How to choose the right pipe material for domestic plumbing installations

Bundles of Copper Pipes

When installing pipes in residential spaces, there are different pipe materials available with each having their own benefits and uses. Home plumbing and heating systems include potable water supplies, gas pipes, irrigation, waste drainage and much more.

With various domestic pipe materials available, it’s important to know what they are used for and how best to apply them in domestic settings. Especially in cities, where residential spaces are becoming much smaller, and you must get creative with the products to make the most of the space available in new build and multi-occupancy homes.

Home plumbing systems have also moved on from galvanised steel and cast-iron materials that you can still find in older homes. Find out below six pipe materials that can be used for domestic plumbing installations and best practice when it comes to using each material.

1. Copper pipes

Copper pipe is still a common solution for water supply lines in homes today because of its reliability and corrosion resistant material, which poses little to no health risks. It’s easy to cut and is designed for installation in residential spaces.

In domestic plumbing, rigid copper is typically used for longer runs of water supply and sometimes as waste lines in the home. Flexible copper is great for use in short runs in the water supply and the supply tubing for dishwashers and refrigerators. Copper can also be used for gas piping.

With copper pipes costing as much as 3x more than PEX piping and the additional health risks associated with flux, glue and soldering, many installers seek alternative cost-effective domestic pipe solutions.

PEX Pipes ceiling mounted

2. PEX pipes

PEX pipes, also known as cross-linked polyethylene, are one of the latest and most popular solutions on the market. It is exclusively used to supply water to homes and is often colour coded: red for hot water and blue for cold water. The pipe is rigid enough to withstand pressures from the water supply and its highly flexible design means it can bend up to 90°angles. This makes it possible to weave the pipes throughout walls, ceilings, basements and tight spaces.

Because of its high flexibility for homes, easy attachment with fewer fittings, its cost-effectiveness and easy cutting, PEX pipe is a great residential pipe solution for installers.

Man holding John guest layflat pipe

3. JG Layflat polybutylene pipes

If you need to install a long running pipe that is ultra-flexible, lays flat and stays flat, look no further than JG Layflat Pipe. Ideal for central heating systems, this easy-to-handle pipe is ideal for cabling through joists thanks to the extra flexibility of polybutylene.

It’s also the best pipe to use when installing underfloor heating. When using polybutylene JG Layflat pipe, it lays flat and flexibly turns around edges as it creates pipe circuits, helping speed up the pipe laying process in even the smallest of spaces.

Installers should cover the Layflat pipes coming up to the manifold with conduit pipes, allowing them to act as a protective sleeve, shielding pipes from accidental damages. The conduit also prevents excessive heat from building up in areas where pipes carrying hot water are close together, which can crack or damage the floor if not protected.

LLDPE pipes on a reel

4. LLDPE pipes

Another type of polyethylene tubing is linear low-density polyethylene (LLDPE). LLDPE Pipe is a common type of plastic water pipe that is perfect for use with cold water systems, as well as intermittent hot water applications.

Designed to be used with all standard fittings and point-of-use drinking water systems such as water purification, ice makers and water conditioners, the tubing is used to connect water filters, countertop faucets, ice machines, and under-sink water filters.

LLDPE pipe is a great choice for water systems as this sturdy pipe flexes itself to protect it from bumps while it’s under the counter. It also benefits from being made from non-contaminating materials while also being able to handle a wide range of temperatures and pressures.

collection of flexi pipes and fittings

5. Flexi hoses

Not everybody wants to see their pipework throughout their home, but hiding pipework represents a challenge for all installers. When trying to hide pipes in vanity units or behind pedestals, especially with a rigid pipework system, the installation process can take a long time.

With second fix installations, this is even trickier, as the final connections from first fix pipework to the outlets is commonly done blind and in awkward places where it is hard to manoeuvre tools.

Another problem is the shrinking of residential spaces, leaving little room to install pipes in settings such as flats and apartments.

This is where flexi hoses come in. Typically made with braided metal or white PVC, they’re flexible and can be installed around existing pipework or obstacles without losing or compromising the connection. Sealing the pipes with one easy push, can save most installers 40% of their time.

Pex pipe in conduit

6. Pipe in pipe solutions

For plumbing installers, Water Regulation Schedule 2.7 makes pipes and conduits an important consideration when taking on domestic installations. It’s not just laying the pipe in the pipe sleeve, but also the length of pipe that is required, where it must extend to and how easy it is to remove from the conduit, and whether joints need to be made.

A great option for domestic installations is pipe in pipe solutions. These pre-sleeved pipes are ready to lay within concrete and masonry. Because the pipe is already pre-laid in the conduit, installers can save time by not having to push the pipe through the conduit during installation, which can happen when working on first-fix housing estates.

If you need domestic plumbing supplies and residential pipe fittings, RWC and its family of brands have everything you need. And to enquire about our JG Speedfit and SharkBite ranges please get in touch by clicking here.

Richard Bateman Headshot

Richard Bateman

Product Marketing Manager Plumbing and Heating

About the author

A highly experienced and passionate professional, I have over 15 years' experience as a commercial and domestic plumber and hold NVQ Level 3 qualifications from City and Guilds

Since joining RWC in 2015, I began as a technical engineer, utilising my extensive knowledge to provide exceptional support. Currently, I am thrilled to be working with the marketing department as a Product Marketing Manager. 

This role allows me to combine my technical background with a keen eye for market trends, ensuring that RWC's products meet the evolving needs of the industry. With my wealth of experience and commitment to excellence, I am proud to serve as a spokesperson for RWC, sharing our innovative solutions and contributing to the growth of the plumbing and heating sector.