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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Here’s links to a collection of our other blog posts about PLUMBING PIPES:
• Why is some PVC pipe black?• How can I protect my pipes to keep them from bursting during a hard winter freeze in North Florida?
• Can galvanized steel pipe still be used for new water lines in a house?
• How can I tell if I have cast iron pipes in my house?
• Why can't a sanitary tee be used for a horizontal-to-horizontal drain pipe connection?
• What is the difference between green and white sewer drain pipes?
• Is a washing machine drain hose required to be secured at the standpipe?
• What are the abandoned pipes sticking out of the wall in my house?
• What are the code requirements for plumbing vent terminations?
• What are the code requirements for layout of drain piping under sinks?
• What causes a gurgling sound when a bathtub or sink drains?
• What is a "combination waste and vent" in a plumbing system?
• What is a building trap?
• What is a galvanized nipple?
• What are the pipes sticking out near my water valves?
• How do you accurately find a broken water pipe leak under the floor slab?
• What is the difference between water pipe and sewage (waste) pipe?
• Are plastic pipes (PVC, CPVC, and PEX) safe for drinking water?
• Is a hot water faucet handle required to be on the left?
• What is a dielectric union?
• What's that powdery crust on the pipe connections at the water heater?
• If all the plumbing drains have water in them and you can still smell sewer gas, what's causing the problem?
• How can I tell what type of plumbing pipe I have?
• Why is there a flexible accordion pipe under the sink?
• What is the difference between PVC and ABS plumbing pipe?
• What is the difference between water service pipe and water supply pipe?
• What are the pipes on my roof?
• How can I find out what type of water pipe runs underground from the water meter to the house (service pipe)?
• What is a P-trap?
• Why is old galvanized steel water pipe a problem for homebuyers?
• What does polybutylene pipe look like? Why is it a problem?
• Which water pipes are an insurance problem and possibly uninsurable?
• Can you connect CPVC pipe directly to a gas water heater?
Visit our PLUMBING and LIFE EXPECTANCY pages for other related blog posts on this subject, or go to the INDEX for a complete listing of all our articles.