Plumbing materials

A basic plumbing materials list. If you need more info, see the other pages. I hope this will help you.


Fittings are the metal links that connect pieces of pipe with or without a change in direction. Some are made to connect different sizes of pipe, and others to divert, divide, or return the flow of water in the pipe. Fittings are usually made of the same material as the pipe with which they are used, although there are occasional exceptions. End connections are made for either screwing, or flanging, or welding.

You can recognize brass and copper fittings by their color. Steel fittings are usually marked: "F.S." indicates that the fitting is forced steel; "steel" that it is cast steel. Cast and malleable iron fittings look alike, but the end bands on cast iron fittings are wider.

Elbows are fittings which change the direction of a pipe run. Commonly called "ells", they come in a variety of angles; the most popular are 90-, 60-, 45-, and 22 1/2-degree turns. Right-angle runs from a long section of piping are made with a T fitting, so called because its shape resembles that letter. A cross fitting opens in four directions, each at 90 degrees to the one next to it. Y bends differ from T's in that they branch off at 45- instead of 90-degree angles.

Reducing fittings permit joining pipes of different sizes. If a reducing fitting is not available, you can use a bushing with a standard fitting to reduce one of the openings to the desired size. Caps close the male ends of fittings, and plugs close the female ends.

Pipes are connected with couplings, unions, and nipples. Couplings are most often used to join two sections of pipe; nipples can connect various fittings to the fixtures; unions are used to facilitate joining and dismantling.

Flexrock packing

In some cases, where the threading on a trap is imperfect, or you need to seal a leak at the junction of pipe or trap, either wicking or flexrock packing can be used. This is a metallic, self-forming, self-lubricating packing. You can also use it to stop leaks in the spout of a combination or deck faucet, in slip joint connections, and radiator valves.

Flexrock packing is wound around the tail piece below the coupling nut or loose head coupling. When the nut is tightened, the pressure molds the packing into a lead-like washer. It can be used for piping conveying either cold or hot water, and is resistant to air, brine, gas, ammonia, and other mild chemicals.


Hangers or supports are used to support pipe running along walls or ceilings. You can buy them in several sizes and shapes or make them from iron piping or lumber frames. They are necessary to keep long runs of piping from sagging and weakening at the joints. Hardware

Various hardware supplies (screws, nails, gaskets, etc.) find use in plumbing work. They are usually made of steel, iron, or rubber. Hardware dealers can usually suggest what is needed.

Insulating materials

Hair and wool felt, cork, asbestos, and various mineral insulators such as mica and mineral wool are used to insulate pipe systems where it is necessary to prevent loss of heat or protect occupants of the house from burns.


Lead finds several uses in plumbing. Lead pipes are common in some installations; sheet lead is used as a waterproofer; molten lead is often used to seal joints in cast iron pipe.


Oakum is a loose, stringy fiber used to pack seams and joints when caulking. It is forced into the hubs of jointed pipe with caulking irons to form a seal prior to leading.


The all-inclusive term pipe covers a variety of tubular materials which differ in size and composition. Each kind has its purpose or is suggested as being best for a specific use. In plumbing work the most commonly used are cast iron, galvanized iron, and galvanized steel. Cast iron finds use in water pipes, soil pipes, vent pipes, sewers, and traps. All three are used for fittings in water, drainage, and vent systems.

Although iron and steel pipes are subject to corrosion, their strength, versatility, and low cost make them suitable for structural purposes. Lead pipe is used more in drainage systems than in water supply systems because it is affected by chemical agents in the water. Since soluble lead products are sometimes poisonous, the use of lead pipe should be confined to drainage piping and making joints in cast iron piping.

Copper tubing is a better conveyor of hot and cold water supplies because it does not corrode except when attacked by dissolved gases in the water; soluble copper is not harmful. Brass and bronze pipe are used extensively because they are non-corrodible except with certain types of soft water. As a result, they are excellent for water piping where corrosion would affect functioning.

Vitrified clay pipe is used chiefly in sewer systems because it can easily be made in larger sizes and withstands almost every kind of corrosion.

Factors governing selection of pipe. Although it always contains oxygen and carbonic acid, perfectly dry air will not rust iron. Moisture must be present to absorb the carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide, and other acidic agents from the air. These gases react with the water to form carbonic acid, sulphuric acid, or other acids. Acid water tend to attack iron or steel while alkalies tend to check their rusting. 

Soft waters are more corrosive than hard waters. Soft water, such as rain water, corrodes, then washes away the corrosion, and the action continues. Waters known as temporarily hard, those containing carbonates in solution, protect the metal by depositing an insoluble coating, while permanently hard waters, which include sulphates, do not form a permanent coating.

Water must contain dissolved oxygen and an acid to corrode iron. While aeration reduces the carbonic acid in water, it adds dissolved oxygen which will cause rusting if any acid is present. Salty waters are very corrosive, chiefly on account of the chlorine.

Heat increases the rate of corrosion. That is the reason why, other things being equal, hot water lines become clogged before cold water lines, and cast iron water-backs produce red water and clog. It is also the reason why brass pipes are used on hot water lines, while iron or steel is used on the cold water lines to reduce initial cost.

Vertical soil, drain, or water supply pipes do not corrode as rapidly as horizontal lines. In general, soap and grease deposits have a tendency to protect iron; but where these deposits are small and they decompose, forming organic acid, this acid will attack the iron. Hypochlorite of lime or bleach used to sterilize water rapidly corrodes iron.

Cast iron resists corrosion better than wrought iron or steel. It makes a better drainage system than wrought iron or steel. The life of cast iron pipe will depend on the quality of water it conveys and the soil in which it is laid. It is reported that some cast iron pipes in Paris, France, have been in service for 250 years and are still in good condition. It is usually safe to assume the life of good cast iron pipe to be more than 50 years.

But corrosion and the length of life of pipe are not the only considerations in choosing the kind of pipe, either for repair or for initial building. Cost of pipe and fittings, ease of installation, and availability are other important factors to consider. Judged only on the basis of ease of installation, copper tubing is often the best bet for the amateur plumber, but you cannot always secure it in the quantities needed. Still another point that sometimes must be considered is local building or plumbing codes which vary from one extreme to the other. In some cities the whole plumbing system must be built or repaired by a master plumber.

This is insisted on to help safeguard the health of the entire community. In other districts codes are not so strict and the only requirement is that the plumbing be installed in such fashion that it meets the approval of local health and building inspectors. Then in rural areas there may be no codes at all and anyone willing to attempt to install a plumbing system may do so.

But that does not mean you should install a haphazard plumbing system just because there is no authority to prevent it. The health and comfort of the whole family depend on its being adequate. Also it would be false economy to install a poor system that would break down in a few years and have to be repaired or replaced.

Manufacturers of different kinds of pipe naturally have statistics to support their claims that their type is best for most purposes, but since water conditions vary in different parts of the country it is impossible to generalize and say this or that type is best. The problem has been studied and results tested in most communities and the safest general advice is to use what others around you have used. For fresh-water lines, three materials are now most popular.

These are galvanized steel, brass, and copper piping. Each kind has fittings made of the same or similar material and it is better not to interchange materials even if that were possible. The methods of installing different materials vary slightly or completely, as explained in later chapters. For drainage systems, cast iron pipe is most often used.

Sandpaper, steel wool, and sand or emery cloths

These abrasives are most frequently used to remove rust patches, brighten copper fixtures, and clean surfaces prior to soldering.

Sheeting (zinc, tin, and lead)

Sheets of zinc, tin, or lead are used to make flashings which prevent water leaks and to line pipes as a protection against corrosion.

Valves and faucets

Valves are devices used to control the flow through pipes of either gas or water. They may be operated manually or automatically, depending on the needs of the system they help control. The faucet, which releases and regulates the flow of water, is a common manual valve. Automatic valves are usually safety devices.


A packing material used when making pipe junctures as a preventative against leakage, lamp wicking is the most common type for water and waste lines, when there is no heat present. In the event of prolonged heat, asbestos wicking should be employed. Wicking is often used by plumbers to cover up a badly cut thread on a pipe. This is extremely bad practice and should be avoided as the cure is only temporary and will eventually result in weakness.

Plumbing basics

Bathroom fixtures
Bathroom floor plans
Bathtub installation
Installing lavatory
Water closet install

Cesspool / septic tanks

Fixture pipes
House drain
House sewer
Soil stack
Vent piping

Finishing touch

Heating a home


Dishwasher install
Garbage disposer install
Kitchen plans
Kitchen sink installation
Laundry install
Room plans
Work areas

Cast Iron

Plumbing layout
Pipe plan
Water distributing

Faucet repair
Pipe problems
Repair other
Toilet repair


Plumbing materials
Specialty tools

Water Supply

Hot water heaters
Running pipes
Service connection
Water meter
Water savings

Wells / pumps