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Orangeburg pipe is a type of home sewer pipe used in most properties built from 1945 to 1972. Made of a mixture of hot pitch and wood pulp, these pipes are known for their structural complications after prolonged use.

Once installed, standard Orangeburg pipes lines are expected to last 50 years time; however, many systems begin to falter after a mere 30 years of use. For systems installed in the late 60’s or early 70’s, this means pipe failure due to deterioration or structural issues may be imminent.

If you are noticing decreased water flow, exceptionally high water bills or moist indentations on your property, it may be time to have your Orangeburg pipe systems inspected for damage.


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The History and Use of Orangeburg Pipe Lines

Brittle, lightweight and easy to produce, Orangeburg pipe systems were produced solely by the Orangeburg Manufacturing company following World War II, during the massive housing boom that ensued after the war. The fibrous, wood-and-pitch composition, pioneered by the Fiber Conduit Company in the early 20th century, made Orangeburg pipe an affordable alternative to other iron or clay pipe lines (this led to its broad use in mid-century America).

Typically made with diameters between 2 and 18 inches, Orangeburg fell out of popularity in the early 1970s, as more reliable, efficiently produced pipe materials became available. While provided a life expectancy of 50 years, many Orangeburg pipe systems were susceptible to failure in as little as 10 years, due to the brittle materials used and poor structural strength.

Now obsolete, Orangeburg pipe systems are still present in many older home models, slowly giving way to the pressures of time. In these cases, taking a proactive approach to repair can prove more effective than waiting for systems to finally fail.

Common Signs of Aging Orangeburg

If you notice any of the following indicators of Orangeburg pipe failure, it may be time to call your professional plumbing expert to assess damages. We can help you identify the best solutions for repairing your home plumbing:

  • Recurring plumbing clogs or blocking
  • Water indentations on your property, or water damage to your home
  • Decreased water pressure and flow
  • Lush grass concentrations on your lawn
  • Sudden high spikes in your monthly water bill

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Generally, Orangeburg pipe damages occur naturally with time (due to their fiber-based composition). Over several decades, the pitch and pulp bonds that hold Orangeburg pipes together will begin to fail. In this case, there is little you can do to restore existing Orangeburg pipe; replacement to some degree is typically necessary.

Know the Orangeburg Warning Signs

If you’re buying a home that was built before 1980, have one of our professional plumbera do an inspection to ensure there’s not Orangeburg piping (if there is, you can subtract the replacement estimate from your offer).

If you’re already settled and are unsure whether you have Orangeburg piping, the previous homeowner or city documents may have the answer; if not, it’s again best to bring in a professional plumber who can do an inspection for you.

However, there are a few warning signs to watch out for:

  • Slow draining
  • Frequent toilet back-ups
  • Foul sewer odors inside the home
  • Mold issues
  • Lawn patches that appear greener than others
  • Dips or indentations in the lawn
  • Sinkholes in the foundation

Trenchless Technologies versus Orangeburg Replacement

If it’s determined that your Orangeburg piping is in decent shape or at least salvageable, a professional plumber can use trenchless technology to avoid digging up your yard. Basically, trenchless technology involves inserting a new pipe inside the old pipe; it’s done by feeding a liner inside the pipe, inflating it, and curing it to seal it in place.

If your Orangeburg piping is beyond repair, however, full replacement with PVC piping will need to be initiated to avoid complete collapse.

If You Can’t Afford Orangeburg Piping Replacement

While replacing Orangeburg piping should be a priority (remember, replacement is going to ultimately be a lot less expensive than cleaning up after a collapse), we understand that immediate replacement is not a financial option for many. Unfortunately, it’s also not often covered by insurance; if your policy does include sewer lines, chances are there is a “cap” on pay outs and you’ll still be on the hook for some of the expense. You should check in with them as soon as possible.

In the meantime, call us to have one of our plumbers send a camera down into the sewer every six months to keep tabs on the situation. This costs money too, of course, but perhaps you can share the cost by taking turns with a neighbor or two; it’s likely they have Orangeburg piping that was installed at the same time, meaning it’s probably in similar condition. If their pipes seem to be holding up, then it’s a safe bet that yours are too, and vice versa.

If the inspection reveals damage but not imminent danger, we may be able to extend the life of the pipes a bit longer by snaking them while you look into a loan or other means of affording the replacement.

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