If you've ever spent time looking at the exposed plumbing in your home's basement or underneath sinks, then you may have noticed that it isn't all constructed of the same material. In the typical American home, plumbing often uses a mix of copper and PVC
The Advantages of PVC
Polyvinyl chloride, commonly referred to as PVC, is a form of plastic that has been used for pipes for close to a century. It was chosen over other materials for its lightweight construction and its general ease of use. Since PVC is a relatively soft material, it can be cut with basic hand tools and joined without the need for soldering or other specialized techniques. As a plastic, PVC also does not corrode and is generally durable and resistant to serious wear.
The Advantages of Copper
If PVC is so good, why is copper still used in new construction and found in so many homes? One of the primary reasons is copper's ability to withstand higher temperatures than PVC. PVC pipes are typically only used for drains or cold water pipes, since PVC has a tendency to warp when exposed to higher temperature water. PVC piping also cannot be installed close to sources of high heat, such as furnaces, since external heat sources can result in damage to the pipes as well.
The Roles of Both in Your Home
Since both PVC and copper piping have their own sets of advantages and disadvantages, they tend to both be used in many modern homes. In older homes, it is common for the majority of the pipes to be copper. But PVC pipe is usually found beneath sinks and in other areas where the plumbing may have been recently updated. In some cases, the older copper pipe may be replaced with PVC if a large section requires repair and the replacement is found to be cost-effective.
For newer installations, copper pipes are commonly used for warm water supply lines and are often still used for the majority of plumbing throughout the house. While PVC piping is durable, the joints can sometimes break down, leading to problems more quickly than with copper pipes. For this reason, many professionals choose to use copper anywhere that plumbing is less accessible. Copper tends to be smaller and easier to work within tight spaces as well, making it more suitable for difficult to reach areas.
Leaks Don't Discriminate
While they tend to fail in different ways, both types of pipes can eventually develop leaks over time. If the water in your home is particularly acidic, then copper pipes can begin to corrode and this can lead to small leaks which grow noticeably worse over time. PVC will not corrode, but the compound used for joints can break down over time and lead to small leaks where two sections of pipe are joined together. If you see or hear a leak in either type of pipe, be sure to contact a plumber from a place like Marcum Plumbing Services, Inc.