Plastic pipes: materials for the 21st Century plumber

May 10, 2016 0 By Sophie Weston

Plastic Pipes: Materials for the 21st Century Plumber

The world of pipes in plumbing used to be dominated by one material – copper.

When copper was much cheaper than it is today, that made sense. The fittings were also cheap and it didn’t look out of place if the pipes were visible, such as in radiators, running from the ceiling down a wall or across a skirting board. Even today, copper is still favourite when pipes are exposed.

However, we’re also in the 21st Century, and that means we’re talking plastic. Although it’s not as pretty as copper, and people are more comfortable when plastic pipes are out of sight under floorboards, plastic has some unique advantages: it’s a lot quicker to work with, doesn’t involve soldering and can still withstand relatively high temperatures – up to 100 degrees.

But for the plumber who’s new to the trade, or the non-plumber who needs to buy pipes and fittings, there are a few important things to think about:


  1. Don’t mix and match

You can’t use different manufacturers’ fittings on different pipes. For example, if you use a Speedfit fitting on a Polypipe pipe and there’s a blow off, that will invalidate the warranty.


  1. Protect the fittings with an insert

Make sure you use an insert in a plastic pipe – this is tubing that is part of connecting the pipe to the fitting. If you don’t, you run the risk of the water pressure blowing the fittings off the pipe.


  1. Solvent weld or Push-Fit waste pipes?

Plastic pipes can be either solvent weld or Push Fit. These are made in different sizes and you need to select the right fitting for the pipe. However, it’s possible to use a converting device called a compression fitting that enables you to use a fitting on either type of pipe. A plumber might identify half-way through a job that a different fitting is needed than they originally thought – and that’s where having the flexibility of a compression fitting comes into play.


Solvent weld waste pipes are used more in bathrooms where the pipe is hidden under the bath or floorboards and you can also identify leaks quickly; Push Fit pipes are seen more often in kitchens where they are not normally hidden and are more accessible. However, it’s really down to the plumber what they want to use in the situation.

Dave King, Branch Manager at Plumbase Warwick

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