ABS or PVC: Choosing the Right Material for Plumbing Pipes

While lead pipes were once the standard material used in plumbing pipes, they were outlawed in 1986 due to concerns of corrosion that would expose people to dangerous lead particles. Once banned, they were quickly replaced by plastic pipes that were safer and more practical, due to their lower cost and lighter weight. Typically, pipes are made from ABS or PVC, but which material is better? To help you choose the best thermoplastic for your plumbing pipes, our thermoforming company in North Carolina is sharing a closer look at both types of materials to help you make the right choice.

What Is ABS?

ABS or PVC pipe comparison from nc thermoforming company

Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, or ABS, is a thermoplastic polymer used in all types of functions from vehicle trunk tubs and dashboards to plumbing pipes and luggage. Polybutadiene dissolves in monomers of acrylonitrile and styrene, causing a chemical reaction that produces a linked molecule known as ABS. Each chemical offers its own benefits:

  • Butadiene offers impact resistance
  • Acrylonitrile offers heat resistance
  • Styrene improves the rigidity of the thermoplastic.

The result is a hard, opaque plastic that is very strong and rigid, resistant to temperature fluctuations, and inexpensive to source and manufacture.

Pros & Cons of ABS for Pipes

Plumbing pipes used in ABS are black which makes them easy to identify. Let's consider the pros and cons of using this material in plumbing functions.


  • Because it performs well in both high and low temperatures, it won't crack in extreme cold nor will it warp, bend, or melt in extreme heat.
  • It's highly resistant to impacts so it won't crack or break during installation or if it's banged or knocked about.
  • This is a hard, durable plastic that can hold up to both interior and exterior plumbing uses for decades with minimal issues.
  • It's easy to shape and form into all types of pipes, including curved ones for using under sinks and in difficult areas.
  • Connecting ABS pipes is a one-step process, requiring special cement to instantly bond two pieces.
  • ABS is easier for plumbers to cut to size.


  • ABS pipes are made with bisphenol A, or BPA, which is used to make the plastic harder. While the FDA hasn't found a risk to humans, there are studies that show animals that have been exposed show hormonal and neurological effects.
  • Some local building codes do not allow ABS pipes to be used in freshwater pipes.
  • ABS plastic is a bit more expensive PVC.

What Is PVC?

Polyvinyl chloride, or PVC, is a polymer of vinyl chloride and one of the most widely produced plastics in the world. Without the use of plasticizers or phthalates, PVC is a rigid, brittle material that is incredibly durable and resistant to water damage, abrasion, and chemical damage, and it's most often associated with pipes.

Pros & Cons of PVC


  • PVC is free of BPAs, so it is seen as a safer choice.
  • There are fewer regulations in local building codes for PVC pipes compared to ABS.
  • Inexpensive materials keep the cost of the final product low.
  • The sound of running water through PVC pipes is more muffled and lower than the sound of water moving through ABS.


  • The greatest challenge of choosing PVC pipes is that it takes longer to connect pipes. In order for one pipe to bond to another, the pipe ends must be primed, dried, and then a special cement can be applied. This whole process may take an hour to complete.
  • Because it's so hard and brittle, it's difficult to cut through to resize the pipe.

Choosing ABS or PVC for Plumbing Pipes

If you're in need of plastic pipes, both ABS and PVC are excellent options. We recommend looking at your local market to see if there is one material that is preferred over another in building codes, as well as consider your clientele and what they are more likely to use. There's really no wrong answer as both materials offer durability, impact resistance, temperature tolerance, and longevity.

Get a Free Quote for Custom Plastic Manufacturing Today

If you're in need of custom plastic pipes or other plastic plumbing materials, we offer high-quality, durable plastics at a low per-unit cost and a fast lead time. We offer thermoforming and injection molding to clients in the Southeast and Mid-Atlantic states, including North CarolinaSouth CarolinaPennsylvaniaMaryland,   TennesseeGeorgia, and Virginia. To learn more about our services or get a free quote, contact us today.

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