Like everything else in home renovations, the home plumbing fittings and fixture options available are mind-boggling. The choices can range from the most durable materials to fixtures with state-of-the-art technologies. The right plumbing materials must be selected based on the function and their usage.
For example, a bathroom that is going to be used heavily will require materials that can endure the load. If the bathroom will be used sparingly, lightweight piping will serve the purpose. The money saved can be spent on snazzy fixtures with innovative technologies.
The piping material selected will also impact the quality of water delivered. For delivery of hot water, steel is a good option as it is inexpensive, heat-resistance, and fairly durable. But if it rusts then the water will not be suitable for drinking. For delivery of freshwater, Polypropylene or polyvinylidene fluoride pipes might be better suited. Selecting the right plumbing materials for your home is important to the longevity of the building. Leakage into the building’s foundations can be very costly.
How Does Home Plumbing Work?
A typical home plumbing system is fairly basic and does not require a rocket scientist to understand. It is made up of two separate parts. One part brings fresh water in the other removes wastewater and never the two shall meet. The water entering the hose is pressurized. Otherwise taking a shower in the upper portion of your house might not be an option. All incoming water is metered and you are charged accordingly. In case of an emergency, the main valve located near the meter can be used to shut off the supply.
The waste removal part of the system is not dependent on pressure. The pipes for waste removal are always fitted at a downward angle. Gravity does all the work here. The wastewater continues its downward journey all the way into the city sewer system. The sewer lines are also laid down at a downward incline all the way into the sewage treatment plant.
How to Decide Which Pipe is Best for Plumbing
Selection of home plumbing materials requires that you understand the materials of the piping to be used. What the advantages and shortfalls of each type are. The same type of piping cannot be used for every job. A pipe that is going to be used outdoors requires different characteristics compared to the one used indoors. This is because the pipe being used outdoors will be more prone to rusting and extreme temperatures. Is the pipe going to be carrying hot water or normal? Does the pipe need to be able to withstand pressure or not?
Home plumbing costs are going through the roof. This is why you want to select pipes made from materials that will last without worrying about leaks. It is important to balance the cost with quality. Another important factor that many people weigh-in is the sustainability of these pipes. This will require that you look at how big a carbon footprint they leave during production and their recycling capabilities.
Cast iron pipes
Cast iron pipes were mainly used before the sixties. They were typically used for vertical drains and sometimes for horizontal drainage as well. These are prone to rust with time and have to be replaced if you have them anywhere. It is possible to replace the rusted portions with plastic pipes and appropriate connections. Cast iron is heavy and hard to cut.
Steel pipes were also more common in older construction. The good quality is that steel is strong. The problem is that it is also heavy. This makes transport expensive and requires more people when it comes to fittings. It also has a low tolerance for expansion. This can be an issue if the winter and summer temperature difference is great.
Galvanized steel pipes
Galvanized steel pipes are now more commonly used for the supply of gas. Previously they were used for drainage purposes as well as water supply. They are heavy and rigid so hard to work with. They are almost never used for water supply now because they do tend to rust with time.
Copper pipes are strong, attractive, recyclable, and resist cracking. It is expensive but lighter than steel so installation is easier. The aesthetic appeal can make it a good option for visible places like areas in the basement or kitchen. While copper pipes can be recycled, it takes more energy to do so when compared to new plastic pipes. Extraction of copper leaves behind the unsightly barren landscape. Over time copper corrodes with tiny chunks breaking off and ending up in your water supply. The life and quality of the water supply can be improved with epoxy-lined copper pipes. These will last some fifty years but the cost goes up even more.
Polyvinylchloride (PVC) pipes
Polyvinylchloride (PVC) pipes are gaining popularity in new construction and in-home plumbing renovation. The biggest reason for this is that they are cheap to produce, easy to transport and install. PVC pipes resist corrosion and are durable. They are immune to temperature fluctuations. PVC pipes are lightweight making them easy to install, cutting down on labour costs. They show no degradation after fifty years of use and easily last a hundred years without any major maintenance.
PVC is made from fossil fuels making it suspect in terms of its effect on the environment. A study conducted by PPFA ( Plastic Pipe and Fittings Association) shows that its carbon footprint is smaller compared to traditional plumbing materials. Its long life negates the negative environmental impact. The big issue with PVC is that during production it releases dioxin, a toxic chemical. This remains throughout the life of the pipe and may end up in your water. Another issue is that PVC contains chlorine, which when burned produces mustard gas. This can be a danger to firefighters in a burning building. A bigger problem is the non-compliance of PVC with the 25/50 flame/smoke spread rating.
PEX or polyethylene cross-linked pipes
PEX or polyethylene cross-linked, pipes are the latest plastic pipes that are popular for use in home plumbing needs. Like PVC pipes, PEX pipes offer a lot of advantages. They are flexible, lightweight, corrosion-resistant, and can last one hundred years or more. They can expand up to three times their normal size meaning extreme temperature fluctuations will not damage them. Their walls are constructed out of thick plastic, allowing them to maintain constant water temperatures.
Another advantage they have over PVC pipes is that some PEX formulations meet the 25/50 flame/smoke standards. Drinking water piped through NSF-61 and NSF-PW is considered safe. Lastly, like PVC they are inexpensive. In terms of environmental impact, they are similar to PVC.
Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS)
Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) has a characteristic black color and is mainly used for drainage purposes. They are easy to work with, can withstand cold temperatures well, but are not as flexible as PVC. They do not tolerate direct sunlight well and are not good at insulating the sound of running water.
There are a huge amount of fittings that are used in household plumbing works. For a plumber, it is no big deal, but for the average homeowner, they can be intimidating. This is because fittings are available in not only tons of different sizes, materials but they have specific uses.
Fittings for extending pipes or ending them. Adapters and couplings both lengthen pipes by soldering, threading or welding them together. Adapters connect to pipes that are different while couplings connect two of the same type of pipes. Sleeves, caps, unions, and plugs all fall in this category and are used depending on the need.
Fittings for direction change include elbows and crosses. Elbows are common at angles of ninety degrees and forty-five degrees.
Fittings for reducing size are known as reducer tees, couplings or elbows.
Valves allow for controlling the flow of water.
Nipples can attach two separate fittings together.
Typically fittings are joined together by threading or slipping the pipe onto the fitting. The metal pipes are usually treaded and you can screw them onto the fitting. Plastic pipes can use the slip or threaded method of joining. Frequently, plumbers use solutions to seal the joints, although this is not always recommended.
What factors to consider when selecting home plumbing materials?
Selecting the right home plumbing materials can be exhausting. The best place to begin is by considering the location of your home. What kind of temperature extremes will the pipe have to tolerate. The longevity of the material selected is another important consideration. After all, you don’t want to deal with leaks down the road. If you are selecting metal pipes, then should they be insulated? Insulation saves 80% heat loss, which translates to big savings in winter. The next important factor to consider is what is your budget like? All these considerations are important to ensure that your home plumbing system continues to function at an optimum level.