Metal Pipe or Plastic Pipe

Choosing the Right Material: Metal Piping vs Plastic Piping

When planning your next plumbing project, you need to evaluate the various types of pipe for the job. Although stainless steel and brass tubing could be used, most projects will be completed with galvanized metal, copper tubing, or some sort of plastic pipes for plumbing applications.

Lead pipes and lead solder used on copper pipes have been outlawed since 1986, so any new plumbing projects should not cause further problems with lead poisoning, although some types of plastic may absorb chemical contaminants coming from the water system. According to Chemical & Engineering News, all types of pipe materials can impart taste and odors to drinking water, which often can be mitigated by flushing the system.

Benefits of Plastic Pipe

Plastic piping can be made of PVC (polyvinyl chloride), CPVC (chlorinated polyvinyl chloride) or PEX (cross-linked polyethylene). In general, plastic pipe doesn’t rust or corrode, is light in weight, easy to cut and easy to join – no welding required.

PVC piping is a good, low-cost choice for many plumbing projects. It is easy to install, with a range of different methods for joining, such as clamps, mechanical couplings, or solvent welding. PVC outdoor lines can be buried, though they might need extra care to prevent collapse. The main drawback of using PVC piping is that it can’t withstand high temperatures. This means you can’t use it for hot water lines and it’s not rated for drinking water, due to possible heat degradation of the plastic.

CPVC pipe has all the benefits of PVC pipe, plus the added chlorine gives it a higher heat resistance. It is also rated for drinking water, and is flexible, fire resistant, and well insulated to prevent energy loss for either hot or cold water.

PEX tubing resists high heat and is commonly used for radiant hot water heating systems and drinking water lines, though it can’t be directly connected to a hot water heater and requires a short section of copper tubing in between. It is highly flexible, so it can be easily installed through walls and around corners. PEX lasts for decades and withstands freezing temperatures well, resisting cracks due to freezing and thawing of water in the lines.

Benefits of Metal Pipe

Historically, most piping was made from brass, copper, cast iron, or some other metal. Brass and copper have innate corrosion resistance, which makes them excellent choices, but even these have seen problems when the pipes begin to age over decades, often due to lead in the solder used to connect them.

One of the most widely used materials on Earth, steel provides outstanding strength, toughness, and durability. It is a versatile, cost-effective solution for water/sewer plumbing and pipeline systems.

Galvanized Steel Pipe vs. Black Steel Pipe

Galvanized steel pipe features a protective zinc coating that helps prevent corrosion, rust, and the buildup of mineral deposits, thereby extending the pipe’s lifespan. Galvanized steel pipe is most commonly used in plumbing and other water-supply applications. In addition, galvanized pipes are a lower cost alternative to steel, and can achieve rust free protection for up to 30 years while maintaining comparable strength with a durable surface coating.

Black steel pipe contains a dark-colored iron-oxide coating on its entire surface and is used for applications that do not require galvanization protection. Black steel pipe is used primarily for transporting water and gas in rural and urban areas and for delivering high-pressure steam and air. It is commonly used in fire sprinkler systems thanks to its high heat resistance. Black steel pipe is also popular for other water transfer applications, including potable water from wells, as well as in gas lines.

304 Stainless Steel Pipe

304 stainless steel pipe also can be used for transporting liquids. Stainless offers high corrosion resistance, superior durability, high strength-to-weight ratio, fair resistance to thermal and electrical conductivity, ease of fabrication, ease of cleaning, and it is non-magnetic and harden-able by cold working.

Brass Tube/Pipe

Though brass piping is an older material, it’s still used today for water supply and drain lines, as well as gas lines. Brass, an alloy made of copper and zinc, is highly resistant to corrosion, and as long as a lead-free brass alloy is chosen, it should be safe for drinking water. Because it is a fairly soft metal, brass tube/pipe can be installed with a tight seal, preventing leaks.

Industrial Metal Supply carries 304 stainless steel pipe as well as brass and copper tubing and galvanized, coated and uncoated steel pipe. We offer steel pipe products in a range of standard diameters and lengths, including diameters from 1/4-in. to 6-in. and lengths up to 21 ft., as well as cut-to-length services to meet your specific requirements.
Stop by any of our six locations in California and Arizona to check out our inventory, or request a quote for your application.