ABS vs. PVC vs. PEX Piping: Differences and Common Uses

Are you in need of a water line installation? Or, perhaps it’s time to replace old water lines with new, higher-quality materials. Whatever the case, understanding your options can make it far easier to choose the best piping for your plumbing project.

At Mr. Rooter Plumbing, our Phoenix plumbing experts are always happy to answer questions from our customers. And when it comes to piping, some of the most common questions we receive have to do with the different types of pipes available: “What are the differences between ABS, PVC, and PEX piping? Which type of pipe is best suited to my needs?”

This guide will cover the basics of different piping types, how they’re different, and each pipe’s specific use. With this resource in hand – and a trusting plumber from Mr. Rooter of Phoenix – you’ll be ready to tackle your next plumbing project confidently.

What are the Different Types of Piping?

There are several kinds of piping used for plumbing, but the three most common are:

  • Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS)
  • Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)
  • Cross-Linked Polyethylene (PEX)

So, for most residential plumbing projects, you’ll choose between ABS, PVE, or PEX piping.

ABS Piping

ABS stands for Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene. You can usually spot ABS piping due to its black color (PVC pipe is usually white). One of the main characteristics of ABS pipes is that their chemical makeup is bisphenol A, which is commonly known as BPA.

Although there is still some debate about the safety of BPA, the FDA has stated that it is safe in certain amounts. In ABS pipes, BPA’s use is for increasing durability (the same reason BPA is in many other types of resin and plastic).

Common uses for ABS pipes include:

  • Both commercial and residential applications
  • Outside/underground installation, including extreme cold
  • Waste, drain, and vent piping systems
  • Drainage in sewer systems
  • As electrical insulation

PVC Piping

The pipes you are probably most familiar with are PVC, or Polyvinyl Chloride, pipes. These are usually white, are easy to find, and come in many different sizes.

Common uses for PVC pipes include:

  • Commercial and residential applications
  • Indoor installation
  • Drains and wastewater
  • Insulation for electrical cables

PEX Piping

Finally, a chemical combination known as Polyvinyl Chloride creates PEX piping. PEX pipes are made via a process that melts high-density polyethylene, then forms it into a tube shape.

Common uses for PEX pipes include:

  • Add-ons to copper piping
  • Above-ground installation
  • Hot water pipes

ABS vs. PVC vs. PEX Piping: Differences

So, what are the differences between PVC, ABS, and PEX pipes? A few notable differences can make all the difference between a perfect fit for your project and a poorly-suited choice.


As we’ve mentioned, one of the main differences between these three types of piping is their chemical composition. You might not know precisely what the chemical makeup of each pipe means on a technical level, but you should know that the different materials can fit varying needs and purposes. Your plumber can help you determine which material is ideal for your specific project.


As you would probably guess, installing PVC pipes is different than installing ABS or PEX pipes. Knowing what to expect during the installation process is helpful.

With ABS pipes, there is a special cement that helps make connections. However, PVC piping requires a two-step connection process, including priming and cementing. In contrast, the PEX pipe is slightly bendable, so it doesn’t need as many connections.


In the right conditions, PVC pipes can last upwards of 70 years. Both ABS and PEX pipes have about 40-50 years of life.


The total cost of piping will depend on the amount you need, the quality/grade, and the size. There will also be variability in the installation cost.

PVC is the cheapest option, but it’s not necessarily the best pipe for every application. For example, using PVC pipes for drinking water or hot water is not recommended.

The next in line is ABS piping, with PEX piping being the most expensive. Of course, like any home improvement project, you can weigh the benefits vs. the cost to figure out which investment makes the most sense for you.

Call Mr. Rooter of Phoenix for All Your Plumbing Needs

Even with a solid understanding of pipe types and uses, it’s better to call in a professional more often than not. With a fast, affordable water line replacement or installation, Mr. Rooter’s Phoenix plumbers will save you time, stress, and money. No more unexpected issues search for mystery parts or surprise bills; when you trust Mr. Rooter, you can count on a job well done.

For more information about pricing and services available, request a job estimate now!