When it comes time to embark on a drainage project at your property, one of the first things you need to take into account are the pipes. These essential components make up the body of your drainage system, allowing water and waste to be safely distributed to the necessary disposal system. If they become damaged, corroded or loose over time, the problems this causes can be significant. And, they will cause both damages to your property and disruption to your everyday lives. Here at West Country Drainage, we have over 20 years of experience supporting residential and commercial clients with their pipe needs. And, in this guide, we’ll bring together this experience to help you better understand what the options are.

Why Is Knowing Your Pipes So Important?

The excitement that surrounds moving into a new property can often mean certain information gets forgotten – including what our existing drainage pipes are manufactured from. Only when we need to organise a repair or replacement job do we then consider the materials used in our pipework. However, this information isn’t just helpful to pass on to your plumber. It also allows you to understand the best types of cleaning fluids and methods you should use as well as estimate when a replacement may be needed (and budget accordingly).

Materials Used For Drainage Pipes

Over the years, evolving technology has meant that the materials we use for drainage pipes have changed. This has reduced the acceleration of wear-and-tear as well as contamination or excessive damage. However, if you purchase an older property, it’s likely your drain system will be manufactured from something entirely different.

On the whole and here in the UK, we use drainage pipes manufactured from:

  • Cast Iron
  • Pitch Fibre
  • Vitrified Clay
  • PVC

Let’s take a look at each one individually.

Cast Iron Drainage Pipes

If your property was built before the 1960s, the original drainage system would likely have relied heavily on cast iron pipes. The invention of this hard-wearing and long-lasting material revolutionised the waste removal system, taking us from cesspits and open channels to the structured set-ups we have today. They quickly became commonplace and continued being used in construction for hundreds of years.

Cast iron was largely favoured because it is:

  • Incredibly strong
  • Durable
  • Sound resistant
  • Heat resistant

These features line it perfectly for use with household drain systems that needed to offer many years of service with minimal problems. Cast-iron drain pipes could last up to 100 years in residential properties and as many as 50 in commercial properties.

However, despite its benefits, cast iron pipes also posed some issues to property owners including:

  • Being susceptible to rust and corrosion over time
  • Having a heavyweight which can lead to sinking and be challenging to repair
  • Costly and labour intensive to repair

Many homeowners who found themselves with cast iron drainages pipes also discovered that their household insurance policy does not offer appropriate coverage. Therefore, the costs to repair damage lead to it being cheaper to fit a suitable alternative – namely PVC or ABS which both revolutionised the market.

Pitch Fibre Drainage Pipes

Manufactured from wood cellulose, pitch fibre pipes were considered an inexpensive and viable alternative within the waste removal sector. Largely used between the 1950s and 1970s, they were also much easier to install. Each one was supplied in 8” lengths which were easy to handle and could be fitted in no time at all. However, they were only used for this short period of time before it became glaringly obvious that the problems they caused far outweighed the benefits.

Pitch fibre drainage pipes were thought to have a lifespan of up to 40 years. However, because they are so cheap and lightweight, they are prone to collapse and become misshapen very easily. There is a high risk of root ingress and they become internally blistered when exposed to hot water, fat, oils and grease regularly. Overall, the risk of serious collapse is significant and many homeowners who purchase properties with these pipes quickly look to have them replaced for safety reasons.

Vitrified Clay Drainage Pipes

Clay has been the material of choice for drainage pipes since the early 1900s. Vitrified clay pipes are manufactured from a blend of clay and shale which has been heated to increase hardness. This process makes it incredibly inert (resistant to chemicals) and waste materials, meaning it is ideal for both domestic and commercial sewage use. Some of the other benefits include:

  • Easily withstand dynamic loading and inert loading from the ground above
  • Highly scratch resistant against gravels and hard solid deposits in waste
  • Being one of the longest-lasting pipes available on the market
  • Highly resistant to chemical corrosion
  • Environmentally-friendly
  • Having thinner body walls, making them lightweight
  • Improved dimensional control, mechanical crushing and beam strength

Clay drainage pipes can last up to 60 years or longer, depending on the use and are still a popular choice today.

PVC Drainage Pipes

In recent years, the most popular choice of material for drainage pipes is PVC. An acronym for polyvinyl chloride, these pipes came into use in the 1930s and became the favoured option for sanitary purposes. Their development was down to the advancement of technology and our ability to find alternative, cheaper and more environmentally-friendly solutions. PVC pipes are low carbon, using less energy and resources to manufacture than other options. They are also:

  • Lightweight
  • Resistant to fracture
  • Able to offer exceptionally watertight joints
  • Made with hydraulic smoothness to prevent build up and maintenance costs
  • Non-toxic and safe
  • Supplied in longer lengths for more versatility of installation
  • Flame resistant
  • Highly versatile

Choosing the right drainage pipes is a decision based on the available budget, the ground around a property and the waste requirements of each client. Here at West Country Drainage, we specialise in bringing you the best solutions for your property. If you have any questions or would like to speak to one of our specialist engineers, get in contact here today.