6 Types of Residential & Commercial Plumbing Pipes Common Today

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Plumbing is undoubtedly the most important system in home or business spaces. The pipes used in making up this system are the gateways for the safe supply of water and quick drainage. Depending on your needs, understanding their characteristics can help you choose and buy the right one for your plumbing project.

Plumbing Pipes Video

Property managers, here’s a 60-second guide to help you choose the right pipes for your property.

Meet your three team members, PVC, copper, and cast iron.

PVC pipes are a staple for both residential and commercial spaces. It’s cheap, lightweight, easy to install, and resistant to corrosion. They’re perfect for cold water applications.

Copper pipes are the ideal. They’re durable, reliable, resistant to corrosion, and even have antibacterial properties. Awesome for cold and hot water plumbing systems. Their only drawback is that they’re more expensive and require a high level of experience to install. 🛠️

Last we have cast iron. These heavyweights are often used for commercial buildings and sewer lines. Since they dampen sound, they’re great for multi-story buildings. The catch, they’re costly, heavy, and installation is very labor-intensive. 

What Type of Plumbing Pipes Are Used Today?

PVC & CPVC Pipes

PVC pipes have become the norm in home and business plumbing systems. Due to the flexible nature of their plastic material, you can use them in cold water supply lines and DWV (drain, waste, and vent) systems. PVC pipes come in many diameters and lengths and are easy to identify by their green, purple, white or gray color.

CPVC is another type of PVC pipe that performs well in hot water supply lines, mainly because of its ability to hold out against high temperatures for longer periods.  


  • Cheaper than copper, galvanized steel, and cast iron pipes.
  • Lightweight and easy to install.
  • Requires low maintenance.
  • Immune to corrosion and chemicals.
  • Smooth inner surface for improved water flow.


  • Not suitable for hot water.
  • Brittles, cracks, and leaks over time when constantly exposed to UV lights and extreme cold. 
  • Less strength than metal pipes and can get damaged with physical impact or heavy loads.

Copper Pipes

For many decades, copper pipes have been used in homes and commercial plumbing systems, mostly for indoor water piping. They usually come in three types: Type K (thickest), Type L (medium thickness), and Type M (thinnest), for different applications to distribute hot and cold water within the premises. 

Another type, DWV copper, as the name suggests, can be used in DWV lines. However, for cost-effectiveness, it has been all but replaced with ABS or PVC pipes in new constructions. 


  • Durable and long-lasting.
  • Resistant to corrosion and can withstand different chemicals without degrading quickly.
  • Handles high temperatures better.
  • Antibacterial properties for safer drinking water. 
  • Highly recyclable.


  • Expensive compared to PEX and PVC.
  • Requires professional assistance for soldering and installation.
  • Bursts if water freezes inside.

Cast Iron Pipes

Cast iron pipes go back a long way to be used for carrying water, waste, or gas because they are strong enough to tolerate high pressure. You still find them functional in older homes and commercial buildings. Although copper, PVC, and other newer plastic materials have replaced cast iron pipes, they are still the best choice in commercial spaces for transporting drainage and sewage to the city’s main sewer line.  


  • Very strong and can stay operational for over 100 years with proper maintenance.
  • Excellent sound dampening to reduce water flow noise.
  • Non-combustible material suited for specific building codes.
  • Reduces blockages and improves the overall flow capacity.


  • Heavy, which makes it difficult to handle and install.
  • Expensive initial cost and high labor charges for installation compared to other alternatives. 
  • The inner coating can give way and corrode, which leads to leaks and costly repair or replacement. 

PEX Pipes

PEX pipe is a plastic pipe manufactured by melting polyethylene at high density, which is then pushed out in a flexible tube form. These pipes have been here in the US market for decades but have become increasingly popular in recent years as alternatives to PVC and copper. The main reason is they can easily be routed through walls, tight spaces, ceilings, etc., for water delivery.


  • Easy to bend around corners without needing additional fittings.
  • Does not corrode or scale like metal pipes.
  • Contracts and expands, so less likely to burst in freezing conditions.
  • Resistant to common chemicals in plumbing systems. 
  • Less expensive than copper, cast iron, and other metal pipes.
  • Cheap labor costs for installation.


  • Sensitive to UV light, which makes PEX unsuitable for outdoor applications. 
  • Degrades due to constant exposure above 200°F.
  • Vulnerable to damage from rodents
  • Produce a slight plastic odor or taste for a few days after installation.

ABS Pipes

ABS pipes look a lot like PVC, except they are black in color, a bit softer, and are joined using a one-step cement. Many homes and businesses choose them for the same benefits that PVC offers. The big plus? Unlike PVC, you can use them for hot water applications because they are less likely to deform in high temperatures. However, ABS pipes underperform in outdoor plumbing. Constant sunlight exposure can wrap and degrade them within weeks. PVC pipes are preferred in these cases. 


  • Lightweight, easier to handle, and transport.
  • Easy installation that doesn’t require complex tools.
  • Performs well in both low and high indoor temperatures.
  • Costs less than copper and some PVC types. 
  • Rust free. 
  • Carries hot water efficiently. 


  • Transmit more noise than other plastic pipes.
  • Manufactured using BPA, which may cause serious illnesses. 
  • Not accepted by most building codes.

Braided/Flexi Pipes

Flexi pipes are a type of hose. They are manufactured with materials like braided nylon, plastic polymers, or stainless steel to provide flexibility for connecting dishwashers, faucets, icemakers,  toilets, and water heaters to the main plumbing line.


  • Easier to install than rigid pipes because the flexible material allows for maneuvering through tight spaces and around obstacles.  
  • Excellent resistance to corrosion.
  • Less need for additional fittings.


  • Costs more than other pipes.
  • Prone to cracking.


Although each plumbing pipe provides specific benefits, you need to identify leaks or corrosion through regular inspection and fix them on time. By doing so, you can improve the reliability and performance of your plumbing system in your residential or commercial property. 

You are probably wondering why we didn’t include the galvanized steel pipes on this list. Like cast iron, nobody uses them today for water delivery and drainage, but they are still pretty common in gas piping.