How Do I Choose the Best Plumbing Materials?

Dan Cavallari

Plumbing projects will require various materials to ensure solid connections between pipes and proper disposal of wastewater. The plumbing materials most appropriate for your project will vary according to the type of work being done; installing a sink, for example, will require different plumbing materials than installing a hot tub. Some pipes may need to be insulated, while others may not require insulation but may require hangers to keep them in position against walls or along ceilings. A visit to the plumbing supply store will usually reveal numerous choices for each type of component you will need.

PVC pipe fittings.
PVC pipe fittings.

The quality of the plumbing materials can vary. Less expensive components may be made from plastic or thinner metals, while more expensive plumbing materials may be thicker metal or heat-treated materials that will encourage strength and durability. The threads of pipes and joints will need to be inspected carefully before purchase, as a poorly formed joint will often lead to leaking. Plumber's tape can be used to help prevent leaks in weak joints, as can flexrock packing. These materials should be a staple in any plumber's arsenal, as leaks are quite common, especially among older piping that may feature damaged threads or rusted sections.

Using plumber's tape helps prevent leaks.
Using plumber's tape helps prevent leaks.

It is very likely that you will need a pipe cutter and a pipe bender in order to cut pipes to length and form them to the shapes they need to hold. Pipe cutters vary in size according to the size of piping they are intended to cut. Larger pipes will need a larger cutter, and in most cases, the cutters are adjustable to accommodate various sizes of plumbing materials. Pipe benders will also vary in size according to the diameter of piping they are designed to bend. These tools can be made of plastic or metal, and they feature two arms that you will pull in toward each other once the pipe has been run through the guides.

PVC pipes are commonly used in plumbing.
PVC pipes are commonly used in plumbing.

The most common types of plumbing materials are copper and PVC pipes. PVC tends to be far less expensive than copper, which is a durable metal that allows for solid connections at joints and resistance to rust and impact. PVC is a plastic that is inexpensive, lightweight, and easy to cut, but it is not always as durable as copper and can have a tendency to crack or shatter if the pipe should freeze. PVC can also melt if it comes in contact with any heat sources.

Copper pipes are praised for their rust resistance and durability.
Copper pipes are praised for their rust resistance and durability.
PVC pipes should be connected using a high-quality solvent cement.
PVC pipes should be connected using a high-quality solvent cement.

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