No homeowner ever thinks of digging their sewer pipes. Usually, they are out of sight and out of mind. You only think about your sewer and septic tank or city sewer line when drains or toilets act up and cause a major inconvenience.
When you have got a consistently clogged toilet or sink that overflow, you know you have an issue with your sewer pipes. After all, wastewater should go down the drains seamlessly and not come back up. Digging up to diagnose, repair cracks, and replace faulty pipes is a huge headache. When plumbers build trenches, it destroys your landscaping, basement floors, and even driveways. It turns your life topsy-turvy.
If you want to minimize the pain and stress, it will help to understand what kind of sewer pipes you have buried underground. The information can help you decide if you will continue with the existing pipe or change to an entirely new one. Let’s get started below.
Sewer Pipe Installations in Old Versus New Houses
Most of the time, the kind of sewer pipelines you have coursing through your property depends on the age of your house. That is because everything depends on the industry standards when they built the house.
Of course, modern sewer pipes, which are a recent invention, were not available back in the good old days. Hence, you need to assess if your old pipes can accommodate trenchless pipe relining with a new epoxy liner or if it must be gutted and replaced. Check out the possible sewer pipes you have based on your home’s age.
Older houses built before the 1950s have three common sewer pipes. You may have this in your historical home, assuming it has never undergone a renovation. These three common pipes are:
Cast-iron and clay are the oldest types of sewer piping materials. Although they are old, they can remain where they are in your home. However, they should be doing their job moving waste efficiently. If you encounter blocks or leaks, you may need abrasive cleaning or pipe relining.
As for the other type called Orangeburg, you may need to have them replaced. If your plumber already opens the ground, even if the Orangeburg looks like it is in good condition, you need to have them outfitted with new ones. Extensive details will be discussed later.
A fourth pipe may not seem old because it is plastic. However, even old homes can have plastic for the sewer pipes. Typically, deterioration occurs with this plastic pipe system because of its intrinsic qualities.
In general, if you feel wary over the condition of your home’s sewer plumbing system, you need a professional to diagnose the problem. If you do not want your home to get messed up with a lot of digging, you can request a state-of-the-art sewer camera inspection.
If your home were constructed in the 1970s and beyond, you would typically find higher-grade plastic sewer pipes. However, you will not find cast-iron or clay sewer lines in a new house.
In this instance, the new or remodeled home will receive new pipes within the structure. These pipes extend a few feet into the lawn. These new pipes extend a few feet into the lawn. However, you can find the old sewer pipe extending to the city sewer mainline or a septic tank.
Most modern houses have PVC or ABS plastic pipes over older clay and iron. After all, plastic pipes are so much easier to work with. But you also cannot discount clay and iron as they have amazing longevity and superior strength, especially for iron.
Get to Know More About the Different Kinds of Sewer Pipes
After many years of living in a house, the average homeowner or even tenant will inevitably need sewer drain maintenance. Of course, you will minimize your need for professional cleaning if you perform routine drain upkeep.
However, you must keep in mind that you can only conduct home drain cleaning effectively if you know what type of pipes traverse your property. Again, this type depends on the age of your home. They can be newer pipes that are the standard for recently built structures, or they could be the older variant typically for architecture constructed in the olden days.
If you are curious what these pipes look like, here is a quick rundown of each:
- Cast-iron: Thick metal, usually rusted or corroded
- Clay: Think of a ceramic material akin to your typical flowerpot
- Orangeburg: These are generally phased out, but you can still find this wood-fiber conduit.
- ABS: Black plastic
- PVC: White plastic
Now let’s take an in-depth look at these specific pipes below:
A cast-iron material will be in most older homes. However, they are still preferred and installed by some builder’s today upon a property developer or a homeowner’s request. The most significant advantage of this pipe is its strength.
A 4-inch diameter sewer pipe can accommodate over 2 tons of pressure per linear foot extremely well. In contrast, the other materials like plastic and clay will be subjected to breaking with the same conditions.
This material is heavy, so professional workers use it. You will hardly see a DIYer using this because, apart from the weight, it is also difficult to cut. To cut this material in the ground, you need a specialty tool called a soil pipe cutter. And you must also know how to handle the equipment properly. Hence, cast-iron pipes are best left for professional plumbers.
Moreover, this hardy pipe is non-flammable. However, this is not an issue for installation beneath the ground. But if you decide to continue using this material in the house, you can feel at ease that it will not melt in case there is a fire.
Clay, like cast iron, can be found in older homes. In fact, most major retailers today no longer carry a clay pipe in stock on the showroom floor. Some builders still layout vitrified clay sewer pipes, so they must be especially ordered.
Non-professionals are not advised to utilize this because they are too heavy to handle and tricky to cut. Some say clay pipes are archaic, while others counter that it is still viable for use. The best advantage of clay pipes over plastic materials is their effectiveness in resisting chemical degradation.
In the same token, it will also not suffer from corrosion like cast-iron pipes. However, the major caveat is clay which is a porous material. As a result, it tends to attract trees and shrub roots. Remember, clay is almost the same material use for terracotta clay pots.
Furthermore, wastewater is nutrient-dense rich in flora. Consequently, they naturally seek out the most environment within the sewer line. When the tree roots impinge and invade the line, they will cause cracks or lead to blockages as the roots grow in the pipe’s inner walls.
Today, this flawless-looking Orangeburg sewer pipe is rarely seen. It is common to find this variant in a collapsed state after digging up to fix a problematic sewer system. This fiber conduit pipe is wood fibers bound by a water-resistant adhesive merged with liquefied coal tar pitch.
Back in the good old days, plumbers favored using this because it was lightweight. Hence it was easy to carry and install. Many say that it cuts easily too, and you can even use a regular wood saw.
However, this fiber conduit pipe needs proper installation to last long. It must be properly bedded in pea gravel and sand to prevent stress on the material. If this is poorly prepared, the line will get damaged right away.
Because of this, you will rarely find Orangeburg. It has a short lifespan of less than fifty years. Builders and plumbers have already stopped using this for sewer pipes, so soon, this will be all replaced.
This plastic pipe was developed sometime in 1975 for underground installations. It has a smooth interior that works well in carrying and moving waste material. On top of that, the equally smooth exterior also helps in resisting tree root ingress.
Because of its color, many called this “black piping.” It became popular when it was first released because it was so much cheaper than metal. Best of all, it is easy to fix should you encounter any problems. In fact, you can tie this material with an old cast-iron and clay pipe if a certain portion of your drain system needs rehabilitation.
Noteworthy, this is the first high-grade plastic form of piping used in residences. Professionals prefer its rust proof-surface over other materials. However, some professionals assert that this pipe is not as sturdy as metal over the long haul. In fact, a few municipalities have disallowed this material in their building codes for sewer lines.
PVC is like the ABS plastic pipe and enjoys the same strengths mentioned above. Its advantage over ABS is its more flexible, inexpensive, and available anywhere. This material is easy to handle and cut, so most DIY homeowners use this for an easy fix.
Today, the PVC pipe is the most used for many homes drain lines over many decades. This light-colored material is durable plastic. As a result, it resists harsh elements and can outlast all other piping materials. You will find three different kinds of PVC in the market, which fulfil various purposes. Look at them below:
- Schedule 40: Typically used for sewer line pipes under the ground.
- Schedule 80: Works well for cold-water lines because it does not tolerate heat well.
- CPV: Tolerates all temperatures well and commonly used for interior piping.
Get a State-of-the-Art Sewer Camera Inspection
It can be difficult to know what is happening inside your sewage system. With so many types of pipes buried in your yard or trapped in your home’s foundation, it can be hard to trace what specific underlying problems you are facing. Back in the day, plumbers had no choice but to dig trenches, which resulted in collateral damage and expensive repairs.
Thankfully, you can request a certified plumber for a sewer camera inspection to provide detailed information on what is going on inside your sewer, along with what kind of pipes you have installed. With this modern method, you take the guesswork out of diagnostics. Hence, you can catch issues before they escalate into massive problems.
Here is what goes on during a sewer camera inspection:
- They make a small hole to reach the underground sewer line to insert the waterproof video camera probe.
- Once within the sewer system, this flexible and long camera cable is pushed through the entire pipeline for a visual inspection.
- This camera inspection will also work for pipes beneath basement floors and behind walls.
- After the inspection, the certified plumber will provide a recommended plan of action.
You may not need a complete pipe replacement. You could have tree-root ingress, which needs to be cut and flushed out. At times, abrasive drain cleaning and draining are already enough to take out sedimentation. If there are loose joints or cracks, they can fix them with an epoxy reliner.
If you need help with your sewer pipes, call us at San Diego Plumbing & Pipelining company. Our team is certified to conduct sewer camera inspections to quickly determine the health of your system. Give us a call so we can detect issues ahead and fix them before they turn into complex and expensive repairs.