Perhaps you want to install a plumbing system on your property, but you’re unsure about the difference between PVC vs ABS pipe systems. Both pipes are popular choices for many homeowners. However, they have different properties that you should know before settling on one.

Since PVC and ABS pipes have similar applications, homeowners often confuse the two. 

The primary difference between ABS and PVC pipes is that ABS pipes contain BPA and are vulnerable to erosion from direct sunlight. 

This guide explores the unique features of PVC vs ABS pipes and the differences between the two. You’ll also learn the pros and cons of each plumbing pipe to help you choose the best option for your application.

Features of PVC Pipes

What is PVC? PVC (polyvinyl chloride) is a plastic pipe that usually comes in gray or white. You can use it as a vent or drain line for outdoor and indoor plumbing. The good thing about PVC is that it’s strong, lightweight, and chemically resistant. It’s also inexpensive, durable, and non-toxic.

Here are the other features of PVC pipes:

  • High tensile strength
  • Dielectric properties
  • High flexural strength
  • Mechanically resilient
  • Low moisture absorption
  • Good strength-to-weight ratio
  • Outstanding dimensional stability
  • Excellent flame and chemical resistance
  • Subject to change by plasticizers and effect modifiers

The combination of PVC properties and low cost make it a popular choice for builders and plumbers. They can use it in vent, waste, and drain piping. Electricians can use PVC pipes to insulate electrical wiring. Finally, the food processing industry can also make good use of PVC pipes.

Features of ABS Pipes

Before looking at the features of ABS pipes, let’s look at what an ABS pipe is.

An ABS pipe comprises the chemical compound acrylonitrile butadiene styrene. This plastic pipe is typically black and is ideal for outdoor and indoor plumbing. It’s suitable for piping drain lines, vent pipes, and waste pipes. You can also use it to insulate electrical wires as well.

The good thing about ABS is that it’s solid and rigid, making it suitable for underground and cold-temperature applications. However, you must not install it where it will be exposed to sunlight as the pipe can degrade quickly when hit directly by sun rays.

Here are the other features of ABS pipes you should know: 

  • Electrical properties
  • High tensile strength
  • Surface hardness and rigidity
  • Features dimensional stability
  • Temperature range of -40°C to 82°C
  • Resistant to heat, chemical, impact, and abrasion
  • Light and flexible, meaning it can bend on strong impact

There are three types of ABS pipes: heat-resistant, fire-retardant, and platable. It is important to note that their impact intensity varies based on the grade. So, evaluate your needs to choose what’s best for you.

ABS vs PVC pipe differences

Both ABS and PVC pipes are excellent choices for plumbing systems. They are economical, corrosion-resistant, and lightweight. In addition, they don’t collect condensation and can retain hot water longer. However, they are different in chemical composition and applications.

Some PVC pipe vs ABS pipe differences include: 

    • Color: ABS pipes are black, while PVC pipes are usually gray or white.
    • Chemical Composition: ABS pipes contain BPA, making them more durable. Although some studies have linked BPA to cancer, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has noted that the current level of the substance in foods is safe for consumption.
    • Strength and Flexibility: ABS pipes are more robust than PVC pipes. However, PVC pipes are more flexible and muffle the sound of their content. Therefore, they are ideal for indoor plumbing as you won’t have to worry about hammering or banging noises from the pipes.
  • Connection Process: Connecting ABS requires one step only: using a special cement that doesn’t have to dry before connecting the pipe. PVC, on the other hand, requires a primer that must dry before applying the cement.

ABS pipe vs PVC Pipe: Which is better?

Now that you understand the PVC vs ABS pipe features and differences, you might wonder which one is better. Choosing between PVC or ABS depends on various factors, such as local building codes, the point of installation, connection requirements, and your budget. If you’re deciding which pipe is best for you, a plumbing professional can help you make the best choice. 

Local building codes

The first step in choosing an ABS vs PVC pipe is checking your local building codes. 

That’s because some neighborhoods specify where you should use a PVC vs ABS pipe when building a house. You can choose one based on your preference if there’s no mandatory code. 

Connection requirements

When considering ABS pipe vs PVC installation, ABS is faster because it only requires one step to connect several pipes. On the other hand, installing PVC pipe takes longer as it involves two steps: applying the primer first and then letting it dry completely before cementing the lines together. 

Point of installation

ABS pipes are suitable for underground applications such as sewer runs and fixture drains. Therefore, it’s better than PVC when it comes to underground applications. However, ABS is not ideal for use under direct sunlight since light will break down the plastic. So, use PVC pipes if your piping will be exposed to direct sunlight. 

Purchase and installation costs

Which is cheaper? ABS or PVC? The two pipes cost about the same in most markets. Price disparities may only result from the differences in shipping costs. However, the installation costs can vary. Installing PVC pipes is more costly since its connection involves two steps.

Let J. Blanton Plumbing help you

ABS and PVC pipes are helpful in commercial and residential plumbing. 

It’s essential to understand the differences between the two to choose the best option. ABS pipes are generally ideal for underground applications, where temperatures are low, and there’s no direct sunlight. Conversely, PVC pipes are soundproof, making them ideal for indoor plumbing. 

Now that you know the difference between them make sure to use them in the correct locations. Otherwise, you’ll compromise their quality and lifespan. An expert plumber like J. Blanton can help you choose what’s best for you.

Contact us today to discuss your plumbing needs with our professional plumbers.