Ask the Builder: Plastic pipe a great product, but its many types can be confusing – Entertainment & Life – The Columbus Dispatch

Q: I went to buy some plastic drain pipe, and after looking at all the types I was confused. So I decided to do some research. I have several projects for which I need a plastic pipe. I need to add a bathroom in a room addition; I need to replace old, cracked clay downspout drain lines; and I want to install one of the linear french drains I saw on your website to dry out my basement.

Can you give me a quick tutorial on the sizes and types of plastic pipe the average homeowner might use around her home?

A: It’s fairly easy to get flummoxed because there are so many different plastic pipes. Not long ago, I installed a somewhat special plastic pipe to vent my daughter’s new high-efficiency boiler. It is made from polypropylene and can withstand much higher temperatures than standard PVC that most plumbers might use.

It’s important to realize that there are lots of different plastic pipes that you might use, and the chemistry of them is quite complex. I’m just going to stick with the most basic ones.

PVC and ABS plastic pipes are perhaps the most common ones you will run into when it comes to drainage pipes. Water-supply lines are another ball of wax, and I’m not even going to try to confuse you further about those.

I used PVC for decades, and it is fantastic material. As you might expect, it comes in different sizes. The most common sizes you would use around your home would be 1.5-, 2-, 3- and 4-inch. The 1.5-inch size is used to capture water that might flow out of a kitchen sink, a bathroom vanity or a tub. The 2-inch pipe is commonly used to drain a shower stall or washing machine, and it might be used as a vertical stack for a kitchen sink.

A 3-inch pipe is what’s used in homes to pipe toilets. The 4-inch pipe is used as the building drain under floors or in crawlspaces to transport all the wastewater from a home out to the septic tank or sewer. The 4-inch pipe might also be used in a home if it is capturing two or more bathrooms. Plumbers and inspectors use pipe-sizing tables to tell them what size pipe needs to be used where.

The wall thickness of the pipes is different as well as the inner structure of the PVC. Many years ago, all I would use would be schedule 40 PVC pipe for house plumbing. You now can buy a schedule 40 PVC pipe that has the same dimensions as traditional PVC but is lighter weight (it is called cellular PVC). It passes most codes and may work for you in your new room addition bathroom. Be sure to clear this first with your local plumbing inspector.

Give SDR-35 PVC a good look for the outside drain lines you want to install. It’s a strong pipe, and the sidewalls are thinner than the schedule 40 pipe. I have used the SDR-35 pipe for decades with fantastic success.

Lighter-weight plastic pipe with holes in it will work fine for that buried linear French drain. Be sure the two rows of holes aim down. Don’t make the mistake and point them up to the sky as they may get plugged with small stones as you cover the pipe with washed gravel.

Tim Carter writes for the Tribune Content Agency. You can visit his website ( for videos and more information on home projects.

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Post time: Jun-27-2019
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