Guide on How to Choose the Right Plumbing Pipe

How to Choose the Right Plumbing Pipe

The Spruce / Candace Madonna

There are many types of plumbing pipes for residential or commercial buildings. Plumbing pipes such as PEX, Copper, and PVC are normally used depending on their application and the location in which they are installed. Also, there are some other plumbing pipe types such as black, galvanized and brass. Let’s see below the best application for the most common used plumbing pipes.

  • 01 of 07

    Stainless Steel

    Stainless steel plumbing pipe

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

    Stainless steel can look very neat, but it is very expensive. Stainless steel pipe is used in areas subject to corrosion and near coastal areas. This type of pipe is available in both flexible and rigid and will need some special couplings to be attached to other types of pipes. Do not confuse stainless steel pipes with galvanized pipes. It is available in various sizes and lengths.

  • 02 of 07


    Blue and red PEX plumbing pipes

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

    PEX piping is a flexible plastic piping that has become a popular selection in residential and small business applications. Although slightly higher initial cost, its minimal maintenance, and fast installation process make it the best pipe for water distribution inside a building. PEX piping provides a leak-free product offering advantages over copper piping. One of the most important drawbacks is that it cannot be used in outdoor applications because UV rays can damage its outdoor plastic layer.


    PEX piping is not recommended for all uses or approved for use in all areas. Check your local guidelines before purchasing or installing PEX piping.

  • 03 of 07


    Copper plumbing pipes

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

    Copper pipes are probably the most traditional plumbing pipe used due to their extensive duration and reliability. They provide superior corrosion resistance, great material to be used for hot and cold water, and it can be managed easily. However, the most important factor to consider before using copper piping is that it needs to be soldered together and it might require additional fittings. Not everyone is good at soldering copper pipes, so talk to a plumber.

  • 04 of 07


    White PVC plumbing pipe

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

    PVC plumbing pipes are used for cold and hot potable water as well as sewage applications. PVC pipes vary in their thickness and configuration depending on the application where it will be used. For example, pressure water pipes are not the same as sewer pipes, and not the same as the ones used in storm drainage systems. Plastic plumbing products designed for potable water applications are usually designated with either NSF-PW or NSF-61 to indicate that the product complies with the health effects requirements of NSF/ANSI Standard 61.


    Standard PVC pipes are used for drainage only, while CPVC can be used for domestic water needs.

    Continue to 5 of 7 below.
  • 05 of 07


    Galvanized plumbing pipe

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

    Galvanized piping was used several years ago as the standard for residential projects. However, with time it has been used less frequently in domestic settings because rust can build up inside small diameter pipes. If the pipe is old enough, you can see water coming from the faucet with rust traces as the scale can break loose from the inside of the pipe. Galvanized pipes can be used to transport grey water or non-potable water.


    In non-residential settings, galvanized pipe is used to carry sanitary pump discharge and in outdoor gas applications.

  • 06 of 07


    Brass plumbing pipe

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

    Brass plumbing pipes provide great rust resistance piping if it’s made of 67 percent to 85 percent copper. The best brass pipe grade is obtained when the alloy contains 85 percent copper and is called red brass pipe. Brass piping provides a long-lasting material that does not rust in the interior, and it does not cause friction losses inside the pipe. Brass plumbing pipes are easier to thread than steel pipes and excellent for hot-water and large distribution systems, such as pump fittings, water tanks, and wells. Brass pipe is normally one of the longest-lasting plumbing materials. Brass pipe comes in a variety of straight lengths up to 12 feet.

  • 07 of 07

    Cast Iron Piping

    Cast iron plumbing pipe

    The Spruce / Kevin Norris

    Cast iron plumbing pipes are normally manufactured as bell-and-spigot types. They can also be found with threaded joints, which are more expensive than the bell and spigot option. Bell and spigot cast iron is typically used in large buildings and underground applications. No-hub cast iron, another type of cast iron plumbing pipes, is also widely used: In this type, the pipes and fittings are connected by couplings made by a range of manufacturers that offer different band strengths for various uses.

    Cast iron pipes are heavier than any other pipes and normally used for water distribution systems or underground installation as the main pipe on drainage or sewer systems. The smallest size that normally is manufactured is 4-inch pipe, large enough to be used on residential applications, though no-hub piping is available in sizes ranging from 1 1/2 inches to 15 inches and bell and spigot piping is made in sizes between 2 and 15 inches. Cast iron pipe is heavy and must be supported while you assemble a joint.