Two of the most common types of piping for plumbing projects are ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) and PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride). While they may be similar in function, they are distinctly different pipes both in capability and color. You must understand their differences if you plan to use them in your next project. If not, you might struggle to go from ABS to PVC or vice versa.
So before you head to the hardware store, let’s chat about whether you can use ABS and PVC in the same project. Let’s get started!
What Is ABS Pipe?
ABS pipes are black pipes that people use in various plumbing applications. They are usually used in sewer applications and are required in mobile homes. They contain the chemical Bisphenol A, commonly referred to as BPA. Despite some hesitancy from consumers, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration considers BPA safe for humans and animals in specific amounts. However, that’s not the only distinguishing characteristic of ABS pipes.
ABS pipes are typically stronger and more resistant to impacts and vibrations than PVC. This allows people to use an ABS pipe in applications where it could experience an impact. If durability is crucial to you, then ABS pipe may be what you should consider.
Where Is ABS Pipe Used?
Some of the most common places you’ll see ABS pipes are trailers and RVs. The piping must withstand the abuse as it travels down the highway. However, many commercial and residential plumbing projects use ABS pipes.
Compared to PVC pipe, ABS is incredibly rugged. Its durability is especially evident during extreme cold weather conditions. This makes it an excellent option for projects handling drainage, waste, and vent pipes. In addition, some electrical projects will use the pipe to insulate and protect wiring. Many other plastic materials weaken when exposed to cold weather conditions. This could lead to cracks and other damages in the lines, creating various issues.
Pro Tip: Protect your pipes! Use these 7 Tips to Keep Your RV Pipes from Freezing While Camping.
What Is PVC Pipe?
Like ABS, PVC pipe is another standard pipe in residential plumbing projects. One of the easiest ways to recognize PVC pipe compared to ABS is that it’s white. Due to its construction, this is an excellent option for indoor use. The material has some natural sound dampening, which helps you avoid hearing the water as it runs through the pipes.
This type of pipe is commonly used for long runs to help transport water from one location in a house or structure to the other. PVC will likely be the best option instead of ABS if you need some flexibility in your pipes. However, PVC is less resistant to cracking and impact damage, especially in colder temperatures.
Can You Connect ABS to PVC Pipe?
Can you connect ABS to the PVC pipe? Absolutely. You can connect ABS to PVC, but you shouldn’t use standard pipe cement or glue. There are specific glues that are designed to connect the two pipes. Glues used for these pipes are specifically designed to chemically bond the plastics. If you use the wrong glue, the pipes will not bond properly. Usually, the glue used for connecting the two types of pipe is gree.
- Solvent cement specifically designed to create ABS to PVC...
- Medium-bodied, high-strength green ABS and PVC cement applies...
- Low-VOC formula reduces solvent emissions for a better working...
Sometimes this transition cement, as its called, can be found at local hardware stores, but it’s not as common. Keep in mind that it is only to be used for transitions and not PVC-PVC or ABS-ABS.
Some building codes strictly prohibit connecting ABS and PVC. The regulations require that you use the same type of material for the entire run or that the pipes are free of glue. If you need an inspector to check your work, it likely won’t pass, and you’ll need to redo it before they can sign off on it.
It’s best to check with a local plumbing inspector or professional plumber that you know before starting the project. You don’t want to finish this project and have to rip out all of your hard work because you incorrectly joined the pipes. It would be an expensive and exhausting mistake.
Why Would You Want to Connect ABS to PVC Pipe?
While experts typically don’t recommend connecting ABS to PVC, there are some instances where it can be helpful. PVC is far more common and has many more adapters and types of fittings available in most hardware stores. In the photo below, we needed to make a connection for a dishwasher in an RV and could not find the right size tee in ABS. Thus we had to connect ABS to PVC for this one piece.
Other cases in which you might need to go from ABS to PVC could include long runs that go from inside a structure to the outside. ABS pipes are best in extreme cold and sunlight, while PVC is best for indoor applications. If you have a run that goes indoors to the outside, you may need to switch from PVC to ABS.
However, you could get yourself in trouble by connecting the two. In some places, building code prohibits the mixing of the two pipes.
Pro Tip: Learn the ins and outs of your RV Water Lines: How to Find, Repair, and Seal Leaks.
Is PVC Pipe or ABS Pipe Better?
One pipe isn’t better than the other. They’re both unique in their way, with their intended purpose. PVC is excellent for internal residential applications in homes and businesses. However, it’s not nearly as valuable as ABS in outdoor applications. Which pipe is best will significantly depend on the project and the conditions. So save yourself the hassle and select the correct pipe for your next project.
Which pipe would work best for your upcoming project? Would you risk connecting ABS to PVC pipe, or is it not worth the potential trouble? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!
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