How to Identify Old Plumbing Pipes

Here are some examples of pipework that you may find in your home. Most plumbing these days is done with plastic pipes and fittings, but it is still important to be able to recognise the type of plumbing you have in your home before work can begin. It is also worth noting, that although it is not illegal to still have in your home, lead pipes should be replaced with modern plastic pipework. If you find lead pipes in your home, we strongly reccommend that you contact a reputable plumber for advice

1. Lead pipes are grey and give a dull thud when knocked. You can nick the surface with a knife. Look for smooth bends and neat even swellings – these are ‘wiped’ soldered joints. Repairs are now made using copper pipe.

2. Iron pipes have a grey galvanised or black finish and give a clanging sound when knocked. A knife will only scrape along the surface. Look for the large threaded joints which appear as a collar on the pipe or at a bend.

plumbing pipe How to Identify Old Plumbing Pipes

3. Copper pipes are recognised by their familiar copper color. Changes of direction are often made by bends in the pipe itself or by using angled fittings. The joints will be either the compression or capillary type.

4. Stainless steel pipes have a bright silvery surface. They come in the same sizes as copper and can be joined in the same way. Bends are only found in sizes up to 15mm. These pipes are not commonly used in the home.

5 Polythene pipes are usually black and are soft enough to be slightly compressed between the fingers. Joints are made with metal compression fittings which require special gunmetal olives and liners.

6. UPVC pipes are grey and rigid. Connections and changes in direction are made by angled joints which fit like slim collars over the ends of the pipes. These are fixed in place using solvent weld cement.

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