9 Types of Pipes Used in Commercial Building Construction

Although usually hidden from sight, pipes are the unsung heroes in commercial building construction. They serve many purposes, particularly in water distribution and drainage.

The plumbing system consists of two main sections: supply and waste disposal. This article will teach you about the different types of pipes and fittings according to the material they are made of and the purpose they fulfill in plumbing.

Supply or Service Pipes

As the name suggests, these pipes are responsible for distributing clean water from the main supply to the entire plumbing system across the different parts of the building.

Service pipes can be made from various materials, such as copper and galvanized iron. However, many modern commercial buildings are now opting for a reliable and more cost-efficient piping material: plastic.

More and more commercial building contractors are using plastic pipes for internal and external plumbing. This is because they offer plenty of advantages, such as:

  • Durability against corrosion
  • Lighter weight
  • Lower upfront and installation costs
  • Straightforward installation and replacement
  • Ease of maintenance

Apart from that, the best plastic pipe manufacturers have also developed several variants to the material to optimize their use for specific purposes.

1. Polyethylene (PE)

Probably the cheapest and most common plastic pipe available, polyethylene (PE) pipes are typically used for water supply in commercial buildings.

Most PE pipes can handle cold water distribution efficiently. They are also quite useful in low-temperature applications, such as snow melting and floor heating.

2. High-density polyethylene (HDPE)

High-density polyethylene (HDPE) pipes are denser derivatives of the classic PE pipe. It is flexible and can serve as a viable replacement for aging steel or main concrete pipelines.

Thanks to their strong molecular bond and high impermeability level, HDPE pipes are also deemed the best choice for high-pressure applications.

3. Cross-linked Polyethylene (PEX)

Another variant of polyethylene pipes you should consider is cross-linked polyethylene (PEX). These pipes are manufactured to be able to handle both hot and cold liquids, making them an excellent choice for commercial establishments.

Plus, the level of flexibility this pipe offers is perfect for hard-to-reach areas under and within the building. They are also easier to install and replace, even with numerous obstacles blocking the path.

They have become some of the most sought-after plumbing pipes for business establishments because they require very low maintenance. PEX pipes are also deemed some of the most durable options and are known for staying leak-free for longer.

4. Polyvinyl chloride (PVC)

Although not as flexible as other materials, polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipes remain a popular choice in commercial plumbing.

These are often used for potable water supply, although you may also find them in vents, drain and waste lines, and the sewage. Specific pipe configurations and thickness can vary based on the application, although PVC pipes are generally light and easy to install.

5. Chlorinated polyvinyl (CPVC)

This is another inexpensive pipe option that has become preferred in commercial establishments.

Chlorinated polyvinyl (CPVC) pipes can handle water supply with temperatures of up to 120 degrees Celsius. This resistance to heat makes CPVC an excellent choice for HOT water delivery and similar supply applications.

6. PVC Ducts and Conduits

Pipes have more applications beyond indoor or outdoor plumbing. Some, like PVC ducts and conduits, are mostly used as exhaust and in electrical applications.

PVC ducts can resist most chemicals, including bases, acids, halogens, and salts. This makes them the perfect choice for industrial fume exhaust systems, provided that the operating temperature reaches no higher than 140 degrees Fahrenheit.

These ducts are also preferred for exhaust systems connected to heating, ventilation, and air-conditioning (HVAC) systems because they are not prone to denting or corrosion.

On the other hand, PVC conduits are specifically designed for electrical applications underground or in other wet locations. A PVC conduit system comes with fittings, couplings, connectors and elbows, all of which can be easily attached using PVC glue.

7. Polypropylene Random Copolymer Plastic (PPR Pipes)

Made from polypropylene random copolymer, PPR pipes are used in transporting potable water within a building. This thermoplastic class material can withstand high temperatures, making it an ideal alternative to cold galvanized pipes in a hot-cold water distribution system.

Considered one of the most advantageous types of pipes, it has a smooth inner surface and is lightweight. It is also hygienic, non-corrosive, and can be easily installed.

8. Polybutylene (PB Pipes)

PB or polybutylene pipes were originally manufactured as a replacement for copper pipes in interior water distribution and underground water mains. These pipes usually have diameters ranging from half to one inch and have markings like “PB2110.”

In residential buildings, these pipes often come in a grey hue, although they can also be black, blue, white, or silver. Grey ones are mostly placed near water heaters, toilets, sinks, and inside the walls and ceilings of the basement.

Don’t get confused though, as these are not the same as PEX pipes, which are more flexible and heat resistant.

9. Polyvinylidene Fluoride (PVDF Pipe)

PVDF — which stands for polyvinylidene fluoride — is a piping material made for industrial and chemical applications.

PVDF pipes resist higher temperatures and corrosive chemicals well. These have the lowest smoke and flame development rate and can withstand temperatures of up to 275 degrees Fahrenheit.

Typically, these pipes are used for transport and other applications related to chemical, food and pharmaceutical processing, nuclear waste handling, and ultra-high purity water processing.

Pipe Applications

Drainage and waste disposal are as important as the water supply in both residential and commercial construction. But unlike the supply pipes, waste disposal is not only divided into the type of materials the pipes are made of.

Wastewater produced in different places in the building (e.g., commercial kitchen or bathroom) do not pass through the same pipe. Instead, they are segregated into different pipes, namely:

1. Rainwater Pipes

As the name implies, these pipes carry rainwater from the roof down to the surface water sewer or soakaway. This prevents the accumulation of rainwater on the rooftop and helps maximize its use for farming or gardening purposes.

Rainwater pipes are ideally 75 millimeters in diameter. These are also thinner than soil or wastewater pipes because they don’t need to carry thick or solid waste.

2. Soil Pipes

These are the pipes responsible for transporting human excreta from water closets to the septic tank. They are not connected to any other pipes, except the vents.

Soil pipes have thicker walls compared to rainwater pipes. They are also bigger in diameter, at 100 millimeters.

3. Wastewater Pipes

These pipes carry liquid waste from washbasins, kitchens, and the like. Although they don’t carry human excreta, wastewater pipes should have the same level of thickness as soil pipes. Their sizes also vary based on their position during installation: 30 to 50 millimeters for horizontal pipes and 75 millimeters for vertical pipes.

4. Vent Pipes

These are the only pipes connected to soil pipes because they serve as ventilation for the septic tank. Vent pipes serve as the exit for foul gases, which is why they are open on both ends.

Vent pipes should be installed at least one meter higher than roof level and should be around 50 millimeters in diameter.

Choose Your Pipes Wisely

Deciding on the types of pipes to use for a commercial construction project is vital in ensuring the optimal function of the plumbing system. Use this article as a guide and contact us at Polyfab today for your plastic pipe needs.


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