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Common Types of Pipes in Homes: What Makes Them Different?

If you’re building a house or having plumbing work done, you may be wondering what your options are as far as piping goes. What materials are available to you, and what makes them the best choice for your needs? Luckily, Gotelli Plumbing has answers. Let’s talk about some of the most common plumbing materials found in homes today.

Galvanized Steel

Galvanized steel is steel with a coating of zinc on it to prevent rusting, and it used to be the material of choice for residential plumbing until the 80s. They generally last 20-50 years, so some older homes still have old galvanized pipes. While these pipes are still sometimes used in sewer lines, they are considered too dangerous to use for potable water supply lines due to the issues they cause as they age.

Galvanized steel pipes leave your water supply vulnerable to lead contamination and interior corrosion, which can make your water unusable. Even though they’re very sturdy, galvanized steel is so heavy that the piping is difficult to work with. They are also prone to clogging and can corrode easily if the zinc coating is damaged. If your home still has galvanized pipes, it’s time to replace them with a more modern solution.

Cast Iron

The popularity of cast iron pipes predates galvanized steel. Cast iron is extremely durable and strong, still found in many homes today. However, it’s also very heavy and prone to rusting over time. Luckily, PVC can be used to replace segments of pipe that rust through. However, full repiping may be a more cost-effective solution if your cast iron pipes are rusting.

Rigid Copper

Because it doesn’t come with any health risks, copper piping is often used for water supply lines in residential buildings. While it is a bit more expensive than other options and isn’t a good choice for DIY plumbing, copper pipes handle heat and high water pressure well. The material is also recyclable and even used piping is pretty valuable. If you decide on copper pipes, they’ll last at least 50 years.


Polyvinyl chloride pipe, or PVC, has been popular as a drain or vent line pipe for years, mostly because it’s much easier to work with than heavy iron and steel pipes. It’s inexpensive and easy to install, making it a great DIY material, but the joints are prone to leaking if not installed properly. Since PVC is joined with glue, pipes must be cut and replaced rather than simply unjoined.

CPVC, or chlorinated polyvinyl chloride, is a material closely related to regular PVC. The chemical difference between the two allows CPVC to withstand temperature differences better than PVC. As such, building code often calls for CPVC in place of PVC for hot water lines. You should check building codes to see if either material can be used in your area.


Cross-linked polyethylene pipes, or PEX, are the most common material used in new homes. Like, PVC pipes, PEX pipes are plastic, but they are set apart by their flexibility. Because PEX is more like a plastic tubing than the traditional rigid piping most people think of, they have a wider range of uses.

PEX can be used in long, continuous runs, bending at 90 degree angles without a need for cutting and joining. They fit together with a system of ridged clamps that make installation easy and inexpensive as well. The best part about PEX pipes is that they are completely resistant to corrosion and heat, lasting indefinitely.

For more information about repiping or to begin the water line repiping process, call the experts at Gotelli Plumbing. Contact us today to get started.

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Petaluma, CA
110 Howard Street Suite B
Petaluma, CA 94952-2922
San Rafael, CA
21 Lovell Ave
San Rafael, CA 94901