Clay sewer pipes were used throughout history, up until pretty recently. Although you will still find some clay sewer pipe being installed in California, new clay pipes are not being put into the ground like they used to be. In the 1960s and 1970s, with the advent of plastic sewer pipes, clay started falling out of favor. Here’s what you need to know about clay pipes and their new alternatives.
The History of Clay Sewer Pipes
Vitrified clay pipes, also known as terracotta sewer pipes, were a common choice in ancient times. In the United States, they came to be used very early on and were still very popular until relatively recently.
Clay pipes started being phased out in the 1960s and 1970s when plastic sewer pipe options such as ABS and PVC were developed. It took until about the 1980s for clay pipes to stop being used in residential structures, so some buildings that were constructed around this time may still have clay sewer pipes or another kind of old pipe material.
In California, clay sewer pipes were not always preferred over wooden and cast-iron pipes. Wooden pipes made from redwood naturally resisted rot and fungus. It was also lighter and easier to transport than clay pipes. Wood also didn’t contract and expand like cast iron in changing temperatures. However, cast iron provides the durability and sanitation that we expect, and are therefore still in use today. Although, they are not typically preferred over plastic pipes.
Clay pipes do offer one big advantage though: they have excellent tensile strength. Clay pipes can withstand high levels of downward force without cracking, which makes them a great choice for laying under roads. Old clay pipes can also last 50-60 years without needing to be replaced, which is why they became such a popular option in the first place.
The Alternatives to Clay Drainage and Sewer Pipes
If you currently have clay pipes, it is a wise idea to get them replaced.
PVC sewer pipes offer many advantages, including:
- Corrosion-resistant: PVC resists the corroding effect of salts, acids, and other materials you might pour down the drain in your home. They also will not rust, unlike steel or some other metal options. Unlike other plastic options, PVC will also resist the degrading effects of the sun’s ultraviolet rays.
- Durability: PVC pipes are capable of lasting over 50 years if they are installed correctly and don’t get into major problems like serious sewer blockages and tree root problems. They are better for durability than clay but not better than copper.
- Transport and installation: PVC is a light material that is affordable to transport and simple for plumbers to carry. It is also simple to install PVC piping as compared to her materials.
ABS is another strong option for a modern sewer pipe:
- ABS pipes are stronger than PVC pipes and can resist stronger impacts and shocks without damage.
- ABS is very similar to PVC, but contains the additional chemical BPA. While there are some potential health risks attached to BPA, restricting it to your sewer pipes means your contact with it will be extremely minimal.
Which pipe type is right to replace your old clay pipes? Reach out to our trusted plumber to discuss.