Difference Between ABS and PVC Pipes

Difference Between ABS and PVC Pipes

Both ABS and PVC pipes are plastic pipes, but what is the difference between the two? Let's find out.
Did you know...
... that it is not recommended to glue an ABS and a PVC pipe together.
If ever you have observed the piping system of a building, you've probably found white or black pipes. While these pipes might appear similar at first glance, they are different in many aspects, such as flexibility, durability, method of installation, and utility. While one is resistant to corrosion, the other can withstand lower temperatures.

These differences make it essential to choose the right one, when constructing a new building, or replacing an existent piping system. ABS pipes are made from acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, while PVC pipes are made from polymerized vinyl chloride. Both these pipes are primarily used in DWV (drain, waste, and vent) systems. In this Buzzle article, we shall compare these two types of plastic pipes, and see in what aspects they differ from one another.

ABS vs. PVC Pipes

Most pipes used in residential piping systems today are made from copper, PVC or ABS. While it's easy to distinguish metal pipes from plastic ones, telling an ABS pipe from a PVC pipe can be a little difficult for the uninitiated. In this section, we shall compare ABS and PVC pipes, based on a few common parameters.

ABS Pipe
ABS Pipe
PVC Pipe
PVC Pipe

1. Appearance
  • ABS pipes are black.
  • PVC pipes are white or cream-colored.

2. Composition
  • ABS pipes are composed of foam filled between two solid layers of plastic.
  • PVC pipes are made up of solid plastic.

3. Structure
  • ABS pipes are light and flexible.
  • PVC pipes are strong and rigid.
Thus, while ABS pipes bend on strong impact, PVC pipes shatter to pieces.

4. Installation
  • ABS pipes can be installed in a single step, with the use of appropriate glue. It's not necessary to hold the joints together.
  • PVC pipes require two steps for installation. The first step involves application of primer fixer to the joint. After the primer dries, the second step involves application of glue or solvent cement. The joints need to be held together for a few minutes.
Note that there are two types of primer for PVC pipes, one is purple in color, while the other is clear and transparent. The regulatory boards in certain states have made it mandatory to use purple primer, so that it is easier to know if primer has been used to fix a joint.

5. Temperature Range
  • ABS pipes have a broader temperature range, which is from -40 °F to 180 °F.
  • PVC pipes have a maximum operating temperature of 140 °F.
The broad temperature range makes ABS pipes more suitable for use in cold climates.

6. Resistance to Sunlight
  • ABS pipes undergo degradation on prolonged exposure to sunlight.
  • PVC pipes are resistant to damage by sunlight.
This makes PVC pipes the preferred choice for outdoor installations. However, ABS pipes can also be used outdoors, after applying a coating of UV protecting pigment.

7. Markings Present
  • ABS pipes only have the DWV identification on them. Markings for pressure ratings are absent.
  • PVC pipes only have the markings for pressure ratings. DWV identification is absent.

8. Primary Use
  • ABS pipes are used in both, above ground and underground applications. They are also used for indoor piping.
  • PVC pipes are used in drinking water systems and garden piping, including sprinkler installations. Since PVC is a good thermal insulator and provides protection against fire, these pipes can be safely used in fire-prone areas.

9. Resistance to Corrosion
  • ABS pipes are not resistant to corrosion. Hence, it is necessary to apply a protective coating on these pipes to prevent corrosion.
  • PVC pipes are highly resistant to corrosion. Hence, no protective coatings are necessary.

10. Durability
  • ABS pipes are less durable.
  • PVC pipes are highly durable.

Recognizing different types of pipes is essential for safe and proper repair and installation. The local bodies in some states prohibit the use of ABS pipes, as the joints of these pipes easily come loose. So, before you opt for these pipes, make sure you've obtained approval from your local authorities.