Why clay sewer pipes may cause issues in some homes

Why clay sewer pipes may cause issues in some homes

Grab your swimming suit

We’re going to take a trip in the hot tub time machine! 

What? Ok, we’re referencing the 2010 sci-fi flick where four friends wind up in the past after time travelling in a damaged Jacuzzi. Not an Academy Award-winning flick, but it is fitting for a plumbing company to travel in a hot tub.

We’ll use our own tub to cruise through some famous cities to understand the history of clay pipe before we talk about why these pipes may cause issues in your home.

It will be interesting, we promise. And you’ll get to relax in a hot tub!

A quick trip through time

Stop one, Babylonia: Let’s look over the shoulders of tired archaeologists as they discover the first clay pipe in a small city in what is now the region of Iraq and Syria. They have been laboring to unearth baked clay pipe that snaked through a truly ancient temple constructed in 4000 BCE. Hard to believe pieces of the hardy pipe survived to the early 1900’s to be catalogued and photographed by this team!

Next, let’s blast to the year 2000 BCE to Ephesus (it’s now Turkey). Here, if we take a peek beneath the houses in the rich section of town, we can see hand-formed clay pipes that carry cold and hot running water and sewage. Posh, no hauling from the river! 

Turn up the jets, we’re going to Rome! (Are your fingers wrinkled yet?) Ancient Romans used clay pipe to carry water short distances. In fact, you could fill your water bottle from any modern public water fountain in Rome today and your thirst-quenching quaff likely is being carried by aqueducts constructed in 19 BCE! That’s some infrastructure.

We’re almost done. Let’s take the bubbling tub to the U.S. where savvy engineers in Ohio first made clay pipes by hand in 1849 and then started to mechanize production by the late 1800s. Pipes were made locally because they were very heavy. Eventually, enough railroad systems were built to carry regionally made pipes efficiently throughout the U.S. One such clay pipe was in use for over 150 years in Oceanside, California.

Why so much devotion to clay?

As you can see, clay pipes have been used for a long time around the world. Clay has always been available to be mixed with water, formed into pipes and fired in a wood- or coal-fired kiln to become vitreous or glasslike and impermeable. This process makes the clay pipe sturdy and resistant to chemicals. They can also handle a lot of fluid pressure and the pipes are environmentally friendly. 

The downside of historical pipe

As wonderful as clay pipes might be, they present issues. As we’ve already mentioned, they’re heavy to move. They can crack under pressure. They have to be put together with joints. Tree roots love to grow between those joints, making the pipes break and crumble. Clay pipe can also snap when the ground shifts—especially in Colorado where our soils are laden with ever-expanding bentonite. Material can corrode inside the pipes and cause the area inside to become smaller—the result can be a troublesome backup.

When should clay pipes be replaced?

Sometimes when you call for sewer line cleaning in Denver or Englewood, your Garvin’s technician will discover clay pipe leading into your home. These pipes are most common in homes built before 1980. They can be serviceable or badly damaged. When should you replace your old, clay pipe?

  • Constant backups into a tub or sink
  • Strange smells from your front yard or basement
  • Inspection reveals a sewer pipe is compacted, sagging, or broken beyond repair

How can we help?

Garvin’s provides honest sewer cleaning service and emergency drain cleaning. We’ll thoroughly inspect your line with a video camera snake and provide you with a DVD. We can discuss any issues while viewing the video. If you have a DVD from another company, we can give you an opinion on that too. 

Bottom line: If your line doesn’t need to be replaced, but just needs a good cleaning, we won’t try to sell you a new line. We clean drains, not bank accounts.

If you do need a new line or line repairs, we’ll talk you through it. You can trust our 80 plus years of experience. We most commonly install seamless PVC pipe, or plastic liners so that you won’t have to worry about your sewer line for years to come. 

  • PVC pipes can last up to 100 years and are impervious to sneaky tree roots breaking them apart. 
  • In the right situation, plastic liners can eliminate the need for costly digging and unearthing of pipe. 

Reach out to Garvin’s at 303-571-5114 or contact us online for all your plumbing and drain cleaning needs. Just don’t ask us to fix your hot tub.

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