ABS vs. PVC Piping – Differences and Common Uses

It’s important to understand the differences in pipes before you attempt doing any plumbing projects. Two of the most common types of pipe used for plumbing systems are Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) and Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC). While ABS and PVC share some common uses, they also have some key differences.

The Difference between ABS and PVC Pipes

The biggest difference between ABS and PVC piping is that ABS pipe contains a chemical called bisphenol A, also known as BPA, and PVC doesn’t. BPA is used in various types of plastics and resins because it creates durable pipes. Though there is some disagreement as to the potential health risks of BPA to humans and animals, it is considered safe in certain amounts by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration.

In addition to BPA, there are some other differences between ABS and PVC that will help you decide which is best for your plumbing project. You’ll first notice the difference color – ABS is always black while PVC is commonly white (depending on the type). There’s another main difference in the way that the two types of pipe are installed. With ABS pipe, connections have to be made with a special cement, while PVC has to be primed and then cemented together, making PVC connections a two-step process rather than one with the ABS piping.

PVC pipe is more flexible than ABS, while ABS is a bit stronger and can resist a higher shock or impact. Additionally, PVC has an advantage in that it’s better at muffling the sound of water as it flows through the pipework.

The two types of pipe are similar in cost and they are both resistant to chemical and water degradation.

Applications of ABS Piping

ABS piping is a cost-effective choice for commercial and residential uses. It won’t flake, peel, rot, dissolve, fade, or leak (unless it’s punctured). It’s an ideal choice for use outside, underground, in the extreme cold, and where it isn’t in direct sunlight. It’s often the choice of plumbers for use in drain, waste, and vent piping systems. You’ll also find that ABS pipe is frequently used in sewer systems for drainage and as electrical insulation.

Uses for PVC Pipes

In a home or business, it’s important that you use the right type of pipe for the job. PVC pipes are often the pipe of choice for many different applications. It’s typically a better choice for indoor uses as it’s soundproof, so you won’t hear the water flow through the piping system. Regular schedule 40 PVC pipe (here) is perfect for drains and wastewater. Like ABS pipe, PVC pipe is used for drain, waste, and vent piping systems and as insulation for electrical cables. It’s versatile and durable and the choice for professionals and DIYers alike.

How to Join ABS and PVC Piping

It isn’t recommended that ABS and PVC be joined and used within the same piping system. In fact, many plumbing codes restrict ABS from being glued to PVC, so it’s important to check local codes before making an attempt to do so. However, if there aren’t any restrictions in your location, ABS and PVC pipes can be joined using fittings (such as the ones we carry), rather than glue.

When you’re joining an ABS pipe to a PVC pipe, it can’t be done with pipe cement or glue. Instead, the best method uses a rubber sleeve and metal jacket to clamp the connection. The sleeve is positioned over the ends of the two pipes to connect them. The metal sleeve is then used to clamp the rubber sleeve into place. Be sure that you are using a coupling designated as plastic-to-plastic.

When to Use ABS vs. PVC

Both PVC and ABS pipes are useful in residential and commercial plumbing, but it’s important to know the differences so you make the best decision of which one to use. ABS pipe is best used for underground situations, where it’s extremely cold, and in locations that are not exposed to direct sunlight. PVC, on the other hand, is ideal for indoor plumbing use because it’s soundproof.

Be sure that you check building codes before you decide which pipe to use. There are regulations in some areas that dictate the type of piping that has to be used for certain plumbing jobs.