Plumbing is invisible until it fails. Upon inspection, it’s a morass of different pipes and arachnoid fittings. Use this handy guide to avoid confusion and prevent grisly plumbing disasters.
|Galvanised Steel||Copper||Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)||Cross-linked Polyethylene (PEX)||Poly-propylene (PP)|
|Advantages||Inexpensive, durable||Lightweight, corrosion-resistant||Inexpensive, lightweight, easy to use||Flexible, easy to join, lower propensity to leak||Durable, minimal risk of chemical exposure|
|Disadvantages||Develops lime deposits in alkaline water||Expensive, may require brazing tools, may get stolen||Limited to uses that stay below 60 degrees, like drainage and wastewater||Damaged by UV light||Expensive, requires special tools|
|Joining||Pipe is threaded, and joints are sealed with pipe-joint compound or tape.||Copper pipe is traditionally brazed, but compression fittings create brazeless joints, though they sometimes require special tools.||Cut pipe to length with a saw, then join to fittings with adhesive. Also accepts compression fittings, like copper.||After a fitting has been inserted into the pipe, a special crimping tool clamps a ring around it, forming a seal.||A heating tool is used to semi-liquefy the ends of the pipe to be joined. They are then hand-pressed together.|
|90-degree elbow||45-degree elbow||tee||P-trap||plug|
|90-degree street elbow||45-degree street elbow||reducing coupling||wye||union||cap|
Originally published in the November 2015 issue of Popular Mechanics. Email your shop notes to firstname.lastname@example.org