Which materials to use for sewer pipe installation

By November 6, 2017 No Comments
Columbia Precast Steel Products

When choosing materials for sewer pipe installation, the main word you’ll hear is “lifespan.” Most contractors are (rightly) concerned with how long the materials will be able to withstand natural conditions.

While that’s an important standard, other factors determine what makes an excellent material for sewer pipes.

The standard materials used are concrete, steel, clay, and plastic (HDPE and PVC). We’ll explain the benefits and drawbacks for each so that you are informed for your next project.


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.”

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.

They are slightly difficult to maintain, though, as they require frequent performance checks. Also, neither can withstand high heat, which can make them susceptible to bending or warping.


Clay is more common with old installations than they are with new projects. It isn’t used too often these days.

The pros though are their resistance to chemicals and erosion, a natural by-product for their being glazed and vitrified. It’s also cheaper than steel and iron and has the most extended lifespan of the other materials.

Lifespan and durability are two different qualities, though. Clay can crack easily which allows intrusion of foreign objects.


Steel is a more popular material for water piping, but can also be used for sewer pipes. Their main benefit is their strength, durability, and resistance to buildup and corrosion.

The drawback is their lifespan, which is the shortest of what we’ve listed here. It’s also the most expensive of these materials.


Concrete is the go-to choice for many contractors, as they stand well for both lifespan and durability. They can withstand high-pressure conditions without compromising integrity or allowing intrusion.

Read: Precast Concrete Drainage Structures

Concrete does require regular maintenance though, to limit buildup that occurs from sewage material. This can be done with regular inspections, though. They are also susceptible to breaking when handled, so they must be installed with care and the proper equipment.

Precast concrete services in the PNW

Columbia Precast Products is one of the preferred precast manufacturers in Oregon and Washington. Our manufacturing processes are SMaRT certified with products that can be customized for your project’s needs.

Check out our catalog to see what we have in stock or get in touch with us if you are looking for a custom product.