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A Plumbers Guide To Types Of Pipes

Plumbing Pipes
Reading Time: 3 minutes

The saying “out of sight and out of mind” applies to many things in life, but it should never apply to your pipes and plumbing. Knowing the type of pipes you have in your home can change how you interpret plumbing issues. At Art Plumbing, Air Conditioning & Electric we encourage our clients to request a pipe assessment and plumbing inspection on a regular basis to prevent callouts to repair and replace pipeline breaks and leaks.

The two primary types of pipes used in South Florida are made out of cast-iron or PVC. Although there are a handful of other pipe options available to the residents of Florida, because the vast majority of homes have either cast-iron or PVC, we will primarily discuss these two pipe options. If you’re interested in knowing more about other pipe materials, give us a call and one of our highly trained plumbers will provide you with any information you need.

The History of Plumbing Pipes

The history of pipes and plumbing is in many ways the history of modern civilization. At the height of the Roman Empire, lead pipes were commonly used to transport potable water and remove wastewater. The word ‘plumber’ even dates back to ancient Rome, where lead pipes were so popular that the Latin word for lead, plumbum, morphed into the common descriptor of someone who works with pipes.

After Rome fell, plumbing technology regressed until the formation of modern, industrialized cities. Engineers and architects tried many different materials for piping, including wood sealed with animal fat, until the common cast-iron pipe became popular.

Cast-iron pipes were installed in a large number of Florida houses in the early 20th century, primarily because they were built to last. There are still houses today with cast-iron piping that was installed last century! Cast-iron can also withstand high pressures, and became a popular choice due to its renowned durability.

Today, homeowners have the option of Polyvinyl Chloride pipes, also known as PVC pipes. PVC pipes were introduced into everyday households in the 1970s and 1980s, so their longevity and durability have yet to be tested. Cast-iron, in comparison, has been put to the test for many years – there are even cast-iron pipes in the Palace of Versailles that were built in the 17th century.

Pros and Cons of Cast-Iron Pipes

Cast-iron pipes have remained consistently popular since their first introduction into Florida’s working-class homes and commercial buildings. Although cast-iron is significantly more expensive than PVC, it is still used by architects throughout South Florida because of its legendary longevity.

Unlike PVC, cast-iron is not combustible, meaning it won’t burn away if a fire breaks out. When a PVC pipe burns it melts and creates a hole through which flames can travel from one room, or even building, to another. When burned, PVC also releases noxious fumes that can have detrimental effects on humans and animals.

Cast-iron is also silent. The molecular makeup of cast-iron pipe allows it to silence noise, while the rubber gaskets used to join cast-iron pipes together reduces the transmission of vibrations within the pipes.

Pros and Cons of PVC Pipes

One of the primary pros of PVC pipes is cost – PVC can be up to 70% cheaper than cast-iron pipes, a significant saving for anyone on a tight budget. Cast-iron fittings are also significantly more expensive than PVC, which can be joined together using solvent cement and socket joints from any hardware or home supply store.

Despite being cheaper than cast-iron, PVC is not as solid or as strong, and, because of its flexibility, PVC piping can begin to deflect under loads. Deflection, which occurs when a round pipe starts to flatten when weight is placed on top of it, can impact flow rate and increase sediment build-up.

Why You Need To Know What Pipes You Have

Knowing the material of the pipes running through your home is necessary to ensure your plumbing is functioning properly. For example, if you know you have cast-iron pipes but you can hear water running through your plumbing, you need to contact Art Plumbing, Air Conditioning & Electric for a check-up.

For homeowners living in older houses, having your pipes assessed is crucial. Even cast-iron pipes will eventually fail, so if you know your house is old make sure to have your pipes assessed in the near future.

If you don’t know what material your pipes are made out of, don’t worry! Our qualified plumbers can easily determine if your pipes are made out of cast-iron, PVC or any other material. At Art Plumbing, Air Conditioning & Electric we will talk you through the best choice of pipe for your home if you need to repair or replace your current plumbing system.


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