and invulnerable to some plumbing concerns, it isn’t as durable as metal. PVC is more susceptible to cracking and leaking than most piping, and the glue that holds joints together is more susceptible to deterioration. These issues make hairline leaks and punctures more likely in PVC than in other piping. There are varying qualities of PVC piping. Higher-end PVC isn’t quite as cheap, but it will also ameliorate some of the problems plastic piping struggles with.

If you get to know which of these materials makes up your plumbing system, you’ll have a much better understanding of how your plumbing works and how to keep it working well. The secret to long-lasting, effective plumbing is proper maintenance. Whatever kind of pipe you have, keep an eye out for any issues like consistent clogging or leaks and get them taken care of quickly.

If you keep having problems or if your water is discolored, you might want to consider replacing your pipes entirely. If that’s the case, or if you just want to know more about your plumbing system and how you can effectively maintain it, give us a call today. We’ll help make sure your plumbing stays effective for years to come.