Learn About Plumbing Pipes

How much do you need to know about different kinds of plumbing pipes? Of all the kinds of pipe there are, there are not that many you need to know about. There are two categories.

  • New pipe that you'll purchase for use in repair or new installation.
  • Existing pipe you may encounter on the job that you must decide whether to keep or replace.

What you need to know about the various kinds of plumbing pipe is what their characteristics are, how to install them, and how to join two types to each other.

I've seen many systems that were worked on or added to by someone who knew enough to do the job, but not enough to do it right. Sadly it wouldn’t have taken much to make the difference.

I am to going share my 30 years of plumbing experience here. If you already know a lot about plumbing pipe, you may want to scan this material for tips. If you don’t know much about the subject, go slowly.

It may seem like a lot of information, but I'll try to organize it so you can find the info you need.

I do want to stress how important this material really is. Are you rolling your eyes, thinking, “What's the big deal, it's only pipe?” Let me tell you a couple stories about clients of mine.

#1- "Pipe Is Pipe"

Not all the pipes you may encounter on the job are what could be considered “plumbing pipe”. I was sent to a job by Multhoumah county to work on a water system at a residence that was on their assistance program.

I found many of the “water pipes” to be aluminum. I asked enough questions to learn that the patriarch had worked at the air field during WWII. I knew from an old plumber that galvanized pipe was in short supply during the war.

The aluminum pipe was probably pilfered from the aircraft supply, being meant for hydrolic fluid. After I removed it all, I found it to be coated inside with white aluminum oxide. It had been in use in chlorinated water for fifty years! The family health was devastated!

#2- "The Right Stuff"

I was plumbing a home for a man who wanted to do as much of the work as he could by himself. I don’t have any problem with that but I keep my eyes open.

I got to that job on a Monday to find that he had run the piping from his water meter to the house. He had used white PVC pipe but glued the joints with black ABS glue.

I don’t know if it would have held together, the glue not being a solvent cement for that material. But what I pointed out to him was that ABS glue was not rated for potable use! Unsafe for use with water that could be consumed... he was adding a potential poison into his families drinking water. He would have to cut the joints out and do it again.

I never forget that the plumber's task is to protect the public health. When you begin your DIY plumbing project it becomes your task as well. The "public" includes the nice people who purchase your home some day.

For reasons like these, you can see why it's important to know as much as possible about the plumbing pipes you use in your do it yourself plumbing projects. The knowledge is also useful if you're having a plumber do the work for you!

Lead pipe in vintage plumbing

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