There are a few different choices when deciding what material to use for the plumbing in your home. They each have their advantages and disadvantages.
Copper is one of the most commonly used materials for residential plumbing. Copper pipes are durable, long-lasting, and resistant to corrosion. The most common size for copper pipes in residential plumbing is 1/2″. It is easy to work with, once you know how and can be soldered or “sweated” together with various fittings. Once sweated, a copper pipe junction is arguably the most reliable plumbing connections. It is rare to see a properly sweated copper junction fail. Copper pipes can be a bit on the pricey side these days.
Another widely used material for residential plumbing is PVC (polyvinyl chloride) or CPVC (chlorinated polyvinyl chloride). PVC and CPVC pipes are lightweight, easy to work with, and completely resistant to corrosion. PVC is used mainly for drain, waste, and vent (DWV) systems, as well as for non-potable water supply lines. It is not suitable for use in hot water systems. PVC pipes are joined together by using a PVC primer and PVC cement. The bonding of the pipes with PVC cement is a chemical process which makes for a very reliable, leak-free junction. PVC is more flexible and has more sound deadening properties than ABS.
ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) is a thermoplastic polymer that is similar to PVC but tends to be a little more expensive. It is strong, durable and impact-resistant. It is also known for its high resistance to chemicals, impact, and heat, which makes it a popular choice for automotive and electronic applications.
PEX, (short for cross-linked polyethylene) is a more modern material that is becoming increasingly popular in residential plumbing. PEX is flexible, durable and resistant to freezing, bursting and corrosion. Since it is flexible, it can go around obstacles unlike copper which would require angled fittings. This makes PEX installation much quicker especially for large jobs. PEX fittings can be installed very quickly as they do not require heat or chemicals. Another nice thing about PEX is that it is color coded. For cold water supply you use blue and for hot you use red. PEX fittings can be a bit pricey, but the time savings be worth it.
The choice of residential plumbing material depends on the specific application, budget and personal preference. Copper and PEX are great choices for water supply lines, but PVC and CPVC are more cost-effective options for drain, waste, and vent systems. ABS is a good option for drain, waste and vent systems but not quite as available and more expensive.