Are my drains PVC or Clay

There are 2 common types of sewer pipes in Australia. These are Clay or Earthenware Pipes and Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC).

Clay, Terracotta or Earthenware Drain Pipes

Clay, Terracotta or Earthenware pipes have been installed in Australia for over a 100 years. However Terracotta or clay pipes have been used for water and sanitation pipes since the Mesopotamian (a historical region of western Asia) since 4000 BC. And that’s the way it remained until the early 1970’s when we introduced PVC pipe to the world of sanitation.

Whilst clay pipes have lasted the test of time, there are many disadvantages to them, especially from a plumbers perspective.

Clay pipes are heavy, weighing at least 30 kg each, so you can imagine the back breaking work that’s involved in laying an entire house storm water and sewer drains with terracotta pipes. Today if we were still using them we would be faced with OH&S issues due to this weight.

Another downside to using clay pipes is their length. Clay pipes are only 1200 mm in length therefore it takes many many lengths to complete a standard house drain, this means greater expense due to labour times.

Clay pipes are sealed with a rubber ring, whilst this rubber ring is water tight when not under pressure, it is far from tree root resistant. Tree roots will quickly find their way through the rubber joint that causes blocked drains.

Whilst clay pipes have advantages one of the greatest downsides is the inflexibility of the clay pipe itself, as we know the ground moves especially once its been excavated for drainage, and clay pipes tend to crack due to ground movement after it has been installed into the ground.

Characteristics of Clay Pipes:

  • Typically 100mm in diameter and 1200mm in length.
  • Weights approximately 30kg which is very heavy.
  • Rigid and brittle.
  • Old system.

Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) Pipe

PVC pipes have been around for about 50 years and dramatically changed the face of our sanitation systems, it is fantastically light and easy to use, it comes in 6 meter lengths therefore increasing the labour times. PVC is very flexible and can handle ground movement far better than clay.

As a plumber i can honestly say that I love PVC and what it has done to our industry, it made the installation of sewer and storm water drains a pleasure from a very unpleasant past.

Drains

If only the plumbers from the past could see us now, I am sure they would roll over in their graves and use some profanity to describe the softness of the modern plumber.

However, without these pioneers of the industry paving the way society would be in a very different situation than where we are right now, so I thanks the early geniuses who thought the way they thought and created plumbing systems that really are not so different then what the were 4000 years ago.

Typically most modern houses have been using the PVC piping systems in Australia since the seventies, so its safe to say if your house is 40 years or less old, then PVC is what you have .

  • Lightweight, durable and flexible.
  • Trouble-free service for a lifetime.
  • Lifespan may reach over a 100 years.
Drains

If you don’t know your pipe system type, you can contact The Plumbing & Electrical Doctor for an inspection. Serving areas in Canberra, Newcastle, Central Coast, Hunter Valley, Lake Macquarie and Port Stephens.

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