5 Types of Sewer Pipes

There are many types of sewer pipes, but which one is right for your home?

If you’re buying a used home, you don’t have a choice of what type of sewer lines are set up underground. Older homes will most likely have outdated pipes. Just because these are outdated doesn’t automatically mean something is wrong with them.

Newer homes should have updated pipes, but there’s a possibility that they won’t contain the best type of sewer pipes.It’s important to know about the different types of sewer pipes so you can chose which is best for your home.

Updated Types of Sewer Pipes:

PVC and ABS pipes are the most common pipes for newer homes. These have many benefits for your sewer lines. It is obvious why people have made the switch. 

1. PVC White plastic pipes

Typically, when a homeowner imagines a sewer pipe, they imagine a white schedule 40 PVC pipe. These pipes are so common, there are over 4 million tons used worldwide. It is a white plastic pipe made with polyvinyl chloride. PVC is so popular because it is extremely safe, light and easy to work with, cost effective, and readily available. This is why it is one of the most popular types of sewer pipes.

PVC Pipe

Benefits of PVC 

  • It is one of the most durable materials imaginable.
  • PVC is one of the easiest types of sewer lines for plumbers and homeowners alike to handle, install, and repair. This is in part due to its extremely lightweight, especially when compared to cast iron or clay.
  • Having a clogged sewer line is any homeowner or business owner’s worst nightmare. PVC has an extremely smooth surface, which makes liquids and solids glide over it. 
  • It comes in a large variety of shapes making it extremely appealing for almost every situation. 
  • Hopefully harsh chemicals never end up going down your drain, but if you own a restaurant or similar business that is inevitable. If chemicals are going down your drain you would want PVC pipe, as it is highly resistant to most harsh chemicals. 
  • It’s high amount of flexibility also allows PVC to bend, instead of  breaking or cracking. It’s the unfortunate reality that your house and its foundation will slowly settle over time, but the street is large and has a lot of surface area, so it will not.
  • Copper used to be the ideal pipe years ago, but that’s no longer the case. It is an amazing element as it is highly corrosion-resistant and lasts almost forever. Copper became less common due to its high cost. PVC is an extremely inexpensive element that shares almost every single one of the advantages of a copper pipe, making it one of the most ideal types of sewer pipes.
  • PVC is also one of the few materials of sewer lines that has the potential to outlive a house. In many cases, it will last hundreds of years. (We assume, it has only been around for 60 years.) 

Let’s get nerdy: 

PVC is a chlorinated hydrocarbon polymer. It has to be processed in order to be used in a pipe, as it is extremely brittle in its natural state. The material is also used in many other situations other than Plumbing, such as signage, Furniture, flooring, rubber substitutes, electrical insulation, and medical tubing.  

There are multiple variations of PVC, certain variations can handle hot or cold water better than others. PVC is time-tested and has been around since the 1960s. PVC pipes aren’t only used for sewer lines but they are also used for; plumbing, heating and cooling, agricultural irrigation, and electricity and telecommunications systems.

2. ABS

ABS pipes are similar to PVC pipes, but they are not the same. These pipes are a black plastic and are not as common as PVC. They are good for their shock resistance and strength. ABS pipes are ideal for outdoor fixtures, such as sewer lines. They do well underground away from sunlight, but are not a quiet pipe. 

what is abs pipe

Benefits of ABS Pipes:

  • ABS pipes are more shock resistant and stronger than PVC pipes. Because of their strength, they are not as flexible as PVC.
  • These pipes work great underground and can handle very cold temperatures, but they can warp if they are exposed to direct sunlight. If used underground for sewer lines, sunlight won’t be a problem. 
  • ABS pipes are usually quick to install compared to other types of pipes, which can save not only time but will also save on labor costs.
  • They are proven to be unaffected by harsh chemicals. It’s never a good idea to put chemicals down your drain, but you should be safe if a mistake happens.
  • ABS is made of a lightweight material that is easy to move from place to place quickly. This makes it easier and quicker to install.
  • It can sustain heat up to over 871 degrees fahrenheit before it will ignite. If there is a fire spreading in your home, your pipesIt will melt and collapse before it will catch fire and spread even further.

ABS, which stands for acrylonitrile-butadiene-styrene, is a thermoplastic resin. Thermoplastic resin is softened to a liquid with high heat and hardens to its shape once it’s cooled. This allows it to be used for many materials and many different shapes. It works great for pipes because of all the different shapes and sizes that may be needed.

Outdated Types of Sewer Pipes:

It’s normal to have cast-iron, clay, or orangeburg pipes in your home. These used to be common and they all had their individual advantages. Because of new innovations, these have since been labeled as outdated and replaced with more efficient options.

3. Cast-Iron

Cast iron pipes are more common in older homes. These were very common due to their durability and ability to resist water damage. It is no longer installed in new homes, due to its disadvantages that vastly outweigh the benefits. 

Cast iron pipes - types of plumbing pipes

Benefits of Cast-Iron:

  • Cast iron pipes will deteriorate over time, but it can last for over 100 years. Homes that are built in sandy soil have more luck with making cast iron pipes last. 
  • It is strong and extremely durable. There are still many homes that have cast iron pipes still running strong. 
  • They are also quiet pipes. Unlike ABS pipes, they contain noise and are great for quiet environments. 

Disadvantages of Cast-Iron:

  • While it does last for a long time, corrosion will occur over time. It will be even more difficult to repair these pipes if they are used for your sewer lines, which is very difficult and expensive to repair.
  • Cast iron is very heavy compared to other materials. This can lead to the pipes sinking underground which will lead to damage, such as cracking, to the pipes.
  • Because of how difficult and timely it will be to repair these lines if needed, the expense will be much higher than other situations. 

4. Clay

Clay pipes are one of the oldest types of sewer pipes that are still being used today. They have been around for many years, so you can see why change might need to be made. They were great for their time, but more innovative and efficient types of pipes have since been created. 

Benefits of Clay Pipes:

  • They are made of organic materials, which is good for the environment. 
  • Clay is very durable when it comes to being exposed to acids. They are unaffected by acids in wastewater, so they are able to last for a long time.

Disadvantages of Clay Pipes:

  • Clay pipes are prone to having roots grow into them. Clay pipes in your sewer line will create multiple problems that will damage your pipes and will require them to be repaired. These repairs aren’t cheap, and can be thousands of dollars. 
  • These pipes are more expensive than others and are more difficult to move from place to place due to them being so fragile and heavy. 

5. Orangeburg

Orangeburg pipes are one of the other outdated types of sewer pipes. It is a type of bituminized fiber pipe created from a mixture of wood pulp and hot pitch. There are various forms of bituminized fiber pipe, which have been used since the 1800s. Orangeburg was invented to help compensate for the lack of steel and iron during World War II.

Benefits of Orangeburg:

  • Orangeburg pipes were a popular choice in the past because of how cheap they were. Since time has gone on, better options have become available that outweigh any benefit orangeburg pipes have to offer.

Disadvantages of Orangeburg:

  • Orangeburg pipes easily absorb moisture which will cause them to become distorted into an ovular shape when under pressure. 
  • They will deteriorate quicker than you may expect. It will sustain more damage if it goes unnoticed.

Final Thoughts

Choosing which type of sewer line is best for your home can be tricky. Knowing all of the available options will make it easier to figure out what’s best for you. Most of the time, the benefits of each type of pipe will speak for itself. Choosing the strong and durable option will allow you to feel more safe and comfortable with your plumbing.

Call 1-Tom-Plumber

Don’t hesitate to contact us here or call us at 1-Tom-Plumber (1-866-758-6237) if you need a sewer line repair or installation. 1-Tom-Plumber’s certified team of plumbers and drain technicians respond immediately to any emergency plumbing, drain cleaning, or water damage problem. We also handle the excavation of underground water lines and sewer main lines. Our immediate-response team is available every day and night of the year, even on holidays.

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