Plumbing: PVC vs ABS
Plumbing your house is always a challenge, especially when you are doing the actual installation. There are many different types of materials to choose from where plumbing is concerned, including porcelain, cast iron, brass, and PEX.
There are pros and cons for each one of these materials but probably the most common type is PVC or polyvinyl chloride which is used in both residential and commercial properties to connect pipes together. While there are different variables that go into determining if PVC or ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) would be better for your home, here’s a general idea of what you should consider.
What is PVC?
PVC is a specific type of plastic that is designed to be rigid and fire-resistant. It’s used in the manufacture of window frames, plumbing pipes, insulation for electrical cables, and much more.
While this material isn’t perfect, it does have a lot going for it as long as it’s been manufactured correctly. For example, if you have PVC pipes from your main water supply into the home, they are generally considered to be safe since they will last up to 50 years with no problems at all.
In fact, research has found that the only problem with PVC occurs when there has been a failure in manufacturing or installation which includes improper bending or overheating due to incorrect installation techniques or inferior products. The potential problem areas occur when using glue joints where the pipes are joined together.
If you have low-quality glue or if the product is already damaged, this often leads to leaks and other problems.
How can you identify PVC?
PVC is usually easy to recognize by its trademark smell and texture which is different than ABS. When it’s manufactured, it has a rubbery feel, and rather than being shiny like ABS, it appears dull but over time that surface tends to yellow with age.
You’ll find that PVC pipes will be moldy or discolored in areas where there’s been a lot of moisture or pressure on them as well as having dents which also break down the surface making it easier for water damage to occur from inside out although generally not from outside in because those seams tend to be protected by armor or another coating.
How can PVC cause problems?
There are several different ways that PVC can cause problems in your home, including the fact that it tends to shrink and become brittle when it’s exposed to too much heat. While this is not really a problem with water supply lines, if you’re using them for heating or air conditioning pipes then they may burst or crack since these materials expand and contract at different rates depending on what time of year it is.
It also causes trouble when heated because the material has no give like rubber does so things like hoses could easily burst since there’s nothing soft inside to absorb the pressure which causes them to rupture. For example, convection ovens tend to put out hundreds of degrees which can be a problem for PVC that’s directly in front of it.
If you do have PVC installed, make sure you keep an eye on what’s going on with it and look for any signs where the material is beginning to crack or break down so that you can replace it before something bad happens.
What is ABS?
ABS or the acrylonitrile butadiene styrene material is also a type of plastic that’s used for pipes. However, unlike PVC, it has different properties and therefore is considered to be safer although not without faults of its own.
For example, ABS tends to be less rigid than PVC since ABS will bend before breaking which makes it more flexible although not necessarily resistant to high temperatures like PVC can be.
If you’re considering buying or installing new piping in your home, there are some things you should definitely keep in mind. The first thing you should know is how these materials react with water since both can allow chemicals into your drinking supply line which could lead to health issues if they are not properly installed.
ABS does have this problem and can leak and it’s suggested that you don’t use ABS if you’re going to be using your water for drinking since the chemicals may affect you over time.
While these pipes generally won’t corrode on their own, they can become contaminated causing bad odors and tastes in your water supply lines. This again tends to happen when it has not been properly cut or if there has been damage due to infections of some sort.
How can you identify ABS?
ABS products can be identified by their shiny surface and resilient feel. They are usually dark gray or black although you’ll find that they do have a faint plastic smell due to the fact that this is an oil-based product which is why it’s not advisable for drinking water.
Since ABS piping has been known to crack and leak, you should avoid using ABS products when there’s a chance of high heat exposure since this causes the material to weaken.
There are some exceptions where ABS may be used with boilers or around radiators since these appliances don’t get hot enough on their own so as long as nothing else heats them up, ABS will hold up just fine. In addition, if your main use is to be connected to a cold water source like a cold water tap, then ABS is also okay.
Will you have problems with ABS?
ABS is generally more resistant to cracking, corrosion, and burning than PVC which means you will probably have fewer problems with this material. While it can still become contaminated or experience damage due to punctures, if the pipe has been installed correctly then the chances of this happening are not as high as they would be for PVC piping.
The one problem most people do run into is when their pipes hit cold joints where the pipes touch each other since these areas tend to stay cool even when water is flowing through these lines at a high speed and that’s when cracks and leaks most frequently occur in ABS systems.
This doesn’t mean however that it won’t happen on its own from time to time but it does make it less common although you should watch for any signs of problems and fix them as soon as possible.
The best way to compare these two types of piping products is through a cost/benefit analysis instead of worrying about what material might be better in specific circumstances since that is not always true.
ABS might be better for some and PVC could be better for others depending on their individual needs and preferences with neither one holding a significant advantage over the other even though they may look different from each other at first glance.
In general, ABS piping is considered more flexible than PVC piping which means you can have a lot of the same advantages as PVC without many of the potential problems.
In addition, it’s a great choice for people who want to avoid using materials that release poisonous chemicals into their water supply but still need a pipe that has some strength and flexibility. Some products also have both ABS and PVC in them so you can get the best of both worlds.
The big thing about ABS is that it generally won’t corrode or crack due to its increased resistance to heat compared to regular old PVC which might make sense if you’re worried about leaks or corrosion destroying your home down the road.
On the other hand, sometimes this it will expand too much if it’s exposed to too much heat which is another reason why it might be the best choice for outside piping that can get hit hard by cold weather.
PVC is more likely to corrode or crack, but since it’s also cheaper than ABS, some people may still want to use PVC materials even if they’re not really designed for long-term usage in certain types of climates.
Keep in mind though that this isn’t always bad because sometimes the weakness of these materials will make them more likely to break at a weak point rather than at a joint where you have another piece of pipe placed against it which could lead to additional water leaks along with your piping system.
PVC piping is cheaper than ABS pipe but may corrode over time due to certain environmental factors like outside weather and humidity levels while still allowing for flexibility that isn’t found with ABS at all times.
It also may not resist heat as well if it’s exposed to high temperatures for too long which means you’ll have to be careful about where you install your PVC piping systems since hot water could eventually destroy them if they’re installed in an area that gets a lot of direct sunlight.
Which one is better for plumbing?
Each of these materials has its advantages and disadvantages even though the piping can be used in similar situations. If you’re looking for problems in your home, PVC is usually the easier one to spot since it will start getting brittle over time or when exposed to heat which can cause cracks or leaks to form.
ABS generally doesn’t show signs like this but when they do occur, they are more likely to be found at a cold joint where there’s been a lot of shifting due to temperature changes.
What if something goes wrong? Since both PVC and ABS emit chemicals from time to time, you should make sure that either material isn’t installed directly next to your drinking water supply lines because of the chance that impurities could affect it by leaching into it or that you will get the taste/smell of chemicals in your water.
This means that if you’re having problems with either material, then it should be replaced as soon as possible to avoid potential health problems down the road.
One other thing to think about is where your pipes are located since if they are outside, they can become damaged more easily by things like freezing temperatures.
For example, if the ground freezes around them and thaws out, this can cause cracks in ABS pipe materials while PVC may not be affected which means it’s important to know exactly what type of pipe you have installed at all times so that leaks don’t go unnoticed for too long or that there isn’t corrosion material building up on piping which could eventually lead to a break.
There is also the simple fact that ABS piping is about 20% lower in price than PVC, so if initial installation costs are an issue for you, then this might be the way to go.
Otherwise, think about other factors like performance and whether it can withstand potential damage from other sources like changing temperatures before deciding on one material over another.
What about the combination?
Most ABS and PVC piping products will come in a combination of both ABS and PVC materials. This way, you can find the best of both worlds when it comes to performance while also keeping costs down if that’s what you’re after.
It’s generally better than just using one or the other simply because there are no significant benefits to having one material over another which means depending on your situation, either could work for you.
The best thing about using ABS and PVC is that they both tend to work well in certain situations like outdoors where moisture might cause problems with PVC versus your average indoor situation which probably won’t last as long if you only use ABS.
Either way, it’s hard to make a complete decision on what type of pipe product is better because even slightly different preferences between individuals could lead to very different results and opinions on which one was actually better than the other.