ABS vs. PVC – Crowning a champion

December 11, 2018 Brendan Ellingham

After drudging through every plumbing forum on the Internet and consulting plumbers from each corner of the industry, only two things are certain. Everyone has a differing opinion on what is truly the premier plumbing plastic, and everybody feels very, very strongly about their choice.

So, we’ve broken down the characteristics of each material in an effort to choose a winner, and hopefully eliminate some of the footwork involved in planning your next project.

Environment

Where your pipes are going plays a huge part in determining the optimal choice, both geographically and whether or not they are indoors.

ABS is considerably stronger than PVC when exposed to frigid weather, but is also weakened by exposure to sunlight. So much so that many southern states exclusively use PVC. However, PVC also requires the use of a primer in addition to solvent cement, which can have a considerable setting time depending on the size of the pieces—far from optimal for outdoor workers during winter months.

Winner: In Canada, ABS all the way.

Costing

Per pound, ABS is slightly more expensive than PVC. However, the extra step of applying PVC’s infamous purple primer will only compound labour costs. Additionally, PVC is considerably tougher on tools, and cutting it creates more burrs that need to smoothed out before priming, adding even more time to the process. So despite the initial price difference, ABS will still be cheaper in the long run.

Winner: ABS 2, PVC 0.

Intended Usage

With a rated resistance of 82°C compared to PVC’s 60°C, ABS also wins out for commercial or industrial applications that require a higher temperature tolerance.

That said, hot water in a home rarely exceeds 50°C, and PVC has been praised for its sound deadening qualities. It’s also significantly more fire-retardant than ABS, and more resistant to corrosive chemicals.

Winner:  PVC.

Decision Time

Without a doubt, the majority of large projects choose ABS for its proven durability, time saving qualities and thermal tolerances. So unless you’re building high-end residential properties that need to be as sound-proof as possible, we currently see no reason to suggest otherwise. (Of course, local building codes may choose for you.)  And if you feel strongly one way or the other, we’d love to hear from you. Email us at plumbing@canplasplumbing.com

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