One of the most common types of plastic water pipes is polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, pipe. Other types of plastic plumbing pipe include cross-linked polyethylene, high density polyethylene, chlorinated polyvinyl chloride and acrylonitrile butadiene styrene. Each type of pipe is used in specific types of plumbing, and each has distinct advantages and disadvantages when compared to other types of pipe.

Uses for Plastic Pipes

Typically, CPVC, or chlorinated polyvinyl chloride, pipe is used for residential plumbing, as the material is flexible, durable and affordable. CPVC is recommended for indoor plumbing, especially in areas where the pipes are exposed to water over 140 degrees Fahrenheit. Some other types of pipe, such as regular PVC, warp when they are exposed to water temperatures over 140 degrees.

PEX, or cross-linked polyethylene, is also a popular choice for residential use. PEX is flexible and easily withstands water pressure, making the pipe ideal for boilers and other appliances in the home. PEX pipe is typically installed to deliver water into the home, while other types of pipe are used for drainage.

High density polyethylene, or HDPE, pipe is also an option. HDPE pipe is more durable than other options, as the joints are heat-sealed. The pipe is also available in long sections and requires fewer joints than some other options. Grey polybutylene, or PB, pipe is often found in older homes. PVC pipe is usually preferable to PB pipe because PB splinters and breaks easily.

Advantages and Disadvantages of Plastic Pipe

An advantage of using PEX pipe is that the pipe is available in different colors, which makes repairs and installation simpler. For instance, installing red pipe for the hot water lines or blue for cold water lines allows homeowners to identify specific pipes quickly if a problem occurs. While plastic pipe is flexible and durable, some types of pipe require more support than others. For instance, CPVC require more support than some other types of plastic pipe because it is very flexible.

One downside to installing plastic pipe is the pipe's prone to freezing when temperatures drop, and the pipes may burst when they thaw. Most types of plastic pipe is prone to freezing. To prevent freezing, the pipe should be insulated in areas where freezing temperatures may occur. While metal pipe corrodes and degrades over time, properly installed plastic pipe can last for many years to come.

Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, or ABS, is made from black plastic and is typically used for drainage. ABS is particularly useful outdoors because the pipe is very break-resistant. It is important to note that the building codes in some regions do not allow the installation of ABS. If ABS is prohibited, HDPE or polyvinyl chloride pipe is used in its place.

When a Leak Occurs

Most indoor leaks are easy to fix if the pipe is visible, but not all leaks are readily apparent. For instance, leaks can occur underground and inside the walls. Slab leaks are also common, and can be very difficult to repair without the right tools. If a hidden or difficult-to-repair leak is present, a professional plumber is the fastest and most effective option. A professional plumber has the tools that are necessary to find and repair underground leaks easily, no matter which type of pipe is present in the home or building.