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ABS vs PVC pipe

Updated on March 17, 2016

Whilst both black ABS are white PVC are types of plastics used extensively for piping there are also subtle differences between the two. Black ABS and white PVC pipe are both used for waste and drainage purposes, white PVC is also used for exterior cold water supplies. Statutory regulations in most countries call for both to be clearly marked and labelled.

ABS stands for Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene and aside from pipe is also used for automotive trims and components as well as small kitchen appliances and toys most famously lego. PVC stands for polyvinyl chloride and aside from pipe is also widely used in electrical cabling as well as for door and window frames.

The pipe you see used to run hot and cold-water services is CPVC that is chlorinated polyvinyl chloride. Basically this is PVC that has gone through a further process to strengthen it and make it more suitable for hot applications, again it is an entirely different products designed for different uses.

There are some major differences between the two, ABS pipe degrades and deforms in ultra violet or sunlight, PVC pipe does not. This makes PVC more suitable to outdoor applications or where it will be exposed to ultra violet light. ABS is more flexible and impact resistance then PVC it also performs better at colder and hotter temperatures then PVC which in turn becomes brittle and more likely to shatter and soft in turn. PVC pipe is sturdier and stronger and holds up slightly better then ABS. This is because ABS contains a “foam” core this makes it more flexible and resilient. It is hard to see this “foam” core, as the heat from a hacksaw will solidify the plastic as you cut it due to the heat.

When jointing the two pipes together the most popular method is via glue or solvent cement. ABS pipe will glue straight together with use of the correct glue and form an almost immediate bond. Jointing PVC pipe usually means using both primer first then solvent cement after and the joints take longer to set. This makes ABS slightly easier to install.

Check local building codes and regulations regarding use of ABS and PVC plastic pipe as these may allow use of only as a type of waste pipe or call for the whole drainage system to be constructed of one type. Regardless it is best to have an entire system installed in one or the other (again check local building and regulations) there is a special all purpose glue (usually green in colour) that will join the two different types of pipe ABS and PVC together, again check this is allowed by local building codes and regulations.

Black ABS or White PVC do you have a preference?

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