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What’s the Best Underground Drainage Pipe?

As a homeowner, you want to ensure that your property is well-maintained. One of the essential yet often neglected parts of your home is the underground drainage system.

A reliable underground drainage pipe frees your home from standing water, water damage and soil erosion. With so many options available, the question remains, “Which is the best pipe for underground drainage?”

You came to the right place if you found yourself asking that same question.

This article will discuss the top five types of underground drainage pipes. Finally, we’ll look at which of them is the longest-lasting. Stay tuned because Drain Magic explores the truth behind this common homeowner inquiry.

The 5 Best Underground Drainage Pipes

Several dozen types of underground drainage pipes are available globally, each with pros and cons. For the benefit of this article, Drain Magic curated this list based on their performance, durability and price. Pipe implementation based on our service experience also played a massive role in deriving this list.

That said, here are the best classes of underground drainage pipes we found:

PVC Pipes

PVC pipes are plastic pipes commonly used for various plumbing applications. They are made from a strong and durable material called polyvinyl chloride. PVC is one of the most popular pipe choices for residential and commercial plumbing projects. 

Performance: PVC pipes are helpful for various drainage and plumbing applications. Their smooth inner surface minimizes friction, increasing the flow of fluids.

Durability: PVC pipes offer good chemical resistance, making them suitable for many liquids and gases. They are durable enough to withstand root intrusion and harsh underground conditions. However, one downside is their susceptibility to high temperatures, which can cause them to soften and warp. Moreover, prolonged exposure to heat, particularly UV light, makes PVC pipes brittle and crack easily.

Implementation: They are lightweight, easy to install and flexible to a certain degree.

Price: The biggest selling point for PVC pipes is their price. You can get PVC pipes for a few cents or dollars per foot, depending on size and thickness.

HDPE PipesHDPE Pipes

HDPE Pipes are another plastic pipe used in water supply and drainage systems. They are made from high-density polyethylene versus polyvinyl chloride in PVC.

On paper, both are very similar: lightweight, easy to install, smooth and durable. But special key differences separate the two; we’ll specify them below.

Performance: HDPE pipes have a smooth inner surface that benefits the flowability of fluids. But unlike PVC, they have a lesser coefficient of friction, giving them a “lubricating quality” that makes flow even smoother.

Durability: HDPE pipes are chemical-resistant and immune to corrosion. They are also durable enough to withstand root intrusions and harsh underground conditions. But, like PVC, they lack in the temperature department. Extreme heat and UV light exposure make the material brittle and prone to crack when struck with enough force.

Implementation: They are lightweight, easy to install and more flexible than PVC. Using heat, HDPE can bend and deform without breaking, making them suitable for curved surfaces.

Price: HDPE is relatively more expensive than PVC pipes.

PEX Pipes

Another popular form of plastic underground drainage pipe is the PEX pipe. It is made from cross-linked polyethylene and offers some perks not found in other plastic pipes. Check below to see what we found.

Performance: PEX pipes are known for their high-temperature resistance compared to their plastic cousins. That means they are less likely to bend or warp from extreme temperatures. That is why PEX pipes are ideal for both plumbing and heating systems.

Durability: PEX pipes are resistant to chemicals, immune to corrosion and durable enough to withstand root intrusions and harsh underground conditions. While heat-resistant, PEX still suffers the same brittle fate after prolonged exposure to UV light.

Implementation: PEX pipes are lightweight, easy to install and relatively more flexible than PVC. They are the most ideal for tight spaces and rounded corners.

Price: PEX pipes are the culmination of PVC and HDPE pipes and more. This means they are relatively more expensive than PVC and HDPE pipes.

Cast Iron and Galvanized Steel

Cast iron and galvanized steel are traditional materials used in plumbing and drainage systems. Cast iron pipes are made from gray iron, while galvanized steel uses steel coated with a rust-protective zinc layer.

They are generally known for their unrivaled physical durability across all underground drainage pipes. But keep the term “physical” in mind. Below is what we found on these pipes.

Performance: All things being equal, cast iron and galvanized steel pipes have the most extended lifespans among underground pipes. They are resistant to heat, sturdy and can withstand heavy loads, making them less prone to breaking or bending.

Durability: Both materials are unrivaled in terms of physical durability. They are resistant to fire, rust and chemical corrosion. However, exposure to chemicals and elements makes them rust over time. There is also a higher tendency for scales and deposits to build up over time internally.

Implementation: Given their physical durability and compressive strength, their weight and limited flexibility is the biggest downsides.

Price: Cast iron and galvanized steel have high manufacturing costs and specialized application requirements. This makes their installation cost more, even when compared to PEX pipes.

Copper PipesCopper Pipes

Copper pipes are another popular choice for plumbing and underground drainage systems. As the name suggests, they are made from copper, a naturally occurring metal known for high thermal and electrical conductivity. They are similar to cast iron and galvanized steel in many ways but have their own unique flair.

Performance: Copper pipes are durable, corrosion-resistant and have a high heat conductivity potential. This makes them great for various applications like hot water supply systems, aside from underground drains.

Durability: While shy in overall physical durability against cast iron and galvanized steel, copper pipes are very sturdy. While durable, they are softer and malleable at the same time. However, they are prone to corrosion with prolonged exposure to oxygen, elements and chemicals.

Implementation: Copper pipes are suitable for underground drains but better for hot water supply systems. The high thermal conductivity ensures that hot water is delivered quickly and consistently throughout the home.

Price: Copper pipes are the most expensive pipes on the list.

What is the Longest-lasting Pipe for Underground Drains_

What is the Longest-lasting Pipe for Underground Drains?

The “best” underground drainage pipe for your household depends on your specific needs and situation. While some homeowners would prefer the low cost of PVC pipes, others may want a more durable option.

There is no easy answer to the longest-lasting, as this depends on several factors.

Cast iron and galvanized steel are the most physically durable, but exposure to elements wears them down. Copper pipes boast good longevity but are a wasted potential if used simply for underground drains.

The longest-lasting underground drainage pipe that strikes a perfect balance on durability, implementation and price is HDPE. They can withstand elements, be immune to corrosion, resist chemicals, and be physically durable to survive decades.

If you are looking for pipes to upgrade or install for your underground drains, HDPE is the best one to get. Drain Magic is the partner of South Central Pennsylvania for their underground drain repairs and replacement needs.

For a service, book an appointment here.