House Buying Companies

10 types of plumbing pipes found in homes for sale.

Educating yourself about plumbing materials isn’t only needed during plumbing emergencies, DIY projects or something to consider when the drywall is removed. Plumbing can be covered under a home warranty plan.

It’s also pertinent when you’re going to buy or sell a house. If your home is older than four or five decades, there is a high probability your plumbing is soon in need of repair.

So, how long do plumbing pipes last? Does the age/type of plumbing materials impact the value of my home? Will it impact the process of selling my house?

Thankfully, most plumbing pipes last between 50 and 100 years. Nonetheless, even if the plumbing isn’t yet in need of repair, prospective buyers will need to consider when the inevitable bill is coming due. If you’re currently in renovation, remember that not every pipe is suitable for use in all situations, nor are all types up to code.

 Below, we’ll walkthrough the primary plumbing material you’ll be coming across.

1. PEX

  • PURPOSES: Hot Water Lines, Cold Water Lines
  • LIFETIME: still testing, but likely over 50yrs

PEX stands for cross-linked polyethylene and is becoming the choice material for all incoming water lines (while PVC is still the leader for all drain lines) The “X” is the cross-linked, while “P” and “E” stand for polyethylene. It’s more affordable than copper, simple to install (incredibly flexible), doesn’t rust and corrode like metal, and they’re able to be used for both hot AND cold water. It’ll typically come in three colors: red for hot water, blue for cold water and white for lines that are used for both. Significantly easier to cut and join than steel. Additionally, given it’s flexibility, it’s quite easy to fish it through framing and drywall when making repairs. Check to ensure this is included in your local code before installing.

2. PVC

  • PURPOSES: Drain, Waste, Vent, Gas lines, Cold Water Lines
  • LIFETIME: 70-100 years.

PVC stands for polyvinyl chloride and has been the most common material for wastewater pipeline since the 1950s. As long as the temperature and pressure is relatively low, PVC is generally a good solutions for waste, venting, drainage systems or irrigation lines. It lasts a very long time and is typically used for sewage systems, gas lines or cold water lines. They’re very easy to use, great for your budget and commonplace within homes. The greatest downsides are that it degrades in sunlight and there are known health dangers associated with the material and not best for high temperatures (CPVC is better for high temperature water). That’s why cold water lines are often PVC, while CPVC is used for hot water lines.

What's the difference between a Heat Pump and a "Central" A/C?

Heat Pumps and Central Air Conditioners cool similarly, but heat completely differently.

3. ABS

  • PURPOSES: Drain, Waste, Vent
  • LIFETIME: 70-100 years.

ABS stands for acrylonitrile butadiene styrene. This is the black plastic piping you see under the sink. Works just like PVC but has gone down in popularity (and even banned) due to its lack of durability. In fact in many markets they’re even disallowed in many plumbing codes. The benefits are that they can withstand more impact than PVC and it is unaffected by most household chemicals (like Drano, bowl cleaners etc). However, they cannot be exposed to sunlight. Additionally, it will warp at certain temperatures.

4. Copper

  • PURPOSES: Hot Water Lines, Cold Water Lines, Gas Lines
  • LIFETIME: 50-70 years

Copper is incredibly common for indoor water lines because it does not impact the quality of the water and is safe for water usage (unlike materials such as PVC). It is estimated that 98% of homes built after 1970 have copper pipes. They handle heat well and can withstand intense pressures. While Flexible Copper is easy to install (used in tight spaces and for things like refrigerators or water heaters), Rigid Copper requires a lot more experience since it is you need to solder the lines during installation (or use of a propane torch). This is typically why only professional plumbers are used for repairs and installation on these lines. One downside is that if your water is highly acidic they won’t last was long (20years if the pH is super low). Additionally, if you’re using it for gas lines, beware of areas with a higher sulfur concentration, as the sulfur may cause flaking.

5. Cast Iron

  • PURPOSES: Drain Lines, Water Lines
  • LIFETIME: 60-100 years

If your home was built before 1970, chances are your drain lines are at least in part cast iron. That’s not necessarily a bad thing because cast iron can withstand heavy pressure, it’s quiet when water flows through and they have a ling lifespan. However, they are definitely rusting out and depending on the climate they’re exposed to, the soil/water quality, their lifespan is significantly shorter. Nonetheless, even if the cast iron looks incredibly old, you can continue using it until it rusts all the way through. It’ll withstand extreme temperatures, it’s fairly cheap for a metal. If you’re noticing odors,, backups, rodent infestations, mold, leaks, discoloration in your water supply, it’s a visible sign that the pipes need to be changed.

6. Galvanized Steel

  • PURPOSES: Hot Water Lines, Cold Water Lines, Gas Lines, Drain/Sewer. 
  • LIFETIME: 40-50 years

The water supply for homes between 1930–1990 is most commonly made from steel. In fact, back in the day, Galvanized Steel was originally brought in to replace lead pipes (yes, people were actually drinking water out of lead pipes). They’re very strong but not used very often any more due to their tendency to rust. They’re typically coated with Zinc to prevent rust, but eventually need to be replaced with either copper or PEX for clean and clear drinking water (since the zinc eventually erodes). They’re more durable and less expensive than copper pipes but due to the rust are best used for non-potable uses.

7. CPVC

  • PURPOSES: Cold Water Lines, Hot Water Lines
  • LIFETIME: 60-100 years

Chlorinated Poly Vinyl Chloride (or CPVC) is treated with an intense chlorination reaction that allows it to be highly non-corrosive, durable and able to withstand temperatures up to 180ºF (greater than PVC). It’s more expensive than PVC but is better for hot water applications and more suitable for tap water. The downside is that it’s not great for the environment: non-recyclable and production of the material produces a lot of pollutants.

8. Brass

  • PURPOSES: Drain Lines, Water Lines
  • LIFETIME: 40-70 years

Brass plumbing pipes provide the best rust resistance piping when it’s made of 67% to 85% copper. It also does not cause friction losses inside the pipe. They’re excellent for hot-water and large distribution systems (eg. water tanks, pump fittings and wells) and normally tends to last longer than any other plumbing material. Brass pipe is great material but rarely used because it’s super expensive. Downside with brass products in plumbing systems is that they can allow high levels of lead to leak into the drinking water.

9. Polyethylene (PE)

  • PURPOSES: Drainage Systems (HDPE), Water Softening Lines (LDPE), Gas Lines
  • LIFETIME: 50-100 years

There are two types os Polyethylene: HDPE (High Density Polyethylene) and LDPE (Low Density Polyethylene). It’s a very durable, crack resistant line that’s also flexible (Unlike PVC, which can become brittle over time). Typically used for water softening lines because it’s resistant to solvents, acids, and alkalis. It doesn’t react to any but the strongest changes in pH or harshest of chemicals. This means the pipes you lay won’t corrode, won’t leak and won’t pick up contaminants from the materials. Lastly, PE pipe is not only cheaper than metal pipe and and is recognized as acceptable plumbing piping for water services, drainage, and sewer applications in most plumbing codes.

Today, there’s an abundance of plumbing you’ll find in homes across town. Some need replacing, some are out of code and others might have another 1-2 decades left in them. If you’re buying or selling a home, try to keep these factors in mind so that you can know when that large bill is coming your way.

Need a Plumber Recommendation?

Shoot us an email or fill out the contact form and we'll be happy to connect you with one of our favorite plumbers in the Charlotte, North Carolina area.

If you’re ready to sell your home fast and not worry about the repairs, we buy homes as – is, close quickly, with no fees or commissions. We’re ready to provide the highest offer for your home and make the home selling process easier than you’ve ever experienced. Find out more about how we calculate our cash offers here or top dollar offers with terms here.