Are my drains PVC or Clay

There are 2 common types of sewer pipes in Australia. These are Clay or Earthenware pipes or 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 Mesopotamians (a historical region of western Asia) since 4000 BCE. 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 thats 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, its is far from tree root resistant, tree roots will quickly find their way through the rubber joint and into your drains.

Whilst clay pipes have advantages one of the greatest downsides is the inflexability 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 leight 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, its made the installation of sewer and storm water drains a pleasure from a very unpleasant past.


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.


If you don’t know your pipe system type you can contact The Plumbing & Electrical Doctor for an inspection.

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