Orangeburg Pipe: Determine Whether Your Home Has It, Why It Fails, and How You Can Replace It

Posted on: 24 January 2017

Dealing with a clogged sewer line is never fun, and neither is replacing your home's entire sewer line. Here is some information to help you determine whether your home was installed with Orangeburg, a commonly-failed sewer line, how its failure may have occurred, and what you can do to remedy the problem.

Determine Whether You Have Orangeburg Pipe

Orangeburg pipe was used as a sewer pipe starting in the late 1800s, during World War II in the 1940s, and until the 1970s. If your home was built during this period, and you are experiencing clogging in your home's sewer pipe, there is a good chance you could have Orangeburg pipe. Unfortunately, there were no installation records kept during this time and for this work that you can use to check and confirm whether the material was used in your home. You can ask neighbors to see whether they have dealt with replacing any Orangeberg in their home, but this also cannot confirm you definitely have it in your home. 

The best way to confirm any suspicions about Orangeburg used in your home's sewer line is to hire a plumbing professional. They will be able to run a camera down into your sewer line to see what the interior of your pipe looks like. This will help you determine the condition of the pipe and what may be causing any clogs. The plumbing professional will be able to see a tree root or a collapsed interior inside the sewer line. 

Discover Reasons for Your Line's Failure

Orangeburg pipe was constructed in a way that made it not last for as long as it was needed for. In fact, Orangeburg pipe has a greater failure rate than other types of sewer lines, including cast iron and clay. There are several factors that can contributed to Orangeburg pipes' failure. 

Tree Roots

If your home has mature trees growing in the yard in the location of your buried underground sewer line, there is a good chance the tree roots helped along your sewer line's demise. Tree roots naturally seek out nutrients and moisture in the soil, and your home sewer line includes both. The connections in an Orangeburg pipe are constructed in a manner that makes it easy for a tree root to find its way into the pipe's interior. Once inside, the tree roots grow quickly from the nutrients and fill the pipe, causing clogs and breaking apart sections of the pipes. 

Pipe-Bedding Failure

Because Orangeburg pipe was a brittle pipe when it was installed, it should have been installed within a barrier of sand or pea gravel. During the time of your home's sewer-line installation, this protective layer, if it was used, may degrade and shift, causing it to no longer protect the Orangeburg pipe. Under the pressure and weight of the soil above the sewer line, its integrity would become compromised as it became crushed. A crushed sewer line will no longer be able to drain sewage waste from your home.

Interior Pipe Deterioration

Over the years of sewage-waste delivery, Orangeburg pipe can deteriorate from any chemicals used and flushed through your home's sewage for cleaning and unclogging drains. Over time, these chemicals break down the pipe's interior surface, causing the layers of paper to bulge inward and separate from the outside of the pipe. This can lead to clogs in your sewer line.

Review Options to Repair Your Pipe

Unfortunately, because Orangeburg pipe deteriorates with age and from the chemicals in your sewage, it won't hold up under the pressure required to clear the line. A plumbing professional won't be able to use forced water or a pipe snake to clear the line's blockage. Instead, you will need to have the line replaced with a new sewer pipe. Fortunately, your new sewer line will be likely made from PVC, which lasts indefinitely.

To replace your sewer line, your plumbing professional can excavate the old line and replace it with a new one. Keep in mind you will likely need to replace the landscaping that is disturbed during this process. A trenchless replacement option excavates two holes to insert the new line under the soil and prevents damaging your entire yard's landscaping or the replacement. Talk to a plumber or visit sites like to find out the best option for you and its cost.