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Pros and Cons of Various Pipe Materials

When conducting sewer pipe installation contractors must consider many factors when deciding which type of pipe material to use.


Which Type of Pipe Material Should You Use for Your Next Project?

The most common type of sewage and water pipe materials are concrete, steel, clay and plastic (HDPE and PVC). Below, we've outlined some benefits and shortcomings of each type so that you are educated on the most appropriate material for your next project from a perspective of future inspections.

Types of Pipe Material: Basic Pros and Cons

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Plastic

High-density polyethylene (HDPE) and polyvinyl chloride (PVC) are two different materials, yet they contain many similarities when discussing sewer pipe applications. For that reason, we’ll refer to both as just “plastic" and consider them together. Plastic is a preferred piping material given its lightweight, long lifespan (50-100 years) and ability to be procured in different lengths. Best of all, it is a practical material for earthquake-prone areas, such as the Pacific Northwest. Plastic pipe can be prone to cracking and ingress, and as such requires frequent performance checks. Neither type of plastic pipe can withstand high heat, which can make them susceptible to bending or warping. During inspections, it can be more difficult for traditional inspection methods such as CCTV to see defects due to darker colors of some pipes. When there is slime or debris in the pipe and it hasn’t been recently cleaned, pipe crawlers with regular wheel materials such as rubber or pneumatic tires will slip, so having a high traction material tire such as carbide is important, particularly in the flat surface PVC pipe.

Clay

Clay is more common with older installations than with new projects. It isn't used too often today. It does have its pros - it resists chemicals and erosion, which is why we see clay pipe persistent from days gone by. It is also more cost effective than steel or iron and has the longest lifespan in comparison to other materials. However, considering inspections, traction can be an issue, so it is important to have heavier material with grit such as carbide. CCTV is a great way to inspect clay since it is much easier to evaluate tree roots infiltration.

Steel

Steel is a popular material for potable water pipes, but can also be used for sewer pipes. Its main benefit is its strength, durability, and resistance to buildup and corrosion. The drawback is its lifespan, which is the shortest of the types listed here. It’s also the most expensive type of pipe. Corrugated steel is a bumpy surface, meaning that it is important to have a level tracked vehicle to traverse. Also, corrosion is typically difficult to monitor from a CCTV vehicle, as it cannot easily ascertain the extent of the corrosion as generally the corrosion occurs from the outside of the pipe.

Concrete

Concrete is the popular choice for many contractors, as it performs well in both lifespan and durability. It can withstand high-pressure conditions without compromising integrity or allowing intrusion from tree roots. Concrete does require regular maintenance in order to limit the buildup that occurs from sewage material. Regular inspections are recommended to assess the condition of the pipes. Concrete is susceptible to breaking when handled, so it must be installed with care and the proper equipment. Concrete is ideal for CCTV inspection, since issues in concrete are much more easily determined with a camera. Traction is also not an issue even with regular build up.

Read WinCan Series 2: Coding Software for Pipe Inspections

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