ABS vs. PVC: Which Pipes Are Better?

Updated: Aug. 30, 2023

Follow our expert advice for choosing between ABS and PVC drainpipe. You have to consider your local plumbing codes, material availability, ease of use and other factors.

ABS and PVC both work well, but differ slightly in joining techniques. When it comes to longevity, there isn’t any reason to choose one over the other. If you install them right, either black or white plastic pipe will remain in service a lot longer than you will. So how do you choose?

What Is ABS Pipe?

ABS Pipe Pros

ABS pipe is renowned for its durability, lightweight nature, and ease of installation. It is resistant to chemicals, making it suitable for transporting various fluids. It also exhibits good impact resistance, reducing the likelihood of cracks or breaks. Additionally, ABS pipes dampen sound better than other materials, resulting in quieter water flow.

ABS Pipe Cons

It is not suitable for hot water systems as it can warp or deform under high temperatures. UV exposure can cause them to degrade, limiting their outdoor applications. While they are relatively easy to work with, they might require special glue and fittings designed for ABS. It is less resilient to extreme cold than other materials, making it susceptible to fractures in freezing conditions.

What Is PVC Pipe?

PVC Pipe Pros

It is lightweight for easy handling and installation. PVC resists corrosion, chemicals and rust. Its smooth interior surface allows efficient water flow and fewer clogs. PVC is suitable for cold and hot water systems and is compatible with various joining methods.

PVC Pipe Cons

PVC can become brittle over time from direct sunlight or extreme temperatures, which may cause cracks or breaks. Concerns have been raised about the environmental impact of PVC due to the use of chlorine during its production and potential release of toxic compounds when burned.

When to Use ABS and PVC Pipe

First, check with your building inspector. A few local building codes allow only PVC (white) or only black ABS. That doesn’t make sense, but it doesn’t matter; comply or else. If code allows both PVC and ABS, make a pass through the plumbing aisle at your favorite home center. Even if the store carries both PVC drain pipe and black ABS, you’ll probably find that it stocks a much wider selection of fittings for one of the types. A big selection makes your plumbing life easier.

If, for any reason, you need to join one to the other during a remodeling project, don’t just cement the two together. Instead, use a rubber transition coupling with stainless steel clamps.

Which Pipes Are Better: ABS or PVC?

If code and selection turn out to be nonfactors, go with ABS black plumbing pipe, which is a little easier to work with. Unlike PVC drain pipe, which requires purple primer and cement, ABS black plumbing pipe is joined with cement only. ABS black plumbing pipe is also easier to cut and a bit more flexible.