If you have spent any time looking into your own commercial or residential plumbing, you might have noticed different types of pipes being used throughout the system. Two commonly used types of pipes are PVC and ABS.  Both are types of plastic piping plumbers like to use because they’re light, inexpensive, and durable.  Let’s discuss these a little further to help understand the pros and cons of each and best application. At bare minimum, it will help you be more informed and ask good questions when a plumber does work at your home or business.

If you are considering water line or sewer line replacement, or pipe repair and replacement, here are some of the details you should be aware of.

PVC Pipe vs ABS Pipe

PVC (Poly Vinyl Chloride) pipe is a white pipe that is NOT made with BPA (Bisphenol A) [https://www.sciencedirect.com/topics/pharmacology-toxicology-and-pharmaceutical-science/bisphenol-a]. ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) is a black pipe that is made with BPA. What’s the significance of BPA? It’s a controversial topic currently being studied. BPA is a chemical used in the plastic hardening process and is commonly found in all types of plastic products. However, in recent years, the FDA has released updated recommendations as scientists continually assess BPA for potential neurological, hormonal, and cardiovascular side effects on humans. Currently (2018) BPA appears to be a safe chemical when present in low doses.

Advantages & Disadvantages

The advantages of PVC is that it is flexible, it does not corrode, is resistant to chemicals (acidic and alkaline), can have a life span of well over 50 years, and is relatively easy to install with a two-step process.  It doesn’t perform as well in extremely hot or cold situations.

The advantage of ABS is that it is stronger and more shock resistant than PVC. It can handle much lower temperatures than PVC, but does not respond as well to direct sunlight. Some plumbers paint ABS pipe with a UV resistant chemical to reduce the likelihood of the pipe warping in direct sunlight. And in some cases, local regulations require that UV resistant application. The life span for ABS pipe is approximately 50 years. And ABS pipe is very quickly installed with a one step process.


Both PVC and ABS pipes are generally used for drainage, waste and vent applications. Neither product is biodegradable and both have similar performance with handling drainage.  Pricing is comparable for both products however PVC is generally the less expensive product for unit cost.  However, because PVC installation requires a special primer for the joint connection process, ABS may be the overall cheaper option when the size and scope of the project is significant.

In some cases, local governmental building regulations dictate the type of pipe that should be used and where. Before starting any projects on your own, check to make sure you are in compliance with those codes.

Need help? Call Coldwright Plumbing & Heating!

Are you considering starting a project in eastern Baltimore County or Harford County? Consider talking to Coldwright Plumbing and Heating before you start your project. We can provide a free quote for service and help you understand all the technical ins-and-outs, advantages and disadvantages of plumbing strategies.

We serve the towns of JoppaAbingdonFallstonBelcampForest HillBel AirAberdeenBaldwinHunt ValleyKingsvilleWhite MarshTowsonFultonMiddle RiverPerry Hall and more! Call us or request a quote online!

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