ABS & PVC Piping Provide Different Advantages

There are many reasons why homeowners and plumbers alike use plastic pipes in their plumbing projects. Plastic pipes are inexpensive, lightweight and will never corrode. They’re great at keeping hot water hot, and they don’t collect condensation from cold water as many metal pipes do. But not all plastic pipes are the same, and the two most common plastic pipe materials (ABS and PVC) have some distinct differences.

If you have a plumbing project coming up and are trying to choose which type of pipe to use, read on to learn which piping materials are most appropriate for your plans.

Sign Up for the Royal Flush newsletter today!

ABS Pipes vs. PVC Pipes

Many of the key differences between Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) and Poly Vinyl Chloride (PVC) are either minor or situational, but there’s one difference likely to stand out to many homeowners: ABS pipe is made with BPA, and PVC pipe is not.

BPA, or Bisphenol A, is a chemical commonly used to harden plastic. It is present in all sorts of plastic materials, including containers for food and water. While there is no evidence that BPA poses a risk to humans, animal studies show a growing range of concern about possible hormonal, neurological, and cardiological effects, among other potential problems. The Food and Drug Administration has revised its BPA recommendations in recent years, though its current assessment is that BPA is safe at current levels occurring in foods.

Before you put too much thought into deciding between ABS and PVC plastic piping, you should know that your local government may have already made the decision for you. Some local building codes mandate the use of one type of pipe over the other for drainage, sewage, or other plumbing projects, though many leave the option up to plumbers and builders.

Strengths & Weaknesses of Plastic Pipes

One easy way to tell ABS and PVC apart is that ABS pipes are black and PVC pipes are white. But since pipes aren’t meant to be seen, plumbers are usually more interested in other qualities. For example, PVC is more flexible, but ABS is stronger and more shock resistant. ABS is better at handling severely cold temperatures, but it can warp with exposure to direct sunlight. PVC is thought to be better at muffling the sound of running water. In most North American markets, the two types are priced similarly. Where significant price differences can be found, it’s usually due to higher shipping costs for one type.

Working with ABS or PVC Piping

When working with these materials, the biggest difference is that the ABS pipe has a one-step process for connecting pipes, while the PVC process has two steps. ABS pipes can be bonded instantly with a block of special cement, but PVC pipe ends must first be treated with a purple primer before its cement can be applied. The primer is messy and must fully dry before the next step can be taken, so it can add extra labor to a project. For this reason, ABS can sometimes be the most cost-effective choice even when the pipes themselves are more expensive than PVC.

The plumbing experts at your local Benjamin Franklin can tell you which type of plastic pipe is ideal for your home, climate, and needs. Give them a call for any plumbing job, large or small—they have all the answers! Contact us online or call us at (800) 259-7705.