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Types of Plumbing Pipes

Gray Metal

Gray Metal Box
Galvanized Steel Galvanized was in use until the early 60's. There is still some in service in older homes. The interior surfaces of this pipe corrodes over time and the flakey buildup reduces the water flow. Or the pipe will simply rust through and leak. Sometimes it is difficult to run more than one fixture at a time. Typical life expectancy of galvanized steel is 40 years.

Copper Pipe


Copper Used from the early 60's and on, copper is the more reliable (and more expensive) material. Copper's one drawback is that it will split when frozen. Also the soldered connections contained lead until about 1988. Copper is still used today, even though most homes are plumbed with the newer (and cheaper) types of plastic piping.
Grey Plastic

Gray Metal Box
Polybutylene (PB)


Most homes built from the late 70's to the mid 90's were plumbed with PB. PB, considered problematic, is often referred to as "Quest," which is one brand of PB. See the PB Plumbing pages for more information.
Creamy Plastic

Cream Color Pipe
Chlorinated Polyvinyl Chloride (CPVC) CPVC is less expensive and easier to install than copper, but will also split when frozen. It is more reliable than PB.

White PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride, NOT CPVC) is the most common pipe for drains.

Translucent Plastic. Looks like watered down milk. Sometimes red or blue.

Color Pipe
Cross Linked Polyethylene (PEX) PEX is the current pipe of choice. It is less expensive than copper. It installs almost exactly like PB, and has been used since about 1995. The pipe has been in use in Europe for many years without any known problems. However, the jury is still out in the U.S., since we only have limited experience with it.

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