There are two primary types of plumbing pipes used in multi-family residential buildings today: copper and plastic. Older buildings typically have copper pipes while newer buildings and new construction typically have plastic pipes. As a Chicago property manager, it is up to you to understand the types of plumbing pipes in your building, their longevity and their benefits and drawbacks so that you can schedule timely preventive maintenance and repair services.
Copper Plumbing Pipes
Copper plumbing pipes are typically used for water supply lines. They were the most common pipe material until the 1970s because of their durability and resistance to corrosion. Copper pipes can be purchased as rigid piping or flexible piping in a variety of sizes ranging from 3/8 of an inch to 2 inches in diameter.
Pros of Copper Piping
- Every Plumber Knows How to Install It
- Inhibits Bacteria Growth
- Lasts 70 or More Years
- Low Maintenance
- Resistant to Corrosion
Cons of Copper Piping
- Expensive When Compared to Other Types of Plumbing Pipes
- May Be Sealed with Lead Solder, Especially in Older Buildings
- Can Develop Pinhole Leaks and Leaks Around Seams and Joints
Plastic Plumbing Pipes
Plastic plumbing pipes are designed to last indefinitely if they are used as drain lines. When they are used as water supply lines, they typically last about 40 years. There are six different types of plastic plumbing pipes, including PVC, CPVC, PB, PEX, ABS and HDPE.
Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS)
ABS is a black plastic pipe that was primarily used for drain lines and vent stacks. It is rarely found in multi-unit residential buildings. However, if you find black plastic piping in your multi-unit building, it should be immediately replaced.
Chlorinated Polyvinyl Chloride Pipes (CPVC)
CPVC can be used for hot and cold water lines. It is a flexible alternative for PVC piping. However, the extra chlorine used in the manufacturing process of the pipes can give the water a chlorine smell, and if the pipes are allowed to freeze, they could crack.
Cross-Linked Polyethylene (PEX)
PEX pipe is another affordable alternative for copper piping. It is extremely heat resistant and can be used on hot and cold water lines in new builds and to replace existing piping.
High-Density Polybutylene (HDPE)
When the multi-story residential plumbing requirements call for extreme heat resistance, durability and flexibility, HDPE can provide an affordable solution. This type of piping can be found in new construction, and it can be used to replace existing copper pipes.
PB piping was used as an affordable replacement option for copper piping from 1970s until the 1990s because it is extremely flexible and can fit into many spaces that contain copper piping. It is rarely used today because it tends to leak after a short period of time.
Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
PVC pipe is usually white, and it is commonly used today because of its durability and affordability. It does not corrode or degrade. However, it is susceptible to leaks and cracks if it is installed incorrectly. Chemicals inside the pipes may also leach into your residents drinking water, and PVC should never be used for hot water lines.
Pros of Plastic Piping
- Corrosion Resistant
- Can Last up to 40 Years
- Some Types Can Replace Copper Piping
Cons of Plastic Piping
- May Leach Chemicals into Drinking Water
- Some Plastic Pipes Are Not Heat Resistant
- Some Types of Plastic Pipes Will Crack if Frozen
- Improper Installation Can Significantly Shorten the Expected Lifespan
Pipe Restoration with Nu Flow
Here at Nu Flow, we can evaluate your existing plumbing pipes to determine if pipe lining or coating would help extend their useful lives. In general, pipes that are not extremely corroded or well-past their useful lives can be retrofitted with epoxy coatings and pipe liners to help seal pinhole leaks and eliminate the need to completely replace your plastic or copper water supply lines.
For more information on our lining and coating services for plastic and copper piping, call us at 815-790-9000.