Orangeburg pipes were first used in the late 1860’s and were originally manufactured in Orangeburg, NY, hence the name.
These pipes were a lower cost option to metal drain lines since instead of metal, orangeburg was comprised of compressed wood pulps (fibers) and hot pitch (a tar).
These fiber pipes were first used for cable conduits in the northeast. Later, orangeburg evolved to work for drain and sewer lines.
Today, orangeburg is no longer used and rarely found. If it is found in use in your home, the pipe will have to be replaced.
What Are Orangeburg Pipes?
Orangeburg pipes are manufactured through compressing wood pulps into a 2-inch pipe with hot pitch (basically a tar).
They were first manufactured in the 1860’s, but grew into the real estate sector in the 40’s. This was because the fiber was a low cost option to metal after World War II.
After initial uses, orangeburg was found to have many issues. They ceased production in the 1970’s.
Problems With Orangeburg
The lifespan of orangeburg was said to be about 50 years, however, it is not uncommon for them to have a much shorter lifespan (10 years) in poor conditions such as, humidity, salt air, drain chemicals, tree roots, etc.
The pipe break downs much quicker than expected and can be easily damaged through tree roots, chemicals, and natural weathering.
It is not really surprising a drain pipe made out of basically paper and tar wears fast with soil conditions and consistent water/chemicals.
Use of orangeburg ceased in the 70’s and today, orangeburg is generally not allowed.
How To Identify Orangeburg Pipes
Orangeburg can be difficult to identify without a sewer camera. Additionally, you will need an experienced plumber or inspector since the pipe can easily be mistaken for cast iron with just a camera.
Keep in mind, while you may have PVC in some areas, you may still have areas of orangeburg that have not been replaced. Therefore, the only true way to tell if you have orangeburg is through a sewer scope inspection.
If you are purchasing a home older than 1970, it is critical to have this inspection done with your home inspection to find the types of pipes you have in your home.
There are a few tricks however to better identify the drain pipe.
Easy Ways To Identify Orangeburg Pipe
Orangeburg as mentioned, is made out of a wood pulp. It should be a brown/black color like ABS, or Cast Iron. To differentiate, you can find exposed orangeburg and then tap/scrape it to see the material (metal, plastic, or wood).
Here are a few areas to find exposed orangeburg drain lines:
Check this area as sometimes, the drain pipes will be coming out of the wall for you to see. However, this is not always common.
Plumbing Vent Stacks
This area will have pipes that come out of the roof line. If you are able to get on the roof, check these pipes with a flashlight to look down the pipe. Use the tap/scrape method again to check the material type.
It can be difficult to find cleanouts. Depending on the age of your home or when you have had repairs, you may not even have one. You can find these in many areas: outside, near drains inside your home, or near the street.
Open the cleanout to expose the drain line and use the tap and scrape method.
Sewer Scope Inspection of Orangeburg Drain Lines
Signs of Poor Drainage From Orangeburg Pipes
Not always, but sometimes, there are tell signs that your home has a drainage problem.
Testing Your Home’s Drainage
To testing your home draining system, you should run water appliances, showers, sinks, and showers/tubs. The goal is to try and overload the drainage system to see if there is a backup.
If you drains are slow or backup and you have a home older than 1970, then you should definitely have a sewer scope inspection.
Signs of Damaged Drain Lines Or Orangeburg
- Water backups
- Large trees in yards where drain lines should be
- Pockets of lush grass
- Watery areas in your lawn
- Foul smell in the home
- Foul smell from under your home or in your yard
Replacement of Drain Pipes
As mentioned, if you have this drain line, you will most likely need to replace it.
Cost of replacement can vary depending on your location, feet of pipe to replace, and conditions to get to the pipe. However, average costs are about $4,000 – $13,000.
If the pipe is under your home and you have a crawlspace, replacing should be much easier. In comparison, if you have a concrete slab, you may have to rip up flooring and jack hammer the floor. However, some experienced plumbers can dig holes under your home to reach the piping.
Types of Replacement
In most cases, your plumber will use PVC to replace orangeburg.
However, there are different types of replacements that can be more affordable and of different materials.
Typical plumbing drain replacement involves digging up yards, possibly digging inside your home, or crawling under a tight crawlspace. This process can be labor intensive and a mess, but effective.
Pipe lining is the method of using a special resin that shoots down old pipes to cover holes and gaps.
This method is less intrusive, but does not have the same guarantees or lifespan as a full replacement.
Pipe bursting is the method of pushing new pipe through the old pipe and breaking up the old pipe.
This method is said to be the better method and longer lasting than pipe lining.
A Quick Video on How Pipe Lining Works
A Quick Video on How Pipe Bursting Works
Cautions of Pipe Lining & Bursting
The technology of pipe lining and bursting is still relatively new. Moreover, since it is new, the approximate lifespan and use on a massive scale is still new.
Therefore, research and statistics is limited to the effectiveness of this type of replacement.
Also, pipe lining can only be completed once. So after it is completed, next time your pipes will have to be dug up. Pipe bursting will leave old pipe material underground as well.
Orangeburg pipes were first used in real estate in the 1940’s and ceased production in the 1970’s. While they were supposed to last 50 years, their lifespans were cut short.
Homeowners, sellers, buyers, and real estate agents should be cautious about orangeburg pipes and have a sewer scope inspection completed to find out if they have it.
If your home has orangeburg, you will have to replace it.
If you have questions about Orangeburg pipes, comment below and we would be happy to help!