Sewer Pipe Materials - What Are Your Pipes Made Of? (2023)

Pipes are one of the keys to our modern civilization. They provide water for our homes, schools and businesses. They allow us to drink and cook with clean water when needed, as well as bathing and washing comfortably. They also transport waste from our homes and communities to sophisticated treatment centers, keeping our buildings free of germs and airborne illnesses. Without pipes, our lives would be very different! However, as our building structures age, the pipes age with them and eventually need to be repaired and replaced. The lifespan of any tube depends on many factors, including location. Pipes in colder climates can freeze, while pipes in coastal areas can age more quickly due to their proximity to corrosive salt water. In addition to location, material is another determining factor in the performance and longevity of a given pipe. Today we're going to take a look at common pipe materials and discuss their properties, benefits, and risks.

Sewer Pipe Materials - What Are Your Pipes Made Of? (1)

1. Orangeburg Whistles –Orangeburg pipe refers to the bituminous fiber pipe that was popular between the 1940s and 1970s, before PVC and ABS became the materials of choice. They were originally designed as empty pipes and eventually became the standard sewer pipes of their time. Orangeburg whistles were formed by forming several layers of wood pulp and treating them with a special tar to create the shape. One of the first companies to mass produce the tubes was the Fiber Conduit Company, based in Orangeburg, New York. In 1948, the company changed its name to the Orangeburg Manufacturing Company. Orangeburg tubes were a cheaper alternative to metal for sewer pipes and became popular during World War II due to the need for cast iron materials to withstand warfare. They were marketed as "non-corrosive" tubes, but the material proved to be less durable than metal and didn't perform as well. Early on, manufacturers and installers recognized that if pipes were not properly "bedded" or supported during installation, they would deform and collapse. But even those properly bedridden did not escape the intrusion of tree roots, which had the same effect. While they were a preferred material and met mid-20th century modern building standards, in most cases they are no longer considered acceptable by US building codes. The life expectancy of Orangeburg tubes is up to 50 years, but they also failed in just 10 years. If your home or building was built before 1980 and you think you have Orangeburg plumbing, schedule an inspection with a professional plumber. Only a professional inspection can help you determine the nature of your pipes and their condition.

Sewer Pipe Materials - What Are Your Pipes Made Of? (2)

2. Cast iron pipes– Capable of withstanding 4,800 pounds per linear foot, cast iron piping is known for its strength, durability and density, which can help reduce noise. These factors made it a common material of choice almost everywhere in the 1900's. Despite its obvious advantages over an inferior material like Orangeburg pipe composite, cast iron comes with its own set of risks and challenges when used in pipe. of sewage - most of them age-related. As cast iron ages, it can corrode and deteriorate. As the material progressively degrades, the pipe itself will fail, leading to leaks and worse. In coastal areas, and particularly in South Florida, the proliferation of condominiums and high-rises that required noise reduction ductwork boosted demand. But longevity was not what was promised. Structures within a mile of the ocean are individually unique and building materials are heavily influenced by salt and water. Additionally, Florida has many seasonal residents who only use their condos a few months out of the year. This means that the tubes are only used for a few months of the year. This wet/dry polarizing cycle accelerates natural oxidation, causing the tube to age faster. Fortunately, there are ways to replace your cast iron pipe before it becomes a problem. Learn more here.

Sewer Pipe Materials - What Are Your Pipes Made Of? (3)

3.ABS tubes– Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene, also known as ABS, is commonly used in waste drainage (DWV) piping systems and sewer systems. It is also sometimes used in electrical and chemical applications. The material is a thermoplastic known for its durability and rigidity, as well as its resistance to abrasion. The material works well in cold and warm temperatures, but has been known to warp with prolonged exposure to the sun. ABS is comparable to PVC, but not as flexible and the techniques for joining the materials are different. The decision to use ABS or PVC pipe in sewer lines is a matter of application and circumstances.

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Sewer Pipe Materials - What Are Your Pipes Made Of? (4)

4. Clay Whistles –Clay was one of the first materials used for whistles, with artifacts dating back thousands of years. It's also the greenest option on this list, typically made with water and organic ingredients. Unlike iron, clay is non-corrosive and unaffected by acidic sewage, making it a seemingly more attractive alternative. When properly installed and unaffected by shifting soil or tree roots, clay pipes can last for millennia. But they are not risk-free. First, they are difficult to work with compared to something more traditional like ABS or PVC. They are also very heavy, which can result in high shipping and transportation costs. Clay is also susceptible to root intrusion. Over time, tree roots can turn into loose clay joints that expand and break up the clay as the roots grow, leading to cave-in and failure. Clay has high compressive strength, which means it is unlikely to crush, but it also has low tensile strength, which means it can crack under extreme pressure. These problems can be avoided by wrapping the vitrified clay pipes in a protective layer of concrete, but this also increases material and labor costs.

Sewer Pipe Materials - What Are Your Pipes Made Of? (5)

5. Galvanized Tubes -Prior to about 1960, galvanized steel pipe was a common material for piping in homes and buildings. Steel and iron pipes were dipped in a protective zinc coating to prevent corrosion and rust. Unfortunately, that plan didn't quite work out as planned. While galvanized materials have replaced many lead pipes, the natural zinc in the coating is impure, which has allowed small amounts of lead and other metals to enter the piping system. If there were connections for lead pipes somewhere, the lead problem would be even more dangerous. Furthermore, despite these efforts to prevent corrosion from galvanizing, which has actually extended the life of many tubes, the tubes eventually rusted from the inside, leading to poor performance, leaks and health problems. Ultimately, galvanizing does not prevent corrosion, it just adds a layer to help. Rust can still build up and eventually the tube can still corrode and need to be replaced.

Sewer Pipe Materials - What Are Your Pipes Made Of? (6)

6. PVC drain pipe -PVC, or polyvinyl chloride, is a hard, durable plastic and is the third most produced synthetic plastic polymer in the world. PVC is a great choice for drain pipe because it is suitable for high temperature applications and is resistant to the acids and alkalis found in wastewater. PVC drain pipes come in a variety of sizes, are extremely durable and can withstand high pressures, making them ideal for certain environments and most drainage applications. Like ABS, PVC is an excellent choice for sewer pipe applications, especially new pipes. Once installed, pipes are typically impervious to soil displacement and root growth, making PVC a more attractive choice than its predecessors such as clay and iron. However, unlike ABS, PVC is more flexible, making it an ideal choice for certain installations. For thousands of years, we've relied on tube technology to modernize our world. While they provide us with the modern conveniences we've grown accustomed to, they can also wreak havoc when they fail. If you're worried about your pipes, don't wait until you have a problem. Schedule a consultation with Pipelining Technologies today.

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What are sewage pipes made of? ›

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.

What are pipes made out of? ›

There are five main types of plumbing pipe materials that are still in use today: copper, galvanized steel, polyvinyl chloride (PVC), acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS), and cross-linked polyethylene (PEX). Chlorinated polyvinyl chloride (CPVC) is also used.

What type of pipe is used for sewer lines? ›

PVC and ABS – There are two types of plastic pipes that are used underground for sewer lines. PVC and ABS are quite similar, though they have different codes and use different adhesives. They also differ by color – PVC is white and ABS is black. In general, PVC is more flexible and ABS is stronger.

What are the 3 main materials that pipe and fittings are made of? ›

The common materials used to make pipes include ferrous metals, non-ferrous metals and non-metals. Stainless steel, alloy steel and carbon steel are ferrous metals.

What is the best material for sewage pipe? ›

PVC is the material of choice for drainage experts, builders and homeowners because of its cost and ease of use. It's very lightweight and malleable, making it the easiest to install, but it also has a good strength that makes it very durable.

What are 3 types of drain pipes? ›

What are the types of drainage pipes?
  • Single-wall corrugated pipes. This type of drainage pipe is flexible and low cost, making it easy to install. ...
  • Dual-wall corrugated pipes. This type of pipe combines a corrugated outer wall and a smooth inner surface. ...
  • Corrugated flexible drainage pipes. ...
  • Smooth wall pipes.
Sep 8, 2022

Which material is the best material for sewer and why? ›

Ductile Iron Pipe

This sewer line material quickly became the standard material for high-pressure service for various uses (gas, water, etc.). Also, this material has high impact resistance, high wear and tear resistance, high tensile strength and ductility, and corrosion resistance.

Is sewer pipe ABS or PVC? ›

ABS pipes are black and made of a plastic called acrylonitrile butadiene styrene. They're commonly used for drainage, sewage, and vents. PVC pipes are white or light-colored and made of a plastic called polyvinyl chloride. They're most commonly used for plumbing and drainage.

What is the pipe outside my house called? ›

If you've noticed a pipe leading to the outside of your home that drips water, there's a good chance that this is actually just your AC condensate drain, which is supposed to carry water outside your home. Still, this isn't always the case, and some pipe leaks do need to be investigated.

What type of pipe is used in homes? ›

Copper and PEX are the most common pipe materials used in homes. Copper pipes are durable, corrosion-resistant, and can be used for hot and cold water. PEX seems to be replacing copper pipes at a high rate since it is less expensive, more flexible, and easier to install.

What are pipes made of these days? ›

Today, a variety of materials are used in pipes that supply hot and cold water to every fixture in a house and also create a vital drain and vent system. Five types of pipe—PEX, PVC, ABS, copper, and galvanized—are commonly found in houses these days, both older homes and new construction.

What are the different types of old sewer pipe? ›

Sewer Pipes Found With Older Homes

In older properties built before the 1950s, you might find buried clay pipe, cast-iron pipe, or a fiber conduit pipe called Orangeburg. Older homes might even have newer PVC or ABS plastic sewer pipe. As the years wear on, sewer systems deteriorate.

How long does PVC sewer pipe last? ›

Because PVC is immune to corrosion, a minimum service life of at least 100 years can be expected. This figure is supported by a number of independent studies, as well as the experience of many long-term users of PVC piping systems.

What is black sewer pipe called? ›

ABS Pipes

Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) piping is a type of plastic piping that's similar to PVC and distinguishable by its black color. Known for its long lifespan, ABS is used only for drain and waste piping.

What is the most common pipe material used for water and wastewater system? ›

PVC is strong, lightweight, and somewhat flexible. PVC pipe is the most widely used plastic pipe material.

What are the two most common materials used in plumbing? ›

Which is the most frequent material used for residential plumbing? PEX and Copper are the two types of plumbing materials used in houses more often than any other materials. Pipes made of copper are not only long-lasting but also resistant to corrosion and may carry either hot or cold water.

What is the strongest sewer pipe? ›

5 strongest pipe materials (metal and plastic)
  1. Cast iron. When it comes to durability, nothing comes close to cast iron, a heavyweight metal pipe with a rough and stippled appearance. ...
  2. Copper pipe. ...
  3. Polyvinyl chloride pipes (PVC) ...
  4. Chlorinated Polyvinyl Chloride Piping (CPVC) ...
  5. Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS)

What is the best pipe for underground sewer line? ›

Polyvinyl chloride, abbreviated as PVC, is a form of plastic pipe used for venting and sewer line systems. PVC pipes used in homes come with a diameter of 1 ½ inches to four inches, with a length of eight to twelve feet. The pipe material forms extremely durable and tough pipe sections.

What is the best type of drainage pipe? ›

Polyvinyl Chloride pipes are the most commonly used pipes for any drainage project. Due to the material's malleable properties, PVC pipes can come in almost any size. These types of pipes are great for drainage situations where the water and environment exert a great deal of pressure and weight.

What is black sewer pipe made of? ›

Acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) piping is a type of plastic piping that's similar to PVC and distinguishable by its black color. Known for its long lifespan, ABS is used only for drain and waste piping.

How toxic is sewage water? ›

Sewage and wastewater contain bacteria, fungi, parasites, and viruses that can cause intestinal, lung, and other infections. Bacteria may cause diarrhea, fever, cramps, and sometimes vomiting, headache, weakness, or loss of appetite.

What pipe material is most common for wastewater systems? ›

Polyvinyl chloride is the most common pipe material used in wastewater treatment systems. It is a plastic pipe used in both gravity and pressure applications.

Can sewer lines be PVC? ›

Regular schedule 40 PVC pipe (here) is perfect for drains and wastewater. Like ABS pipe, PVC pipe is used for drain, waste, and vent piping systems and as insulation for electrical cables. It's versatile and durable and the choice for professionals and DIYers alike.

What is black plastic sewer pipe called? ›

ABS: Short for acrylonitrile butadiene styrene, this sturdy plastic was one of the first plastics used for residential plumbing. ABS pipes are always black and tend to be softer than PVC. They are mainly used for vent and drain lines, along with other outdoor underground uses where cold temperatures are common.

What is the old black water pipe called? ›

Black poly pipe (polyethylene or PE pipe) is used in many facets of home plumbing, both for drinking water lines and other applications inside a residential house. This type of pipe is available in very long rolls for the water main between the meter and the house and for sprinkler systems.


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