Cast Iron better than clay pipe for sewers?

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice, Tips & ' started by Zoi101, Oct 18, 2011.

  1. Zoi101

    Zoi101 New Member

    Messages:
    2
    Location:
    Chicago
    Hi "guys" ;-)

    I just had a friends hubby (yes, a real licensed plumber) look through my clay sewer pipes below the house and they have a few cracks and he thinks they have collapsed at the front of the house just under the foundation. The snake won't go through and we used a camera and that got stuck too.

    The water is not on in the house, it's vacant waiting for rehab.

    The estimate to replace about 60+ feet of this old clay pipe with cast iron is $8000, which I think is a great price including cutting up, hauling away and replacing the concrete.
    I told my sounding board (another friend that's a contractor) about the job and he said to have them replaced with clay pipe because it won't corrode...

    What's your opinion??
    Thanks!
    Zoi101 :)
  2. SewerRatz

    SewerRatz Illinois Licensed Plumber

    Messages:
    1,705
    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    Check with the city sewer department, if you are in the City of Chicago. If you are in a suburb check with the building department. Now if the pipe you are having issues with is under the house (known as the building drain) it must be cast iron, and it needs to run cast iron out 5 feet beyond the foundation of the house. Then outside after the 5 feet of cast iron(pipe outside is known as the building sewer), you can go to clay pipe.
  3. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,013
    Location:
    New England
    While CI can break down, it is pretty reliable in most soils. Also, clay pipe tends to have lots of joints, and if the ground shifts a little, it can leak and let roots in, which can be an ongoing maintenance problem. Properly installed CI should outlast your stay in the house.
  4. Zoi101

    Zoi101 New Member

    Messages:
    2
    Location:
    Chicago
    THANK YOU!! :) I'm going with the CI ;-)
  5. nelrossen10

    nelrossen10 New Member

    Messages:
    8
    Location:
    Atlanta, Georgia
    In the very early collection systems (especially for "separate" sanitary sewage systems), only lamp-holes were installed. It was soon learned that the lamp-holes were good for seeing (with a source of light) if the sewer in the main was indeed flowing, but they were almost useless as a maintenance access point. Consequently, the placement of manholes in gravity sewer systems soon became common
  6. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,636
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    I am not sure if plastic is allowed in Chicago by now, but it probably is, in which case it would be superior to clay and cheaper than cast iron. In addition, plastic does NOT develop the rust stalagmites and stalactites tyat cast iron does over time.
  7. Will Rogers Plumbing

    Will Rogers Plumbing Plumbing Contractor

    Messages:
    57
    Location:
    Moore, Ok
    I would vote PVC also, but I'm thinking Chicago may only allow Cast Iron for building drains. I'm not 100% sure on that, but I'm sure SewerRatz would know the answer to that.
  8. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,636
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    In the 50s and 60s cast iron was used inside the building, but clay was used outside. I am sure by now they allow plastic, ABS or PVC, outdoors.
  9. leejosepho

    leejosepho DIY scratch-pad engineer

    So true.

    clayroots.jpg

    And before I got to this house, the money spent for an annual roto-rooter treatment over nearly twenty years could have paid the cost for my PVC replacement a little over a year ago.
  10. SewerRatz

    SewerRatz Illinois Licensed Plumber

    Messages:
    1,705
    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    In the City of Chicago, building drains (under the building) must be cast iron. Building sewers (outside the building underground) must be clay, or cast iron. PVC is allowed for DWV (Not building sewer or building drain) in less than 3 story buildings or 3 family or less buildings.

    As for clay, as long it is properly installed it can give 100's of years of service with out any issues. I can show you lines that are 100+ years old two hundred feet long on a property that looks like a forest preserve and not a single root in the line. My mom's sewer is 60 years old with clay pipes and not a single root in the line.

    Now they did come out with a clay pipe that had what they called slip seal joints.... This basically had a tar gasket on spigot end of the pipe, and you painted tar in the bell and slipped the pipe together. Guess what, these pipes had tons of roots get in with in a few years time. Almost as good of an idea Orangburg pipe.
    Last edited: Oct 22, 2011
  11. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,636
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    Most 100 year old clay sewers had cement joints and I have NEVER seen one of those without root intrusion.
  12. Yersmay

    Yersmay Writing, constructionDIY Member

    Messages:
    62
    Location:
    Los Angeles
  13. SewerRatz

    SewerRatz Illinois Licensed Plumber

    Messages:
    1,705
    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    HJ next time I am over at this home I will TV the line again and make a recording for you. Thing is with 100 year old clay sewers is they where installed properly. They dug out the soil in the trench to allow space for the bells so the pipe does not teeter totter and they get a proper joint. They mixed the cement very wet for the first pass. They also used a half moon shaped board to pull out any cement that got passed the oakum, then they ran a mop through the pipe. They then move on to the next joint while another followed behind with a dry mix of cement with added lime and added this dry mix around the joints which helped prevent roots growing in.

    Now as to 20 year old clay sewers with cement joints, I have seen them root infested due to poor instalations.
  14. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,013
    Location:
    New England
    Laborwise and probably longevity, given the typical quality of workmanship, I think you'll have a higher probability of long-term success with CI verses clay. Now, if they'd allow PVC, that would be the price leader with likely as long a life, but given CI vs clay, I'd go with CI.
  15. Will Rogers Plumbing

    Will Rogers Plumbing Plumbing Contractor

    Messages:
    57
    Location:
    Moore, Ok
    I prefer clay over cast iron for building sewers if I had to choose between clay or cast. I've see too many bad sections of cast iron pipe(not joints) to pick it over clay. I rarely seen problems with clay pipe other than a joint that is installed poorly or wrong. I have seen some clay sewers with some bad root problems, but I've seen just as many if not more for cast iron. Clay has a smoother surface too, and will never rust.
  16. jadnashua

    jadnashua Retired Defense Industry Engineer xxx

    Messages:
    22,013
    Location:
    New England
    It all comes down to workmanship and some of it luck. Provide the proper slope, don't have an acidic soil, make your joints properly, don't use nasty chemicals, and either could last a very long time. More joints on clay, more chances to mess up.
  17. ballvalve

    ballvalve General Engineering Contractor

    Messages:
    3,261
    Location:
    northfork, california
    Chicago is the most mob/union run city for building trades outside of Sicily or Russia.

    Apparently the mob has not infiltrated the PVC manufacturers, or they consider the product too long lasting and too quick to install for it to be a part of the underground trades. The union cannot find a way to increase the installation time and longevity of PVC under ground, no matter how many cigarette breaks or 3 hour [well;...... 1/2 hour off the payroll] lunchbreaks they take.

    The wall street journal just did an article on the trash union guys - they "work" at MOST 5 hours out of an 8 hour day.

    We wonder why the Chinese are winning - they work 10 hours on an 8 hour payroll, with pleasure.

    I knew a Chicago union garbage guy - gut as big as a 30 gallon trash can and wiggled like a bag of fish guts. Died of a massive coronary, much to the benefit of the Chicago taxpayers.... although his replacement was soon "on the job trained" on how NOT to work also.
  18. SewerRatz

    SewerRatz Illinois Licensed Plumber

    Messages:
    1,705
    Location:
    Chicago, IL
    Talk out of your ... .much? Sewer & Drain layers are pretty much open shops. Not to many are in any sort of union. Most of the cities and townships along with counties require cast iron underground for the building drain material. I have seen homes range from 100 years old to new that the cast iron underground is still in as good of shape as it was installed. The only time I seen an issue with underground cast iron is when some brilliant GC or builder that it was a great idea to backfill with cinder. Cinder will swiss cheese the heck out of cast iron, even ductile iron. In the 25 years I been at this I have only came across 5 bad cast iron sewer lines. I have came across 100's of bad PVC lines underground.

    I guess you will blame the unions for not going to pex in Chicago as well. The reason we still hard pipe our water lines with copper is rodents, not the unions.
  19. leejosepho

    leejosepho DIY scratch-pad engineer

    Good information there concerning true craftsmanship, and I would suspect "poor installation" was at the "root" (ahem!) of the problem I had. The joints had been cemented, but apparently not in the craft-like manner you have described.
  20. ballvalve

    ballvalve General Engineering Contractor

    Messages:
    3,261
    Location:
    northfork, california

    Defending Boss Hawg Daley and his pathetic son? Bought and paid for by the cast iron and copper trades. They wrote the laws. union or not. Amonst many others. Thats talking from the .... if I ever head it.

    Your rodents are everywhere in America, Although Chicago is particularly dirty, I must say, yet Pex survives. Funny how everyone else gets by. but Chicago is run by the human variety of rodent, keeping costs up for America. And filling the back parking lot of diners with city trucks for 3 hour union lunches. Unions protect only themselves and push our industries to Guatamala, where hungry people not stuffed with pastrami sandwiches LOVE to work.

    I love copper, and the fact that we have some iron foundrys left. But you want to pay 5$ for a fitting? Save it for wires and roofs.
    Last edited: Oct 24, 2011
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