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The Advantages and Disadvantages of Sewer Pipe Materials

The type of sewer pipe material in your home uses will mostly be determined by its age. Older homes often have clay or cast iron pipes, while newer homes are most likely to use plastic. However, as older sewer lines are replaced, it’s becoming more common to find plastic sewer lines in older homes.

Clay Sewer Pipes

Clay is one of the oldest pipe materials still in use today. Its main advantage is that it’s inert and therefore resistant to chemical degradation. The downside of clay sewer pipe is its porous surface, which makes it a magnet for tree roots. Clay is also more brittle than some other pipe materials.

Cast Iron Sewer Pipes

As with clay pipe, cast-iron sewer pipe is more commonly found in older homes, although it is still commonly used today. The main advantage of cast iron is its long lifespan and strength. A 4″ diameter sewer pipe can withstand almost 5,000 pounds of pressure per linear foot. By comparison, a plastic sewer pipe can be damaged by a person standing on it! Cast iron’s main disadvantage is cost and weight.

Plastic Sewer Pipes – PVC and ABS

Plastic sewer pipe is made from either ABS and PVC. Its smooth surface provides excellent carrying capacity of waste and makes it resistant to tree root intrusion. It must be installed carefully, however, as plastic is not as strong as other materials and can bend or collapse if not sufficiently supported with sand or gravel.

Orangeburg Sewer Pipes

Orangeburg is a pipe material you’re unlikely to encounter today, and for good reason. Made from cellulose wood fiber held together with adhesive and impregnated with liquefied coal tar, Orangeburg pipe was lightweight and easy to work with, but was also weak and prone to failure, which has resulted in many sewer lines being replaced prematurely over the years.

Have a question about your sewer line? Call ABC Plumbing, Heating, Cooling and Electric.

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