Whether it’s your home or some major civil engineering construction project, pipes are always an integral part. Different types of pipes based on material like cast iron, concrete, wrought iron, HDPE, and Plastic, and steel pipes are used.
In residential plumbing of a house, common types of pipes include flexi, cast iron, galvanized steel, copper, and PVC. The pipes connecting different fixtures and appliances of plumbing system are bit smaller in diameter than typical main plumbing line of a house. So, whether you’re hiring a pro for next plumbing project or are looking taking on a DIY home project, it’s best to understand different types of pipes and their specific uses:
Table of Contents
- What are different types of pipes?
- Cast Iron Pipe
- Wrought Iron Pipes
- Galvanized Iron Pipes
- Copper Pipes
- Steel Pipes
- Plastic Pipes
- Asbestos Cement Pipes
- Concrete Pipes
- Vitrified Clay Pipes
What are different types of pipes?
To convey water, gas, sewage or oil from one place to another, the most suitable and universal approach is to use a pipe.
A pipe is a closed conduit used to carry fluid substances or finely divided solid or a hollow tubular body to conduct fluids. Water supply and sanitation projects of civil engineering use pipes to layout distribution schemes that supply a town with required quantity at desired pressure.
Let’s now start by the most common type of pipe in residential plumbing:
Cast Iron Pipe
Cast iron pipe is made chiefly from grey cast iron. It widely used in city water distribution schemes. The thickness of cast iron pipe is also varied according to the maximum load that will act on the pipe.
These pipes are commonly jointed by bell and spigot joint. While joining, few strands of jute are wrapped around the spigot before its insertion in the bell after which more strands of jute are added. After that, the space between bell and spigot is filled with molten lead which is tightly caulked into the joint after cooling.
- It is durable and strong as in some cases it can last over 80 years.
- These pipes are readily available in different diameters and lengths depending on the design.
- For protection against corrosion, these pipes are dipped in bitumen to create a protective layer.
However, over the passage of time cast iron pipes tend to corrode and this is one of the biggest demerits of these pipes.
Bell and Spigot Joint: It is a type of joint used in connecting pipes with each other. In this joint, the spigot (less diameter end) fits into the enlarged end (bell) of the other pipe and the joint is made tight by lead, cement, rubber or other compounds.
Wrought Iron Pipes
As the name suggests, these pipes are made from wrought iron. These are manufactured by welding wrought iron sheet in tubular shape. These pipes are also commonly used for conducting liquid and gas from one place to another.
- Wrought iron pipes are lightweight as compared to cast iron pipes.
- These pipes are easier to bend, cut, and join.
- They’re readily available in different lengths, diameters, and thicknesses.
- The biggest con of cast-iron pipe is its corrosion. It can often take place in the interior of the pipe so you can’t see.
- It is very heavy and can sink in the ground with cracking.
- Can easily clog, drains are slow.
Galvanized Iron Pipes
Galvanized iron or GI pipes are made from mild steel sheet which are welded to form a cylindrical shape. These pipes are also frequently used as water supply pipes. These pipes are typically available in lengths of 20 ft. However, lesser lengths are also available depending on use.
The thickness of the wall of pipe varies with its diameter. GI pipes are generally available in 0.5″ to 6″ diameters. GI pipes are joined using a socket joint.
- After manufacturing, these pipes are dipped in zinc solution. This process is called galvanizing – it provides resistance against corrosion.
- These pipes are light in weight and can be easily bent and jointed.
- The average life of GI pipes is more than 10 years.
- These pipes are highly sensitive to acidic and alkaline solutions. If exposed to these solutions, these pipes deteriorate rapidly.
Copper pipes are typically used to carry hot water as they can bear high temperatures without bending. They’re available in small diameters as compared to other pipes. Manufacturers join these pipes using flanged joint and union joint.
- The major advantage of copper pipes is that they do not catch rust.
- They’re pretty durable and long lasting.
- However, copper pipes are costlier and are not used everywhere. They’re like 10 to 15 times more costly than other types of pipes.
- It can easily freeze. So, it is not a suitable choice for extreme cold regions.
- Copper pipes won’t work for well-water as acidic water can ruin the pipe surface.
Steel pipes are also used to transfer liquids or gases from one point to another. These pipes are also dipped in zinc solution to provide a protective coating again corrosion.
- The average life of steel pipes is about 25-50 years.
- These pipes are made by welding steel sheets in cylindrical shape.
- Steel pipes are light in weight, easy to handle, and easy to joint.
- It is naturally resistant to corrosion.
- Moreover, steel pipes are prone to bending if subject to unnecessary loads. Like the case with GI pipes, steel pipes are also liable to deterioration when exposed to acidic or alkaline solutions.
- Furthermore, these pipes are costlier and require adequate maintenance.
- The repair of these pipes is also a cumbersome task.
Plastic pipes which include PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) pipes are being commonly used for conducting fluid substances. These pipes are becoming a growing trend in water supply distribution schemes. Plastic pipes are usually joined using a socket joint.
- Plastic pipes are flexible and light in weight.
- The biggest merit of these pipes is that they do not corrode.
- Furthermore, acidic and alkaline fluids do not affect the functioning of these pipes.
- One considerable point here is that plastic pipes should not be used to carry hot water as it may damage the walls of the pipe.
Asbestos Cement Pipes
Asbestos cement pipes are made by combining asbestos, silica, and cement under high pressure to form a dense material that has substantial strength. Asbestos is a naturally occurring fibrous silicate material. In asbestos cement pipes, asbestos fibers are mixed with cement to act as reinforcement.
Asbestos pipes are assembled by means of a special coupling which consists of a pipe sleeve and two rubber rings. The joint formed is highly flexible and can permit a deflection up to 12° while laying around curves. These pipes are light in weight and easy to handle. These pipes can be jointed to cast iron pipes using lead or sulfur base.
Plain cement pipes lack tensile strength whereas in asbestos cement pipes the added asbestos fibers provide pipe improved tensile strength.
- A major benefit of these pipes is that they are highly resistant to corrosion.
- In addition to that, asbestos enhances the mechanical properties of these pipes.
- However, these pipes eventually undergo thinning which necessitates replacement. Plastic (PVC) pipes are becoming a growing option as an alternative to these pipes.
- Primary concern was when workers cut these pipes it sent dust into the air which caused severe health problems when inhaled.
Asbestos cement pipes were extensively used in the middle of the 20th century. However, with the passage of time, the inclination towards using these pipes declined because of the health risks they posed.
Concrete pipes can be precast or cast-in-situ and reinforced or unreinforced. For low pressures, plain concrete pipes are used and for high pressures reinforcement concrete pipes are preferred.
The reinforcement is usually in the form of spiral reinforcement or in the form of cage. In large sized pipes, the reinforcement is in the form of cage. Because of better control during the manufacturing process, a precast concrete pipe is of higher quality and lesser thickness as compared to a cast in situ pipe of same size.
For low heads, concrete pipes are joined by bell and spigot joint with mortar caulking. To ensure complete water tightness for very high heads, a steel cylinder is often cast in the pipe.
- Concrete pipes last for over 30 to 50 years if proper maintenance is done.
- You can cast concrete pipe in any desired strength and shape by manipulating the mix design, thickness, and reinforcement.
- It is readily fire and weather resistance.
- Can resist both tensile and compressive stresses.
- Economical for sewer solution.
- Suitable for all type of water.
- It is quite durable pipe.
- Exposure to alkaline solutions may jeopardize the workability of pipes.
- Furthermore, concrete pipes carrying wastewater maybe subject to sulfide corrosion which deteriorates their functioning.
- They’re quite heavy and difficult to transport.
- Installation cost is way too higher.
Vitrified Clay Pipes
Vitrified clay pipe is made from a blend of clay and shale. The shale has been subject to high temperature to achieve vitrification, which produces a hard, dense ceramic perfect for the manufacture of pipes.
- The biggest advantage of these pipes is that they are resistance to all types of corrosion.
- Vitrified clay pipes are frequently used in gravity sewage systems because of their long life and resistance to hazardous wastes. The most common toxic gas is hydrogen sulfide and these pipes are resistant to its damaging action.
- The main benefits of a vitrified clay pipe is its resistance to corrosion and harmful gases and its smooth inner surface which increases hydraulic efficiency.
- The use of these pipes under high pressures is avoided because of their low tensile strength and difficulty in securing perfectly watertight joints.
- The most common joint for these pipes is the bell and spigot flexible compression joint which provides tight contact between pipes.