ABS vs. PVC Piping (7 Key Facts to Consider)

Plastic piping is a staple of the plumbing industry today. Considering how far we've come throughout the history of indoor plumbing, reliable piping is nothing short of a modern luxury. But when it comes to piping materials, there's the question of ABS vs PVC pipes. If you're considering your options, there are several factors that will help you determine the best piping for your situation.

A variety of multi-colored plumbing pipe including ABS and PVC pipes.

What Is the Difference Between ABS and PVC Pipes?

Every plumbing job is different; there's no catch-all solution when it come to the debate on ABS vs. PVC pipes. With that in mind, here are some good considerations to take into account when you're looking at various materials.

Durability

An ABS pipe is more heavy-duty than a PVC pipe. This can make it an ideal choice for sewage jobs and other underground applications that may subject the piping to lower temperatures. PVC, on the other hand, is more commonly used for water lines and indoor plumbing.

Flexibility

When it comes to flexibility, PVC pipes are the clear winner. The malleability of this piping material makes it great for maneuvering around angular spaces indoors. Working with a tricky floor plan on an indoor plumbing job? It's likely that PVC will be the right choice for you.

Cost

With the skyrocketing costs of piping material across the plumbing industry, we can generally expect everything to be a tad more expensive in 2022. Traditionally, ABS pipes and PVC pipes are pretty comparable in price though. The general consensus is that ABS may be slightly more expensive, but the primer that is required to install PVC piping is an additional cost that tends to level the overall price point or make PVC slightly more cost-effective.

Location

The nature of the project and where the pipes will be located matters too. For instance? Will the piping be installed in your home or in the great outdoors? In general, PVC pipes are a great choice for indoor piping. One reason they're better suited for this environment is that sun exposure has a negative effect on PVC piping over time.

On the other hand, ABS pipes are better suited for outdoor (albeit underground) installation. One often encounters ABS piping in sewage systems, for instance. Like PVC, an ABS pipe should never be exposed to direct sunlight.


Aesthetics

While both pipes are made of plastic, it's quite easy to tell ABS and PVC apart. ABS pipes are black. PVC pipes, on the other hand, are typically white. While this is useful information for identification purposes, it shouldn't have any real influence on your decision-making process. Both pipe types serve purposes that generally keep them out of sight, so factoring aesthetics into your decision is likely unnecessary.

Indoor piping in a commercial building.

Building Codes

Your piping decision will also hinge to some degree on where you live. There are locations where either PVC or ABS pipes are required by code. It's always wise to ensure that any and all project materials remain in compliance with local legislation to avoid any problems down the road.

Environment

ABS piping contains a material called bisphenol A or "BPA" that has led to some controversy about the environmental safety of using such pipes over time. PVC pipes may represent a preferred alternative option for anyone worried about this. That said, the FDA has deemed BPA to be "safe in certain amounts" (Commercial Industry Supply). PVC piping is also FDA-approved.

More Questions About ABS vs PVC Piping?

Not sure which type of plastic is right for an upcoming plumbing project? Between material costs, local codes, environmental factors, and the strength/longevity of the product, there's certainly plenty to consider. Give our team a call to explore your options for ABS vs PVC pipes. Plumbing One has been a trusted leader in Central Ohio plumbing since 2008, and we look forward to supporting you in any way we can.

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A plumber working on the pipes on the underside of a bathroom sink.

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A plumber working on the pipes on the underside of a bathroom sink.