Common Damage In Two Types Of Home Sewer Waste Pipes

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When you own an older home, it can be common to have sewer clogs leading up to the need for a sewer line replacement. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, in a 2012 Water Infrastructure and Sustainability fact sheet, the average age of a broken water main in the United States is 47 years. So, the age and type of your home's sewer line can affect how soon you will have to deal with replacing it. Here is some information about two types of older sewer lines and common causes of damage.

Orangeburg Pipe

If your home was built between 1940 and 1972, there is a good chance your home's sewer line is Orangeburg pipe. You can also ask your neighbors if they know what type of sewer pipe is installed in their home. If it is Orangeburg, your home most likely has the same. 

Orangeburg pipe was produced by combining a wood fiber pulp with asphalt and pitch. During World War II, the taxes on cast iron pipe increased, so this type of pipe became a popular and more economical alternative. Unfortunately, manufacturers at the time did not realize it would not hold up well under pressure from being buried underground for decades.

Orangeburg pipe was originally produced to last 50 years, but it usually begins to give under the weight of the ground above it after 30 years. As the pipe begins to collapse, it will create clogs in your sewer line, causing sewer to backup in your home, requiring a sewer line replacement. You may even notice dented sections of your yard above where the pipe is located. These dents are caused as the pipe collapses and allows sections of the soil above it to collapse in as well. Then, if you have trees in your yard where your sewer main is situated, the roots can grow into and further break apart the already disintegrating pipe.

Cast Iron Pipe

It is a good indicator your home's sewer pipe is made of cast iron if your home was built between the early 1880s and the late 1960s or early 1970s. Cast iron pipes carrying drinking water can last as long as 150 years because the water contains no corrosive chemicals, but a cast iron pipe carrying sewage waste is exposed to corrosion. The waste that flows from your home's sewage through the sewer main creates hydrogen sulfide gas, which oxodizes to create sulfuric acid. Some drains cleaning products contain sulfuric acid, which cause extra corrosion to your pipes. 

Sulfuric acid corrodes cast iron and can begin to destroy the pipe from the inside in a couple ways:

  • The form originally used to cast an iron pipe can leave seams in the iron. These seams can weaken and cause cracks to form along the top of the pipe as hydrogen sulfide gas forms and acids corrode the pipe's interior.
  • Your cast iron pipe can also break down as the sulfuric acid creates tiny holes along the underside of the pipe. These small holes repeatedly leak sewage waste and rust over, creating rust blobs. These blobs of rust are signs of a weak and deteriorating cast iron pipe even though you may not see any active leaks.

To avoid sewer line failure and other resulting damage, it is recommended by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development's Residential Rehabilitation Inspection Guide to replace your cast iron sewer line when it is 75 to 100 years old. 

If you are still unsure of what your sewer pipe is made of, you can hire a professional plumber, such as Doctor Fix-It, to conduct an inspection with a sewer camera. Then, they can educate you on replacement and repair options. Fortunately, PVC pipe is used in most sewer line replacements today and can last 100 years or more. So, if your home's sewer line is experiencing any of these problems, you can have it replaced with new PVC pipe.

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