Are All Sewer Pipes The Same?

by | Jun 6, 2023 | Blog

This Sewer Camera blog explains the differences between various sewer pipes that plumbers, home inspectors, and homeowners should be aware of. 

If you are a homeowner, it’s unlikely that you think about the sewer pipes running underneath the ground that are connected to your home. However, they do play a critical role in ensuring that your plumbing systems operate and function correctly. The only time that you will think about your sewer pipes is if you notice that there might be a problem with them. This could include sewage that isn’t flushing correctly or a nasty odor originating from your drains. 

If there is an issue with your sewage pipes, then it can mean either a repair or a replacement. Replacements are often expensive and will become more costly if you make the wrong decisions. That’s why it’s important to know which type of sewer pipe your home uses and the key differences. 

The type of sewer pipe running underneath your home will often depend on the age of the property. For instance, older pipes will usually have:

  • Clay pipe
  •  Orangeburg
  •  Polybutylene pipe (gray pipe)
  •  PV or ABS sewer pipe
  • Cast-iron pipe

On the other hand, newer homes tend to have:

  • PVC pipe
    • Type A PVC
    • Type B PVC
  • ABS pipe
  • PEX water piping (Pex Tubing) 

Some older homes may have these pipes too. However, they will have been installed more recently, usually after an issue developed with the original piping. 

If the home was built before the 1950’s it’s likely that it will have either clay pipe, a fiber conductive pipe referred to as Orangeburg, or a cast-iron pipe. If you find after a home inspection that your property does have this piping, it does not mean that you need to instantly replace them. Most of these types of pipes can remain as long as there are no issues with leaks. The exception is Orangeburg which should be replaced as soon as you have a reason to open the ground up. 

If you suspect an issue with piping like this, you can arrange for a plumbing service to use a sewer snake and get them checked out for you. This can help you identify issues with cracks, breaks, or other problems that need to be resolved. A professional plumbing service will also be able to inform you of what pipes you have. This can be useful for a home inspection. 

Properties that were constructed around or after the 1970s will typically have either PVC or ABS sewer pipes. In rarer cases, a new home may have old styles of sewer pipes. This will usually be the pipes that are underneath the ground close to the property and connect the home to the main sewer line. 

Plastic Piping 

Plastic piping is the newest form of sewer pipe and can either be ABS or PVC. The pipes have a smooth interior and as such are perfectly suited for transporting solid waste matter. One of the issues that can cause disruption with your sewer pipes is root anchorage. This can cause significant damage and the smooth exteriors of modern piping help to resist this issue. However, it does not always prevent it. PVC also provides low-pressure ratings at 100 psi for a typical 4-inch pipe. While sewer pipes are not pressurized, the pressure rating offers a solid indicator of pipe strength. 

This is also the usual size for a sewer pipe which is easy to produce and low cost. If you are adding sewer piping to your property yourself, you’ll find that this type of piping is available to purchase at a wide range of stores. The plastic piping can also be tied into either clay pipe or cast-iron pipe, depending on what is used around your home. 

Cast-Iron Pipe 

While this is often associated with older homes, this type of piping is still installed today. The reason for this is the benefits that the sewer pipe provides with some installers preferring it to the more modern materials. 

The biggest benefit of cast-iron sewer pipes is the strength that it provides. Even at high pressures a cast-iron pipe will remain strong and durable with a rating of 350 psi. Other pipes including more modern plastic piping are more likely to break or be damaged under high levels of pressure. 

Cast-iron pipes are also non-flammable. This means that if you decide to use cast-iron pipes in your main home area, then they will not be damaged in the event of a fire. 

The main issue with cast-iron pipes is that they are heavy. As such, they are more difficult if you are adding your own sewer pipes or replacing existing pipes. However, a skilled plumber will be able to complete this job for you. Remember, some new homes can still have this type of piping as standard due to the benefits that it does offer to homeowners including a long lifespan. 

Orangeburg Sewer Pipe 

If you have an older home, then it is possible that the property does still have Orangeburg sewer pipe. However, these days, this style of piping is rare and has mostly been replaced. If you do find an Orangeburg sewer pipe underneath your home, then there’s a strong possibility that it’s in poor condition. This pipe is manufactured from wood and then bound using a water-resistant adhesive. The interior is impregnated with a coal tar pitch. It was used decades ago due to its lightweight design and the fact that it was easy to cut. It was also popular with homeowners due to the low cost. The pipes are easy to repair too. However, it’s unlikely that a repair will provide a long-term solution. The pipes tend to peel in layers, blister, and will eventually collapse completely. 

Homes that were built between 1946 and 1972 could potentially still have this type of sewer pipe. It was advertised with the claim of a long lifespan. However, in reality, this type of piping will last no more than fifty years. For this reason, it is becoming more unlikely with every passing day that you will find a home with this type of sewer pipe running underneath it. 

As mentioned, if you do discover after a plumbing inspection that your home has Orangeburg sewer piping, then it’s best to arrange for it to be replaced or upgraded. If by some miracle, it is not in a terrible condition, then it is still likely to cause headaches for you as a homeowner in the future. It may also impact the value of your home when you decide to sell it if a buyer completes a property inspection. 

Clay Sewer Pipe 

Clay sewer pipe is another older option that is still used today. Clay pipe may seem like an old-fashioned or outdated solution for home instruction. However, it is still a viable option and does provide practical benefits. The biggest advantage of clay pipe for typical home construction is that it is inert. This means that it is resistant to chemical degradation. That’s important as it can become an issue with the long-term use of sewer pipes. 

Unfortunately, clay pipes are also porous. As such, they may be more likely to develop issues with tree roots. If the tree roots do sink into the pipe, then they will eventually cause them to crack. Any leaks will also attract tree roots and can destroy the pipes completely. Tree root damage is one of the most common reasons why you may be having issues with the sewer pipes underneath your home. 

Clay sewer pipes are also not usually chosen for home DIY projects or self-home-improvement tasks. The reason for this is that similar to cast-iron piping it is heavy and also difficult to cut. It’s always quite hard to source on the general consumer market as not many shops will stock it. 

Is Newer Always Better? 

People often assume that new types of sewer pipes such as ABS plastic piping or PVP are the best option for home sewer systems. However, this is not always the case. While plastic piping does provide practical benefits and is easier, therefore cheaper, to install, older styles of pipes have their own advantages. For instance, iron and clay pipes tend to last longer and are less likely to be damaged over time. 

Despite this, PVC tends to be viewed as the best option for sewer pipes underneath the home. This is the type of pipe that has the lowest chance of damage. If it is damaged the pipe is also quite easy and cheap to repair. As such, if you do develop an issue with your sewer or your septic systems, it’s the type of pipe that will likely be recommended by your professional plumbing service. 

We hope this helps you understand the key differences between various sewer pipes that could be connected to your property. If you do suspect an issue with a sewer pipe, then it’s important to check it out. Advanced equipment including a pipe inspection camera can be used to identify issues with blockages as well as structural damage in specific areas of the pipes. This can be caused by anything from natural weather elements to tree roots breaking through the pipe. 

Clearly, there are a number of options to consider when moving forward with the purchase of a sewer snake camera. If you have any questions or concerns about which inspection camera is right for your specific application, please don’t hesitate to contact us at or call us at 931-362-3304. Our sewer camera sales professionals have years of experience and can help guide you to the best sewer camera for your money.