Choosing Between PVC or ABS for Home or Industrial Use Pipes
Large industries and homeowners apply different types of piping for various purposes, including drainage, water supply, and even gas utilities.
There are various pipes to choose from, each with its own advantages and disadvantages.
Plastic pipes – most notably PVC and ABS pipes – have grown in popularity and appear to be the first choice for plumbing projects these days.
Not only inexpensive and lightweight, they will never corrode, are great at keeping hot water hot, and don’t collect condensation like metal pipes. But not all plastic pipes are the same.
So, which should you choose?
Here the team at Total Pipeline Systems explain a little bit about the two most common pipe materials – including their pros and cons – to help you make an informed decision.
PVC stands for polyvinyl chloride. The material itself is a chlorinated hydrocarbon polymer that, in its natural state, is rigid and brittle. However, when combined with additives, it’s made more resilient and malleable – perfect for water pipes, toys, clothes, shower curtains, cable insulation, amongst other things.
PVC pipes are a versatile and durable choice for professionals and DIYers alike. They are typically suited to indoor applications as they are soundproof – meaning you won’t hear the water flow through the system.
Pros of PVC
- Easy to install, dismantle, and maintain
- Durable under harsh conditions
- Resistant – ideal for transporting water and electricity as they offer high resistance to heat and corrosion
- Lightweight and easy to transport (eco-friendly)
- Cost-effective – a simple process is used for its mass production
- Safe and non-toxic
Cons of PVC
Whilst the positives generally outweigh the negatives, one possible downside to PVC is that it is made from materials that contain a substance called BPA (bisphenol A).
BPA has been used in the plastic making industry for many years and the potential risk of a PVC pipe is if you use it for transporting drinking water, as it contains this chemical substance.
Using PVC for anything else besides that won’t be too much of a problem. However, PVC requires a longer process to join together, and you will need additional materials for this.
ABS is short for Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene – a plastic commonly used to manufacture pipes and fittings, as well as other items such as toys (LEGO®), power tool bodies, valve handles, instrument cases, car bumpers, kitchen appliances, and more.
Much like PVC pipes, ABS pipes are ideal for commercial and residential applications and can be used for drain, waste, and vent piping systems and as insulation for electrical cables. However, an ABS waste pipe won’t flake, peel, rot, dissolve, fade, or leak, which makes it perfect for use outdoors and underground – providing it’s kept out of direct sunlight.
Pros of ABS:
- Simple to install
- Shock resistant
- Ability to withstand extremely cold temperatures
- Low cost
Cons of ABS:
ABS pipes tend to be stronger than their PVC counterparts – but it’s important to be aware of their disadvantages, too.
The material itself has a low melting point which renders it useless for high-temperature applications. It’s also flammable, which means it’s not suitable for indoor use.
An ABS waste pipe doesn’t stand up so well to UV exposure and can warp with exposure to direct sunlight.
What are the key differences between PVC and ABS pipes?
Though PVC and ABS pipes share some common uses and are similar in terms of cost, they also have several distinct differences. One of the most obvious being; PVC pipes are white and ABS pipes are black.
PVC is more flexible and better at muffling the sound of water as it travels through the pipework, but ABS is stronger and more shock resistant.
How the two types of pipes are installed is another key difference. An ABS waste pipe is typically the easiest to install – requiring a one-step process. PVC, on the other hand, has to be primed and then cemented together, taking slightly longer.
Which one is for me?
The final step is making the right decision on which pipe material to choose.
First, you need to consider your budget. Are you willing to invest some money into pipe instalments? If so, go for PVC. If money is tight, consider opting for an ABS waste pipe instead.
Once you’ve thought about how much you can afford to spend, the next step is to think about what the pipes are needed for. Will you be using them above or below ground? Will they be exposed to extreme weather and sunlight?
ABS is an excellent choice for below ground applications, whereas PVC is best used above ground – thanks to its resistance to heat and sunlight. In colder environments that don’t get much sunlight, an ABS waste pipe should suffice.
If you’re looking for waste pipes that are straightforward to install, ABS is best as you won’t need any additional materials or components to connect them.
Need an expert opinion?
The team at Total Pipes is always on hand and can help you to determine which is best.