Choosing the right water pipes for your home

Johannes van Graan Johannes van Graan
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It is a phenomenon that occurs every single day. It happens in millions of households, offices and other types of constructions on a daily basis. We use it for a variety of functions, from quenching our thirst to cleaning something, whether it be ourselves, our dogs or our dishes.

Yes, opening a kitchen tap and seeing water pour out is really nothing to Tweet about, yet should you experience running water that is clean and healthy, count yourself extremely lucky. It does, after all, add to the joys of a stress-free life. And should something as basic as your clean water supply suddenly be lost, your state of happy existence will definitely be shattered. 

Apart from paying your water bill, choosing the right pipes also goes a long way in ensuring that you (and your family, garden, pets, etc.) enjoy hygienic and safe water. But isn't the realm of water pipes a complex maze, where the route is only known to a select few known as ‘plumbers’?

Although there exists volumes and volumes regarding water pipes, we have narrowed the basic facts down into an easy-to-ready article, exclusive to homify readers. So, whether you are in need of new water pipes or just want to know more about this peculiar (to most of us) subject matter, read on to broaden your horizons on the mysterious world of water pipes.

Picking your pipes

Numerous factors need to be considered when choosing the right pipe. One of these is the material of the pipe, as it helps to determine whether your water will be clean and safe for consumption. In addition, a pipe must be able to effectively maintain the required water temperature and pressure. 

It is important to note that working with different materials may conjure up different sets of challenges, advantages and disadvantages. For example, a pipe’s length, thickness and diameter need to be carefully considered. And remember to keep your eyes on your budget. 

To save you heaps of troubles, consult a professional, such as a plumber or pipe manufacturer. Tell him your requirements and your budget, and allow him to guide you in the direction of the pipe(s) that will sufficiently serve your needs.

Steel pipes: in or out?

Steel is still in – if you opt for specific grades of stainless steel which contain molybdenum, instead of carbon steel or cast iron. These types of pipes are well known when it comes to factors like corrosion resistance, hygiene, suitability for carrying drinking water,and strength. They are also less prone to deposit formation or bacteria colonization.

But that’s not all. These pipes are also more resistant to erosion than carbon steel, are easy to manufacture and install, require low maintenance, are quick to clean, fire-resistant, and recyclable (thus, more value for your money).

Even though other materials such as copper and heavy plastic are climbing in popularity these days, a lot of builders and architects still opt for stainless steel, no doubt thanks to its superb combination of functionality and aesthetic qualities.

Should you consider copper?

The Sloop Copper bath clad in Oak: eclectic Bathroom by Hurlingham Baths
Hurlingham Baths

The Sloop Copper bath clad in Oak

Hurlingham Baths

Copper pipes lend a certain elegance and luxuriousness to a space – just see that stylish bathtub in our example above. However, apart from its beauty, this metal has a host of other advantages as well.  

Copper is lightweight, long lasting, and can be used with both hot- and cold water. As a non-permeable material that resists contamination superbly, this option is very easy to work with and quite convenient when it comes to installation. Copper pipes easily fit into tight places, resist corrosion and water pressure, and are recyclable. Adding copper pipes to a home most definitely enhances its value. 

However, high-grade copper for indoor water distribution can be a bit costly. And as copper is a conductor of electricity, these pipes will need grounding. 

Should the water supplied to your house have a pH value lower than 6.5, the copper pipes may start corroding. This could lead to copper appearing in your tap water and cause leaks (which will lead to contaminants entering the pipes). As copper in drinking water may cause health issues in the long run, it is advisable to discuss all possible scenarios with your plumber or pipe manufacturer.

What issues do metal pipes pose?

Sink with drain grooves on the worktop: classic Kitchen by AD3 Design Limited
AD3 Design Limited

Sink with drain grooves on the worktop

AD3 Design Limited

A lot of old houses have metal pipes, coated with zinc to prevent corrosion (known as galvanizing). But these pipes are increasingly being beaten by plastic, steel and copper pipes due to many reasons.   

First of all, that zinc coat starts to wear off after some time, causing the pipe to corrode and resulting in leaking or broken pipes. In addition, the threaded joints that connect such pipes are sometimes unstable and prone to rusting. 

When galvanized pipes start to corrode, it can lead to metal being introduced into the water supply, contaminating it. Sometimes the zinc coating may also react with the water’s minerals, forming a plaque that coats the insides of the pipe, gradually affecting the water flow inside the pipe.

Why are plastic water pipes so popular?

Plastic pipes such as PVC, CPVC or PEX pipes are widely used in plumbing today, and that is due to various reasons. Known for being tough, light, and being able to resist chemicals and rust, plastic pipes also pack a beneficial punch when it comes to handling-, transporting- and installation costs. 

Because they come with minimal joints, these pipes also pose less of a leakage risk. They adapt easily to earth movements, possess smooth internal surfaces, and save on energy while conveying water. In addition, plastic pipes don’t freeze, which means they can provide effective insulation during low temperatures. 

A big disadvantage of these pipes, however, is the fact that its material cannot be decomposed. It is also not suitable for use in high temperatures, as that may cause them to weaken or break.

Which pipe is right for you?

Having the pros and cons of the different pipe materials makes it easier to know what to expect from each type. Should you want to avoid future house plumbing problems, then stay away from galvanized pipes. Premium quality stainless steel, copper and plastic are more sustainable options.

When it comes to drinking water, plastic and stainless steel are better options than copper, simply because the latter tends to react with water that has a pH reading of less than 6.5. Although plastic pipes are not the most eco-friendly, they are known for being very versatile and safe.

Choosing the right pipe manufacturer

Before you decide on your chosen pipes, get in touch with a trustworthy pipe manufacturer. Check if the manufacturer possesses the proper credentials and qualifications, and can offer you the correct advice for your particular project. Ask if he offers a wide variety of pipes in different materials, sizes and widths, and if he can clearly point out each one’s pros and cons. 

A reliable manufacturer might also survey your property before he offers his suggestions. But be sure to consult 2 or 3 different ones and compare each one’s prices before you decide on one. 

homify hint: Water is a very valuable source, so don’t take chances with your plumbing. Regular repairs or replacements can be quite costly, so opt for materials which are not just safe for you and your family, but can also withstand the effects of time and usage.  

Speaking of cleaning and the importance of water, let homify assist you with some: Fresh Thinking Before Buying A Washing Machine.

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Whitton Drive:  Terrace house by GK Architects Ltd

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