How Long Do Clay Sewer Pipes Last?

Clay form one of the most trusted piping materials, and some countries, including the USA, still use them to date. If you notice that your sewer system was installed many years using clay, you have no reason to worry even if you are not sure how long do clay sewer pipes last.

To your surprise, since clay material may not often get affected by acids present in sewages, they tend to last longer. Even with these positive sides, clay sewer pipes may have a shorter lifespan of 50-60 years.

Clay sewer pipes became famous in the 1880s and early 1900s. Since these pipes proved bulky and heavy to transport, most towns had their clay sewer pipes manufacturing plants. Wherever a plumbing need arose that required clay, these plants proved forthcoming and a reliable supply. That way, most homes used clay sewer pipes for their sewage drainage and water supply for a long time. [1]

How long do clay sewer pipes last, and are they used today?


It might surprise you to know that clay sewer pipes still have wide use in the public sewer system. However, the modern manufacturing process of these sewer pipes may vary from the traditional method. Currently, the manufacturing process entails the following steps.

  • The pipes get air-dried for 24 hours.

Air drying the clay pipes for 24 hours brings the clay particles together and makes them strong enough to be placed in a kiln.

  • Firing the air-dried clay pipes in a kiln for 50 hours

Firing the clay pipes in a kiln gives them a ceramic-like appearance that guarantees durability and prevents early damage.

  • Enclosing the prepared clay pipe with concrete during installation

The concrete outer cover protects the pipes from weather agents, especially when placed underground. Thawing and freezing will not pose a danger to the pipes like PVC pipes and cast-iron pipes. Root intrusions will also get kept at bay since the clay would stand no chance of roots intrusion without concrete protection.

What were the old clay sewer pipe dimensions?

The old clay sewer pipe dimensions could get categorized by the place they got fixed. Like modern sewer pipes, various places around the house come in different dimensions. The sewer drains in the laundry area were two inches in diameter, while those in the kitchen and bathroom could come at 1.5 inches in diameter.

The main sewer pipe supplying the septic tank was made at 4 inches in diameter. For public sewer pipes, these dimensions were bigger depending on where the pipe got fitted. A 6 inch through 42 inches dimension might be the standard dimension for a sewer pipe. Currently, you may find sewer pipes with different dimensions to suit your plumbing needs.

What are the clay sewer pipe fittings?

Clay sewer pipes offer a wide variety of fittings. If you didn’t know, a pipe design with a wide variety of fittings doesn’t disappoint when it comes to replacements. If you visit most clay sewer pipe companies, you will find the following fittings.

  • Bends
  • Tapers
  • Junctions
  • Clay sewer-pipe access items
  • Perforated clay pipes
  • Imperforated clay pipes

With the above fittings, choosing the dimensions, you need for your project will be easy.

How do clay drainage pipes work?


The most asked question about clay pipes has continuously rotated on their work criteria. We often picture clay as mad, and any thought of water going through clay pipes seems impossible. But with the process that these pipes go through to make them waterproof, water offers no damage threats.

The following steps summarize how clay drainage pipes work to give you a fantastic home time with zero worries.

So, how do clay drainage pipes work?

  • Ensure that your trench measure 18 inches deep and about 9 to 12 inches wide.
  • A sloping area will make a perfect drainage area since gravity works to your advantage. The area should slope at one inch per 10 inches of the clay drainage pipe.
  • Search for other underground services, including electricity, gas, and water systems
  • During excavations, consider these underground services and lay your drainage pipes accordingly. Every underground service plays a significant role in your home.
  • Support the trench depending on the size of your clay drainage pipe.
  • Let your bedding be per the environmental measures. You may choose to use the subsoil to fill up the trench after laying the pipes to adhere to the environmental standards of the area.
  • Start jointing the pipes from the downstream area. You should check the coupling seal and the spigot area to ensure they stay clean. This way, your jointing will go struggle-free. Ensure that you lubricate the pipe chamfer end at the required insertion depth.
  • After the jointing gets done successfully and the trench covered (backfilling), you will be free to use your drainage sewer system.
  • Check out for any leaks in the trial process. Running a test on your drainage pipes becomes key in identifying regions that would require fixing. If you find a leak or loose end, fix it and enjoy a long time use of your clay drainage pipe system.

What size is a clay drainpipe?

With the provided steps, you may be left wondering about the sizes of these clay drain pipes. As we have indicated in the article, sizes will differ depending on use. Most vitrified channel pipes are going for 100mm, 225mm, 150 mm, and 300 mm in diameter. Bends and junctions of these sizes will also be available.

Should I buy a house with clay sewer pipes?

Some people still prefer using clay sewer systems in their homes even to date. If you find out the house you consider buying has clay pipes in its sewer system, don’t opt-out. These clay pipes may last longer than you may think.

Even if they broke, replacing them might take a cheaper call than if you were to replace copper, cast iron pipes, or modern plastic pipes. So in our view, we may say yes. You should buy that house if you find it has clay drainage pipes. The pipes will be available and affordable if a replacement need arises.

Advantages of using clay sewer pipes over plastic ones


Clay sewer pipes have various advantages over copper, cast iron, and plastic drainage pipes. These advantages include:

  • Clay pipes come from organic material. Clay comes from the earth’s soil hence very organic and toxic-free. For this reason, clay pipes get considered environmentally safe. They will pose no threat to the environment through rusting or acid formation. In return, they don’t pose a threat to humans.
  • These pipes have a high resistance to weather changes. One thing that bothers homeowners in extreme climate areas will always be the freezing and thawing seasons. The sewer pipes often freeze and thaw, which causes premature failure of most sewer pipes. Clay sewer pipes, on the contrary, don’t get affected by these weather changes since they serve as poor conductors of heat. So, if your home has clay sewer pipes, you may survive winter with zero blockage issues.
  • The pipes offer a cheaper sewer system installation option. Most often, metal and plastic pipes come at a relatively higher cost. Since clay sewer pipes have existed for ages immemorial, they come at a lower cost, and so you will easily afford installation using the clay pipes. Replacing them will also prove an affordable process for most homeowners.
  • Clay offers high resistance to acids in wastewater. When sewage gets pressurized in pipes, it often reacts to form sulfuric acid and other acids, especially if it comes to contact with metallic surfaces. Clay doesn’t get affected by these acids to last longer than metal pipes.

Why should I not prefer clay sewer pipes?


Although clay pipes have many attractive advantages, especially when it comes to affordability, several disadvantages make most people opt-out. These disadvantages include:

  • Clay pipes may break if subjected to a lot of pressure. Let’s assume heavy machinery passed over clay pipes. They may crumble and break. Some earth movements also trigger the breaking of clay pipes which causes a significant plumbing issue. Most people find it challenging to trust clay pipes for this major reason.
  • The root threat. Did you know that clay pipes may offer a conducive environment for roots to grow into them? This root penetration causes weak spots that may trigger wastewater leakages and the crumbling of an entire sewage drainage system.
  • Clay may prove challenging to transport due to its heavyweight. This fact renders clay pipes expensive in areas where they may not be produced.
  • Working with clay pipes requires experienced personnel. Unlike PVC pipes, clay pipes may be difficult to use for many people. [2]

How Long Do Clay Sewer Pipes Last? – Final Word

If you live in areas where land shifting may not get experienced, then a clay pipe sewer line might not be a problem. If your area has major land shifts, using clay sewage lines might be risky.

With low installation costs in areas where this sewer system gets significantly practiced, you may consider using it too. Don’t be tempted to use clay sewer pipes where the products and workforce prove a challenge. PVC and PEX pipes may prove a better choice, and they have acquired wide use in modern society.