There is usually an underlying reason for frequent problems with drains clogging or toilets backing up.

Except for occasional grease buildup in the kitchen drain lines or hair clogging the P-trap, sewer systems are maintenance-free. This article will address some of the issues that Long Beach’s typical home may experience. We will also discuss the best ways to fix them.

What’s the history of drain pipe materials?

Cast iron piping was used for water lines and sewer lines in homes that were built before the mid-1980s. PVC plastic pipes became more widely used in residential construction around the middle of the 1980s. Cast iron was almost extinct at that time for home plumbing systems. PVC was lighter and easier to install than cast iron, and it would not corrode.

It was common for drain lines to run from the house to the city’s main waste pipes to be made of clay or terracotta before the 1960s.

In the period immediately following WWII, Orangeburg pipe was used. This nonmetallic pipe is made of bituminized fiber. It was often used for residential purposes due to supply chain problems caused by war. This piping is found in homes built between the 1940s and the 1960s.

Cast Iron Sewer Pipe Issues

How did cast iron pipes get installed?

The different sections of pipe were joined with lead or oakum in the early days. This involved a labor-intensive process of filling the gaps between the hub joints with oakum, a fibrous material, and then pouring molten led into the gap to make a water-tight seal.

This method was eventually replaced by rubber gaskets in donut shapes called “donuts”, or “compression gaseskets”, to join the pipes the same way. PVC rubber couplings were also used to join the pipes with stainless-steel clamps.

What is the cause of a cast iron broken drainpipe?

Cast iron is heavy and very rigid. However, the way that the pieces are connected gives cast iron some flexibility. Cast iron drain piping is not easily damaged or crushed by soil movement or force.

However, soil movement can cause cracks in the joints. Water can leak out whenever water runs down the drain when this happens. The soil around the leak can attract tree roots, which will then grow into the pipe.

This will eventually clog the pipe. If there isn’t a major break, roots can be removed with a sewer machine. However, they almost always grow back making this an ongoing maintenance problem until the piping is replaced.

What is the role of “bellies” in cast iron sewer systems

Cast iron can bend at joints and cause water to flow unevenly if the pipe was not properly installed or there was significant ground shifting.

Although these bellies won’t cause a problem right away, they can often build up over time, resulting in more frequent clogs. These clogs’ significance and frequency depend on how often they are used, the age of the system and the health of the belly.

Do cast iron drain pipes corrode?

Cast iron pipes simply experience more problems with age. Cast iron sewer piping can become very problematic over time. We often recommend replacing entire sections rather than just a blockage. This is often a better long-term solution than a temporary fix due to the state of deterioration and age.

It doesn’t matter if it is just a section of repiping being replaced, or all the pipes beneath the slab. Cast iron pipes are usually adapted for the new PVC using rubberized, reinforced PVC couplings designed for this purpose. Sometimes, the pipes are rerouted to preserve the original layout. Sometimes, the sewer lines will be rerouted in order to speed up the repair process.

PVC Drain Piping Problems

How is PVC drain pipe installed?

PVC is Polyvinyl Chloride. It is one the most widely-manufactured plastics. It’s used in everything, from clothing to construction materials.

PVC fittings come in a variety of shapes and sizes. Straight sections of PVC pipe are joined together. Solvent welding is a method of joining PVC pipes and fittings. A liquid chemical solvent is used temporarily to soften the outside of the pipe as well as the inside.

Once the surfaces are press together, they fuse quickly. This creates a strong and waterproof bond when done correctly. This process is commonly known as glueing PVC.

What is better cast iron or PVC?

Cast iron has many disadvantages, such as the cost of manufacturing, transportation and labor. PVC has smoother interior surfaces, which don’t rust or deteriorate as cast iron.

These advantages outweigh any disadvantages in residential construction, which is why it didn’t take long before the entire house building industry switched over. This material’s lower cost greatly contributed to the current trend of large bathrooms that are spread out throughout the house and the ability to place bathrooms wherever the house is located.

PVC systems, however, are not bulletproof. PVC is more susceptible to noise transfer and flammability, as well as being less resistant to damage from force. PVC still faces some of the same problems as cast iron systems.

PVC has a few other weaknesses, such as the susceptibility of cracking fittings and higher risk of accidental damages.

What is the cause of a PVC drainpipe breaking?

PVC can pull apart if it isn’t properly joined or the connections are subject to excessive force. However, this is not very common. Straight sections of PVC are flexible and more likely to “give” than break. The fittings are usually the weakest point.

PVC fittings crack more often when they are under heavy pressure, such as from ground movement. It is only a matter time before roots get into the line, creating clogs much like cast iron piping.

Cast iron is more susceptible to being accidentally damaged than PVC. Plumbing code requires that PVC be installed with certain protection measures, such as nail plates. However, it’s not uncommon for pipes to become damaged during construction or when drilling or screwing into walls.

What is the role of “bellies” in PVC sewer systems

Due to the flexibility of PVC, long straight sections can bend. There is a high chance of PVC “bellies” if the pipe is not properly “bedded in” during construction or after foundation movement. This will usually mean that the entire pipe must be replaced to correct the low grade.

What is the best way to repipe my PVC drain? What can I do to repair PVC pipes?

PVC is able to repair only one damaged area for most problems (such as cracking fittings or accidental damage). PVC has a shorter shelf life than cast iron.

It won’t corrode from within; household chemicals will not eat away at the material. Repiping PVC is usually only required if there is significant slab foundation damage.

PVC is a bell-and-spigot type piping. This can sometimes make it difficult to repair if there are fixed ends that cannot easily be moved back and forth. The broken fitting or section is usually removed and replaced with the original pipe/fitting arrangement. To tie the assembly back in, slip-type rubberized PVC couplings can be used.