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  • Writer's pictureZack Jurkowski

The Battle of the Drains: Comparing ABS, PVC, Copper, and Cast Iron


As a licensed general contractor in Montreal, I often get asked by clients which materials are best to use for their residential drain pipes. In this blog post, I'll be discussing the four most common materials: ABS, PVC, copper, and cast iron. I'll break down the pros and cons of each material and the price differences, so you can make an informed decision for your bathroom or kitchen renovation project.



ABS Pipe



ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) is a black plastic pipe that is commonly used for drain, waste, and vent lines. It is lightweight, durable, and affordable. The average cost for ABS pipes is lower than other options, making it the most cost-effective option.


Pros:

Affordable

Easy to install

Resistant to rust and corrosion

Doesn't conduct electricity


Cons:

Not suitable for hot water or pressure

Not as durable as other materials


ABS pipes have a lifespan of around 50 years, and they can fail due to warping, brittleness, cracking, and deterioration caused by exposure to UV light.


PVC Pipe



PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) is another plastic pipe that is commonly used for drain, waste, and vent lines. It is a popular choice for DIY projects because it is easy to install and affordable. The average cost for PVC pipes is between the price of copper and ABS making it very durable yet cost effective.


Pros:

Affordable

Easy to install

Resistant to rust and corrosion

Doesn't conduct electricity


Cons:

Not suitable for hot water or pressure

Not as durable as other materials


PVC pipes have a lifespan of around 50-75 years, and they can fail due to cracking and brittleness caused by exposure to UV light and extreme temperatures.


Copper Pipe



Copper pipes are commonly used for water supply lines, but they can also be used for drain, waste, and vent lines. They are a popular choice for high-end projects because of their durability and aesthetic appeal. The average cost for copper pipes is considered quite expensive, both in terms of raw material and installation. Copper has been a volatile commodity with wild price fluctuations in recent years.


Pros:

Durable

Aesthetically pleasing

Resistant to rust and corrosion

Suitable for hot water and pressure


Cons:

Expensive

Difficult to install

Conducts electricity


Copper pipes used as drain lines have a lifespan of around 50-70 years and can fail due to corrosion caused by chemical reactions between the copper and the drain water. Copper drain pipes can also develop pinhole leaks and joint failures over time.


Cast Iron Pipe



Cast iron pipes were the standard for drain, waste, and vent lines for many years. They are still used in some areas, like Westmount, where they are required by local building codes. The average cost for cast iron pipes, the difficulty of installing them and their size and weight makes them cost prohibitive, and reserved only for certain projects where they are required by code or when the budget allows.


Pros:

Durable

Quiet operation

Resistant to fire


Cons:

Expensive

Heavy and difficult to install

Prone to rust and corrosion


Cast iron pipes have a lifespan of around 80-100 years, and they can fail due to corrosion, cracking, and joint failure caused by ground movement and settling.


Which One Is Right For Me?


In conclusion, choosing the right material for your residential drain pipes depends on your budget and needs. ABS and PVC pipes are affordable and easy to install, but not suitable for hot water or pressure. Copper pipes are durable and aesthetically pleasing, but expensive and difficult to install. Cast iron pipes are required in some areas and are durable and fire-resistant, but expensive and heavy. As a general contractor, I recommend consulting with a professional plumber to determine which material is best for your specific project.


Thank you for reading, and if you need any help with your Montreal bathroom or kitchen renovation, don't hesitate to contact us!


 

Montreal Contractors is a qualified company, holding an active bonded license as a General Contractor and Specialized Contractor with the Régie du Bâtiment du Québec (RBQ License: 5767-5480-01), ASP Health & Safety Certification and a $2M liability policy. Our employees have all passed background checks, are registered with CNESST and have their ASP Health and Safety certification.

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