Rogelio Alvarez

By: Rogelio Alvarez on February 15th, 2023

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ABS vs. PVC Comparison: The Battle Between Two Plastic Pipes

Plumbing | Drains

Every day, people must make decisions between different options. From which outfit to wear with which shoes to how you want your eggs cooked. People must be free to choose between red or blue, scrambled or fried, and ABS and PVC pipes. 

Most people have yet to hear of ABS or PVC plastic. But if you're a homeowner dealing with deteriorated plumbing pipes, you probably have heard about these white or black pipes. Bad pipes are already a stress-inducing concern, and now you have to research which pipe material is better for your home.  

It sounds like extra work, but at Monkey Wrench Plumbing, Heating & Air, we've installed both PVC and ABS pipes in hundreds of homes and have experience with their advantages and disadvantages. Our collective knowledge will help us pass all the insider industry information on to you!

The differences between these two pipes are minor, but that doesn’t mean they're the same, even though they're both plastics. Our in-depth analysis of PVC versus ABS pipes will help you make the right decision for pipe repair and replacement for your home. 


PVC Pipes Vs. ABS Pipes: What's the Difference?

Every good comparison has a list of factors to consider. ABS and PVC pipes have several categories that can be used for comparison. These factors will help you determine whether you want ABS or PVC pipes for your home!

  • BPA Presence

  • Color of Pipes

  • Pipe Connection Method

  • Flexibility and Strength 

  • Water Transportation Sound

  • Indoor Vs. Outdoor Use

  • Corrosion Resistance

  • Weakness to Heat

  • Durability 

  • Cost 


BPA Presence

When it comes to manufacturing, BPA (Bisphenol A) is a chemical that helps harden plastic materials used in different applications, such as pipes. It is also present in some plastic dishware that holds food and drinks. ABS pipes contain BPA, while PVC pipes do not. 

Some researchers believe that BPA consumption has adverse health effects on people. The United States Food and Drug Administration has declared that small quantities of BPA that filters into food aren't harmful to people. 

Since ABS plastic pipes have BPA, some owners feel more comfortable using PVC pipes for water supply line systems. Although BPA contamination is a little concerning, tiny amounts of BPA leaching into your water supply aren’t harmful. 


Pipe Color

The easiest way to tell these two plastic pipes apart is by their color. Knowing this easy-to-tell difference can help you identify pipes when it comes time to replace them. 

PVC pipes are white, and ABS pipes are black. Both pipes come in different sizes by diameter and level of thickness. 

Both pipes have specifications such as size marked somewhere along the pipe. Pipe sizes are referred to as schedules, and the most common pipe size is Schedule 40.


Pipe Connection Method

On a more technical end, one way to tell apart these two plastic pipes is by their connection method. Although you'll never have to connect these pipes, it helps to learn about their connection methods to get an idea of the type of work a professional plumber will do. 

ABS pipes and connections can be attached and welded using special cement glue. PVC pipes require a primer first to clean the connecting ends of the pipes. A special PVC adhesive is then used to melt the connecting surfaces of the PVC plastic before fusing them permanently.  

This means that if you need to do a small plumbing repair of your own, such as under the sink, you will require glue too. 


Pipe Flexibility and Strength 

Every home's plumbing system is laid out differently, even though they all serve the same purpose: remove waste from the house and separately transport clean water to the residence. Plumbing pipe flexibility and strength play a massive role in efficiently transporting waste and clean water.  

Both pipes are flexible and robust. But PVC pipes are more flexible than ABS, and ABS pipes are considered stronger. Flexible pipes allow plumbers to run a plumbing system through tight spaces and corners, whereas more robust pipes like ABS provide shock and impact resistance. 


Water Transportation Sound

It isn't loud, but it is possible to hear your indoor plumbing pipes transport water and other materials throughout your home. If you don't mind the noise, ABS piping is okay, but PVC pipes are the better choice for their muffled water transportation sound! Especially if you have thin walls.


Indoor Vs. Outdoor Use

Both pipes can be used indoors and outdoors, but each has an edge over the other. ABS pipes are better suited for outdoor underground plumbing because of their excellent shock resistance. ABS pipes are usually the go-to pipe for sewage drains, thanks to their durability.

PVC is also suitable for outdoor use but is commonly used indoors for plumbing and water supply systems. Some homes use both pipe materials and connect them with special fittings. 


Corrosion Resistance

Plumbing professionals highly regard both PVC and ABS pipes because they are highly resistant to corrosion. Corrosive pipes are more likely to crack and break, which can cause leaks in your home. Galvanized steel and cast iron pipes will become corrosive in their life span.


Reactions to Weather and Temperature

PVC and ABS plastic pipes can handle hot water but cannot survive fires or hot temperatures. Both plastic pipes can warp or melt when exposed to heat. 

ABS pipes are popular for outdoor underground piping because they handle freezing temperatures better than PVC. PVC pipes may become brittle and can break during freezing temperatures.

PVC pipes are often used outside above-ground watering systems over ABS pipes. That'sThat's because ABS pipes can warp and break whenever exposed to direct UV light from the sun for extended periods. 


Durability and Cost

One of the biggest reasons homeowners prefer ABS and PVC plastic pipes over steel and cast iron is their lost cost and affordability. Just because these plastic pipes are low cost doesn't mean they’re low quality. 

ABS and PVC pipes can last over 50 years. Your home's plumbing and water supply systems will remain efficient with either of these two plastic pipes. 

These plastic pipes are processed for reuse, which makes them eco-friendly. Once it becomes time to replace or repair your ABS and PVC pipes, you can discard them at a recycling facility. 


Choosing The Right Plastic Pipe For My Home

Broken plumbing pipes stink, and no one should ever have to deal with a horrible sewage smell. If you're holding your nose while reading this, you're looking for the best pipe replacement to address your concern immediately. 

At Monkey Wrench Plumbing, Heating & Air, we've seen the shift in the plumbing industry from using cast iron and steel pipes to PVC and ABS plastics. We have helped hundreds of homeowners fix their home's plumbing problems with ABS and PVC plastic.

The differences between these two plastics are minor, but with further understanding, you can find which pipe plastic best suits your home. If you have any other questions about installing PVC or ABS pipes in your home, please get in touch with us online or by phone at (310) 853-9690. You can also get a deeper analysis of the pros and cons of PVC and ABS piping, respectively.