Abs vs PVC Shower Drain [Which is Better?]

When installing or replacing a shower drain, one of the first decisions you’ll need to make is whether to use an ABS or PVC drain. But what exactly is the difference, and which is the better option for your bathroom?

In this guide, we’ll compare ABS vs PVC drains, looking at the pros and cons of each material to help you determine the right choice for your shower.

ABS and PVC are both types of thermoplastic materials commonly used for plumbing applications like shower drains. They have some similarities, but also key differences that impact their performance, durability, appearance, and cost.

Understanding the distinctions between these two popular drain materials will help you select the best option to suit your specific needs and budget. Keep reading as we dive into the details of ABS vs PVC shower drains.

comparison table For contrasting ABS vs PVC shower drains:

CategoryABS Shower DrainPVC Shower Drain
Material CompositionAcrylonitrile butadiene styrenePolyvinyl chloride
CostSlightly more expensive than PVCTypically the least expensive option
DurabilityVery good, more durable than PVC due to butadiene content providing impact resistanceGood, but not as durable, scratch/crack resistant as ABS
Impact StrengthExcellent due to butadiene rubber contentModerate, more prone to cracks and breaks than ABS
Chemical ResistanceGood, but degraded by some strong solvents and acidsExcellent, very resistant to most acids, chemicals
Heat TolerancePoor, softens at relatively low temperatureAlso has low heat tolerance, avoid contact with very hot water
UV ResistancePoor, prolonged sunlight exposure damages ABSExcellent UV stability and weathering properties
AppearanceGlossy finish, available in white and blackDull grayish-white finish typically
Noise LevelFairly quiet drain operationHelps muffle water noises even more than ABS
Installation MethodGlued/cemented connectionsAlso glued, but cannot be solvent welded
Styles AvailableSlip-joint, glue-joint, threaded, no-hubSlip-fit, glue-joint, threaded
ApplicationsShower drains, tub drains, floor drains, DWV systemsSame applications as ABS drains
MaintenanceOccasional drain cleaning with enzyme cleanersSame maintenance needs as ABS

What is an ABS Shower Drain?

First, let’s take a closer look at ABS plastic drains.

Definition of ABS Plastic

ABS stands for acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, and it is a common thermoplastic polymer used in pipe and drain systems. The acrylonitrile component provides chemical resistance, butadiene improves impact resistance, and styrene gives ABS rigidity and easy processability.

ABS is lightweight, durable, and inexpensive, making it a popular choice for shower drains and other drain-waste-vent plumbing applications.

Pros of ABS Drains

Here are some of the advantages of choosing an ABS shower drain:

  • Cost-effective – ABS is generally cheaper than PVC. ABS drain kits are widely available at affordable prices.
  • Lightweight – ABS plastic is lightweight, making ABS drains easier to handle and install compared to bulkier metal options.
  • Impact resistant – The butadiene rubber content in ABS provides impact resistance and strength. ABS holds up well to dropped tools or other impacts during installation.
  • Easy to glue – ABS drain pipes readily bond with ABS-compatible glues and cements to form watertight joints. No welding or soldering needed.
  • Good chemical resistance – ABS has moderate resistance to chemicals like acids, salts, bases, and alcohols. It holds up better than PVC for some chemical exposures.
  • Variety of styles – ABS drains come in slip-joint, glue-joint, threaded, and no-hub models, providing options for different installation needs.

Cons of ABS Drains

The drawbacks of ABS drains include:

  • Not as durable as metal – Although durable for plastic, ABS is more prone to cracking, scratching, and wearing out over time compared to metal drains.
  • Not heat resistant – ABS softens at relatively low temperatures. Avoid draining hot water directly into ABS drains.
  • Not UV resistant – Prolonged sun exposure can damage and degrade ABS. Painting provides protection.
  • Unsuitable for some chemicals – While ABS has decent chemical resistance, it can be damaged by some strong acids, oxidizing agents, and solvents.

Now that we’ve examined ABS plastic shower drains, let’s look at the other option – PVC.

What is a PVC Shower Drain?

Next, we’ll learn about the key properties and characteristics of PVC shower drains.

Definition of PVC Plastic

PVC stands for polyvinyl chloride, which is also a common type of thermoplastic polymer used for plumbing and drainage systems. The “poly” indicates that it is made up of repeating vinyl chloride monomers.

Like ABS, PVC is lightweight, corrosion resistant, affordable, and easy to install, making it another go-to choice for shower drain applications.

Pros of PVC Drains

Here are some of the top benefits of PVC shower drains:

  • Low cost – PVC is typically the most inexpensive option for shower drains. Great for tight budgets.
  • Lightweight – PVC plastic is lightweight and easy to work with during installations. Less strain than metal.
  • Easy installation – PVC drains come in slip-fit, glue-joint, and threaded connections for convenient installation.
  • Noise reduction – PVC helps dampen noise from water flow compared to metal. Quieter operation.
  • Chemical resistance – PVC stands up very well to acids, bases, salts, and other chemicals that can degrade other plastics.
  • UV stability – PVC has good UV stabilization to prevent sun damage. Suitable for exposed outdoor drains.
  • Corrosion proof – Unlike metal, PVC plastic will never corrode, rust, or erode when exposed to water.

Cons of PVC Drains

Some drawbacks of PVC shower drains to be aware of:

  • Not as strong as ABS – While durable, PVC lacks the impact resistance of ABS. More prone to cracks and breaks.
  • Lower heat rating – PVC also softens at relatively low temperatures, making it a poor choice for draining hot water.
  • Poor solvent bonding – Some plumbers avoid PVC because it cannot be solvent welded, only glued/cemented.
  • Potential health concerns – There are some concerns about phthalates and other chemicals potentially leaching out of PVC with time and heat exposure.

So in summary, both ABS and PVC shower drains have their pros and cons in terms of durability, appearance, cost, chemical resistance, and ease of installation.

Now that we’ve covered the key characteristics of each material, let’s directly compare them in some important categories.

Key Differences Between ABS and PVC Drains

To recap, here are some of the major differences between ABS plastic and PVC plastic drains:


  • ABS – More expensive than PVC, but still affordable plastic drain option
  • PVC – Typically the most inexpensive type of shower drain


  • ABS – More impact resistant and durable than PVC due to butadiene content
  • PVC – Not as strong or scratch/crack resistant as ABS

Chemical Resistance

  • ABS – Good chemical resistance, but degraded by some solvents
  • PVC – Superior chemical resistance versus other plastics

Ease of Installation

  • ABS – Easily glued/cemented for waterproof joints
  • PVC – Also glues together well, but cannot be solvent welded


  • ABS – Glossy finish, available in white and black
  • PVC – Generally white/gray finish only

As you can see, ABS and PVC shower drains have complementary strengths and weaknesses that make each suitable for certain applications and budgets.

For heavy use and impact resistance, ABS is tougher, but for chemical resistance and low cost, PVC excels. Installation is straightforward with either plastic drain material using proper gluing techniques.

Factors to Consider When Choosing a Shower Drain

Beyond just the ABS vs PVC decision, there are a few other factors to keep in mind when selecting the best shower drain for your bathroom:

Type of Shower or Tub

  • The size, shape, and layout of your shower pan or tub will impact the drain style and positioning. Measure carefully.
  • For curbless showers, linear or trench drains work well. Standard drains for more traditional showers.

Frequency of Use

  • For frequently used showers, spend a little more for higher durability to withstand daily exposure to hot water and chemicals.
  • For guest or pool showers, inexpensive PVC drains may suffice since they see less use.


  • PVC and ABS are the most affordable options. Stainless steel is more expensive but very durable.
  • Consider spending more on the drain if you want better appearance or longevity.

Aesthetic Preferences

  • Many ABS and PVC drain bodies are hidden, but some styles have decorative grates or strainers.
  • Match drain finish to other hardware like faucets and fixtures for a cohesive look.

Considering these factors will help guide you to pick the right shower drain for your specific bathroom situation.


Is ABS or PVC better for shower drains?

ABS is generally more durable and impact resistant, while PVC has better chemical resistance. Choose ABS for heavy use, PVC for chemical exposure. Both install well with proper gluing.

Can I use ABS and PVC shower drains interchangeably?

No, ABS and PVC are not compatible for direct connections. Only use same-material pipes and fittings when plumbing with plastic drains.

Which looks better, ABS or PVC shower drains?

ABS typically has a glossier, darker finish and can be white or black. PVC generally has a grayish white appearance. Looks are subjective, choose based on performance needs.

Should I choose a metal drain instead of plastic?

Metal drains like stainless steel are very durable but also heavier and more noisy. Plastics like ABS and PVC are lighter, lower cost options that can last many years with proper installation.

Can I glue ABS and PVC shower drains myself?

Yes, ABS and PVC drains are designed for easy DIY glue/cement assembly using the joining products specified by the manufacturers. Proper solvent selection and application is critical.


To summarize, both ABS and PVC drains have beneficial properties that make them suitable plastic options for shower and tub drains in homes and businesses. Key differences come down to cost, durability, appearance, chemical resistance, and ease of installation.

For heavy use or exposure to impacts, ABS is the tougher plastic drain material, while PVC excels at chemical resistance and low cost. With proper glue connections, either material can be installed effectively.

Beyond just ABS vs PVC, also factor in the shower or tub type, frequency of use, budget constraints, and any desired decorative features when selecting the ideal shower drain. Carefully weighing these criteria will help you identify whether an ABS, PVC, or other material drain is the best choice for your bathroom.

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