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What is the average life expectancy of PVC pipe?
Thursday, July 26, 2018
How long does PVC pipe last?
The expected lifespan of PVC pipe is 50 to 80 years, with an average of 70 years, although some data provided by plastic pipe manufacturers indicates a possible 100+ year life for the material. Since it has only been in widespread use in the United States since about 1970, the material is too young for a more accurate determination.
It is well documented, however, that sunlight on exposed pipe (like in the photo above) deteriorates PVC pipe and will shorten its life, making it brittle and therefore susceptible to impact fractures. Some PVC is available with additives such as titanium that reduce, but do not eliminate, the rate of damage from the UV rays in sunlight. They are marked “UVR” on the pipe. Since most PVC is buried in the ground for water service or drain pipe, sunlight is not a problem at those installations. But manufacturers recommend painting PVC pipe in exterior locations that are exposed to the sun with a light-color paint compatible with the plastic for protection.
Here’s a graph that compares the life expectancy of PVC to other types of pipe commonly used in residential plumbing.
To understand the basis, potential use, and limitations of lifespan ratings, see our blog post ”How accurate are the average life expectancy ratings of home components? Are they actually useful?”
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