Clogged drains. Random lawn indentations. Uneven green patches in your grass. No, these aren’t just a random list of homeowner annoyances — they’re signs of a much larger problem: Orangeburg piping.
If your Alexandria home was built before the 80s, there’s a chance it has Orangeburg piping. Not sure what this piping is? You’re not alone. Unless you’re an experienced plumbing professional or have dealt with the piping in the past, it’s not likely you’ve heard much about it before. But we’ve received questions so we’re providing answers.
To help you understand your sewer line, we broke down everything you need to know about Orangeburg sewer piping: what it is, why it’s bad, how to identify it and when it’s time for a sewer line replacement.
What is Orangeburg sewer pipe and why is it bad?
Orangeburg piping is named after the town that first produced it: Orangeburg, New York. It’s a type of pipe made of wood pulp that manufacturers then seal with coal tar. As it turns out, though, this material is incredibly lightweight and brittle. It absorbs moisture and deforms under pressure, which is why people often compare it to a toilet paper tube.
So how did i find it’s way into so many houses? Widespread usage of Orangeburg piping began due to a shortage of cast iron materials that Americans needed for World War II. However, a form of the pipe (also known as bituminous fiber pipe) has been around since the last 1800s. It lasted long after the war because it was inexpensive to create and install.
Because Orangeburg is so brittle, it’s easy to penetrate and break. Quite often, aggressive tree roots are the culprit — either penetrating the pipe and damaging it or causing the entire line to collapse. Most pipes have about a 50-year lifespan and start to show signs of deterioration after 30 years. Since plumbers installed the last of the Orangeburg piping in the 70s, these homes will be facing expiration very soon.
How do I know if I have Orangeburg sewer pipe?
If your home was built before 1980, there’s a chance it has Orangeburg piping. Since the majority of the pipe is underground, though, it can be hard to spot. Here are some other ways to tell if you have Orangeburg piping:
- It’s in the paperwork. Frequently, city officials or homeowners will note if a home has this piping. If you’re unsure, a great place to start is by reviewing previous homeowner or city documents related to your property.
- You’re experiencing draining issues. As the product breaks down, it’s not uncommon for Orangeburg piping to cause slow draining, frequent toilet backups or foul sewer odors in your home.
- Your lawn looks...strange. Orangeburg piping has been known to create lawn patches that appear greener than others, lawn indentations and even foundation sinkholes. Once deterioration begins, these pipes start to deform quickly -- allowing tree roots to literally break into and shred them.
Still not sure? The only sure-fire way to tell if you have Orangeburg piping is to have your home inspected by a professional Alexandria plumber. A trained professional will be able to identify the current material, suggest other options and walk you through a replacement process (if necessary).
Here’s what to do if you have Orangeburg sewer pipe
The best way to deal with Orangeburg pipe? Opt for a sewer line replacement with PVC piping (seriously, a replacement will be a lot less to deal with than an expensive clean up if your entire pipe system collapses).
Sometimes a sewer line replacement is not a possible option financially. If your piping is in decent shape, a professional plumber can use trenchless technologies to avoid digging up your yard. In this case, plumbing experts would feed a new liner inside the current pipe, inflate it and seal it into place. This would essentially leave you with a new pipe inside the old pipe. Unfortunately, Orangeburg sewer pipe is not always in strong enough condition to withstand this procedure.
You can also ask your plumber to check in on your plumbing unit every six months. Using unique technology, they can send a camera down into the sewer to keep tabs on the situation. It’s important to note that any repair will not fix the problem — it will only temporarily delay an inevitable fail.
Orange you glad you understand your home’s piping?
Seriously, though. As a homeowner, it's important to know the details of your sewer system to tell if Orangeburg pipe replacement is necessary. If you've been experiencing frequent problems, get in touch with the sewer services experts at John C. Flood. Call John C. Flood at (703) 783-0247 or schedule service online.