Do you have PVC pipe in your home or plan to utilize it in new construction? You probably want to know how long the pipes will last before you need pipe replacement.
Of course, there are a number of variables that contribute to the lifespan of PVC piping, but you can still get a fair understanding of what to expect.
In this PlumbingNav guide, we will cover:
- How long does PVC pipe last?
- How long does PVC last for sewer and drain pipes?
- How long does PVC pipe last underground?
- How long does PVC pipe last outside in the sun?
|What's In This Guide?|
How Long Does PVC Pipe Last?
When first introduced, PVC pipe (pipe made from polyvinyl chloride) lasted anywhere between 25 – 40 years. Today structurally enhanced PVC pipe lasts longer. According to The Water Research Foundation:
“estimates about the useful life PVC pipe vary from 75 to 150 years.”
Even when placed under the pressure of the average residential plumbing system, homeowners can expect their new PVC pipes to last on the high end of the range (roughly 100 – 150 years under ideal conditions and proper plumbing maintenance). Of course, there are numerous variables that contribute to the longevity of PVC pipes.
One factor that affects how long PVC pipes last indoors is chemical usage. Be sure to check labels and only use drain cleaners safe for PVC pipes. Some products may accelerate the deterioration of the material. You don’t want a problem deep in your plumbing system or in the main drain. Check the label to confirm the best chemical for a clogged sewer line.
Benefits of PVC Pipe
On top of the longevity of PVC pipe, additional benefits include:
- 100% recyclable
- Flexible and adjustable
- Easy installation
- Produces safe potable water
Leaks in PVC Pipe
You may experience a leak before the PVC pipe itself is compromised. One of the most vulnerable parts of plastic pipe is where it connects to another plumbing pipe.
You will need to use high-strength PVC glue when attaching pipes to ensure a long-lasting connection. If a leak occurs at a point of connection, it may not be the pipe that requires replacement but the PVC glue or sealant.
Alternatively, you can use push-fit connectors (also known as sharkbite connectors) that won’t require an additional sealant but may give you trouble when you want to remove them if you don’t know how to remove push fit connectors properly.
Different Types of PVC Piping
The different common types of PVC pipe are:
- PVC-U (unplasticized PVC) – standard PVC
- Schedule 40 – thinner walls for low-pressure systems
- Schedule 80 – thicker, stronger walls to withstand higher pressure
- C-PVP (chlorinated PVC) – PVC pipe designed for high temperatures
- PVC-O (molecularly orientated) – atomically-enhanced layered PVC-U pipe
Most residential plumbing systems utilize C-PVC pipes to accommodate the heat from the house’s water heater. PVC-U pipe will often be utilized in cold water systems since they cost less than C-PVC pipe.
Other Plastic Piping
You have more options than PVC when it comes to plastic piping.
Common alternative plastic piping options include:
- PEX pipe – similar in strength and quality to PVC pipe but slightly better in freezing temperatures and slightly more expensive
- ABS pipe – stronger but more rigid and may warp in sunlight
Generally speaking, homeowners opt for PEX pipe when installing plumbing in new construction and ABS or PVC pipe when installing plumbing indoors on projects. PEX pipe works better in tight or awkward spaces compared to PVC or ABS pipe. It also lasts a long time.
PVC Pipe vs. Metal Pipes
PVC plumbing pipes have many advantages over other options thanks to their flexibility and resistance to corrosion. This is partly what has driven their replacement of older pipe materials.
Galvanized steel and iron pipe may be stronger than PVC pipe, but it’s much more difficult to work with, increasing installation cost. They also don’t expand or contract when frozen.
Since PVC pipe doesn’t corrode, you don’t have to worry about rust getting into your family’s drinking water.
Things to Know The Lifespan of PVC Pipe
How long does a PVC sewer and drain pipe last?
CPVC pipes last longer primarily thanks to their resistance to high temperatures. On average, PVC pipes hold up to temperatures up to 140 degrees and CPVC pipes can withstand temperatures up to 200 degrees.
Standard PVC pipe will deteriorate quickly and develop a leak when used for a drainage system that handles hot water. However, CPVC pipe will last significantly longer.
The standard water heater is set to 120 degrees. You may wish to lower the temperature slightly if your home contains standard PVC piping.
Additional ways to maintain PVC sewer and drain pipes include:
- Buy high-quality drain strainers to prevent debris
- Avoid disposing of hazardous items down the garbage disposal
- Install a water softener at your main water supply
How long does PVC pipe last underground?
Underground PVC pipes regularly last over 100 years. This lifespan can be affected by other factors, such as pipes located under a concrete slab that receive stress.
It’s important to have durable underground pipes since they require additional attention due to accessibility difficulties making repairs and replacement especially challenging (and expensive).
One of the main concerns of underground pipes is freezing.
PVC and CPVP pipes will freeze during sustained low temperatures outside. Underground, they don’t freeze quite as quickly thanks to the frost line. Underground PVC pipes will freeze at 20 degrees, but that depends on the freeze line and the depth of the pipes
- Insulate pipes
- Protect outdoor pipes with pipe covers
- Use anti-frost outdoor pipes
- Seal creaks
- Allow faucets to fully drip
PVC pipe is considerably better than copper piping in the cold as it expands if it does experience ice whereas copper pipe remains rigid.
PEX pipe is the best option for freezing conditions, but you will see good results from both plastic piping options.
How long does PVC pipe last outside in the sun?
PVC pipe does not deteriorate when exposed to the UV rays of the sun for extended periods of time, making it a great option for outdoor plumbing. Over time, its impact strength may degrade tho.
However, you may experience discoloration thanks to the UV rays. To prevent discoloration, apply a thin layer of PVC primer or latex on exposed piping.
Final Thoughts On How Long PVC and CPVC Pipes Last
When choosing plastic piping, select CPVP over PVC every time. The material lasts a long time (75 – 150 years), even under the stress of external factors, such as heat and freezing temperatures, making it a great option for residential use and standard commercial use.
FAQs on PVC Pipe Lifespan:
What is the life expectancy of PVC pipe?
Standard PVC pipe only lasts roughly 40 years. Advanced CPVC pipe and enhanced PVC pipe lasts as long as 150 years, especially when underground.
What is the difference between PVC and CPVC pipe?
CPVC pipe withstands higher temperatures, making it appropriate for drain lines that handle hot water.
How long does pvc pipe last in the sun?
PVC holds up very well to the sun’s UV rays. However, you may notice that the pipe gets discolored over time if you don’t apply a coating to it.
Does PVC pipe deteriorate?
PVC pipe will eventually deteriorate and leak, but not for a very long time. You can prevent leaks with solvent cement and other high-quality sealants.
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