Basic Types of Piping and Tubing

PVC pipes stacked together
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Pipe & Tubing Safety Tips

When sweating a copper joint, use a metal flame shield in tight places to protect surrounding areas from catching fire.

Wear safety glasses, a hat and gloves when cutting pipe or soldering a joint, especially if making a repair where you must reach over your head.

Always have adequate ventilation when using solvents to prevent buildup of fumes

Copper Pipe

Rigid copper pipe is good for new installations. Soft or flexible copper pipe is good for repair work since it can bend around obstacles without multiple cuts and joints.

Type K is heaviest, used in municipal, commercial, residential and underground installation; Type L is medium weight and is the most commonly used in residential water lines; Type M is hard and thin.

Copper pipe is recommended for light domestic water lines and not permitted in some city codes or for underground use.

Common sizes are 3/8”, 1/2 and 3/4”.

Refrigeration tubes have moisture removed and ends sealed for better performance of refrigerants. It's often used in heater connections but may corrode. For heater connections, use flexible brass or aluminum.

Larger sizes are also used for DWV (drain-waste-vent) applications.

PVC Pipe

PVC stands for Polyvinyl Chloride.

It's used for carrying cold water, irrigation, as conduit and for DWV (drain-waste-vent) projects.

PVC pipe is rated by thickness and strength. Common ratings (thickest to thinnest) are Schedule 40 (most common), Class 315, Class 200 and Class 125 (generally used for irrigation).

It's available in sizes from 1/2” to 2” and is white in color.


CPVC stands for Chlorinated Polyvinyl Chloride.

It's used for both hot and cold water supply, or chemical distribution systems.

Good for temperatures at 200° F in pressure systems and non-pressure systems.

Requires special solvent cement that is different from cement used for other types of plastic solvents. Most solvents will indicate this on the can.

ABS Pipe

black abs pipe

ABS stands for Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene.

It's made from a thermoplastic resin and is lightweight and easier to use than metal pipe.

Commonly used for DWV (drain-waste-vent) applications or for underground electrical conduits.

Available as either solid wall or cellular core construction.

Black Poly Pipe

Used for carrying low-pressure cold water. Common applications include golf course sprinklers, underground conduits, or to carry corrosive liquids and gases.

It offers good chemical and crush resistance.

Lightweight enough to cut with an ordinary knife or a fine-toothed hacksaw blade.

PEX Pipe

PEX stands for crosslinked polyethylene.

The chief advantage is its flexibility and strength. It can make turns around corners without couplings.

In a PEX plumbing system, a separate line is run from the main water supply to each fixture in a set up much like a circuit breaker box.

It's used for carrying hot and cold water.

Excellent chemical resistance to acids and alkalis, but do not use for fuel oil, gasoline, or kerosene systems.

Do not weld with solvents. Join with heat fusion, flare, crimp ring, or compression fittings.

Galvanized Pipe

Has zinc coating that prevents rust if not scratched.

Use primarily for carrying water or waste. Do not use for gas or steam.

Common water sizes are 3/8”, 1/2”, 3/4” and 1”. Common waste sizes are 1-1/2”, 2” and 3”.

Often sold in pre-threaded standard lengths, or can be custom threaded.

Use only with similar galvanized pipe fittings, not with black pipe fittings.

Measured using the I.D. (inside diameter)

Black Iron Pipe

Black iron pipe is not treated for rust resistance.

It's commonly used for carrying steam or gas.

Used only with black iron pipe fittings, not galvanized fittings.

Measured using the I.D. (inside diameter).

Water Supply Tube

Used to connect a water supply line to a faucet fixture, toilet or appliances. There are several types available.

The plastic type is flexible and inexpensive but not designed for exposed connections.

The ribbed chrome type bends easily without kinking.

Braided types feature pre-attached connector nuts at both ends and can be flexed to fit.

Chrome-plated copper or brass tubes are more rigid than other types and are good for exposed applications.

The most common size is 3/8", with lengths ranging from 6" to 72".

Vinyl Tubing

Vinyl tubing is economical and used in a variety of applications.

Usually joined using pressure fittings and clamps.


Traps are installed under sinks and tubs to route wastewater to the drain.

They bridge the gap between the sink tailpiece and the drain line.

The bend in the trap uses gravity to hold water and prevent sewer gas from seeping into the house.

Attaches using slip nuts

Three configurations include: P trap, S trap, and J bend.

Most common sizes are 1-1/4” and 1-1/2”.

Also available is a trap with flexible tubes that help in connecting misalignments of the tailpiece and the drain line.

Available in plastic and chrome-plated brass

Tub Drain

A tub drain uses an overflow opening to control draining in a tub.

The spring type consists of an assembly controlled by a lever that moves a pop-up plug up and down. It is easiest to install, especially in retrofits.

The weight type consists of an assembly that controls a weight that lifts up or down out of the drain hole. It is also controlled by a lever.

Pop-Up Drain

This is also known as a P.O. drain.

It controls the mechanism in a lavatory sink with a plug that can open or close the drain.

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