What is Polyethylene Pipe?

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  • Written By: Malcolm Tatum
  • Edited By: Bronwyn Harris
  • Last Modified Date: 29 November 2018
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Polyethylene pipe is piping constructed of a flexible plastic created with the use of petroleum byproducts. The flexibility of the pipe is one of the main advantages of polyethylene piping, as this makes it possible to install piping into spaces and configurations that would never be possible with metal pipes. While polyethylene piping tends to hold up well in low temperatures, long term exposure to UV rays and other environmental factors can weaken the integrity of the pipe over time.

The type of polyethylene used to create the pipes is somewhat different from other polyethylene-based products. Polyethylene is available in several different grades, each of them useful in different applications. Many of the polymer or plastic items people use today are made with this type of plastic. For example, polyethylene can be used to make simple plastic grocery bags, camera film, plastic sheets, and even squeeze bottles.

The degree of flexibility found in different grades of polyethylene help to determine the final use of the plastic. Low density polyethylene, known as LDPE, is among the most flexible of all grades. Within the LDPE family, linear low density polyethylene is considered the most durable and also the least expensive of plastics of this grade. High density polyethylene, known as HDPE, is more rigid in texture, but tends to be more resistant to heat. HDPE is often a good option when the polyethylene pipe will be used as part of a simple plumbing system.


Along with the flexible nature of the plastic piping, polyethylene pipe is also a cost-effective option in many cases. The material used to make the pipes is less costly than the processes used to manufacture different types of metal piping. When coupled with the relative flexibility and ease of installation, polyethylene pipe becomes an obvious choice for use around the home, especially in areas that are not exposed to extreme temperatures or direct sunlight.

Purchasing home piping products made from polyethylene is relatively easy. Hardware and home stores are likely to carry polyethylene pipe along with other options. Discount retail stores will also often carry a line of inexpensive polyethylene pipe products that are ideal for use under a sink or to replace a section of pipe running along the ceiling of a basement area. While there is a chance of cracking in cold weather, especially if the water in the line should freeze, the piping holds up very well in moderate climates and requires nothing more than basic care to remain functional for a number of years.


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