Most Common Problems With Clay Pipes

Most cities in Australia have, at one point or another, used clay piping. Whilst at the time that was the standard plumbing pipe, these days we have other better options available to us, such as PVC. A lot of older style homes with older pipes have been replaced but there are still a number of properties, including in Queensland, that are using the clay style piping.

Clay Piping

In this post, we are going to cover the most issues with clay pipes and in the end, how to fix them through pipe relining. Whether you have bought a home that has old style piping or are planning to build a home on top of pre-existing clay piping, this post is for you.

History of clay piping

Terracotta drainage pipes (sometimes referred to as clay or vitrified clay pipes) have been used for many many years. The use of clay drainage pipes dates back to the Romans, who used the clay pipe system as it was easy to manufacture, straightforward to lay and, for the most part, reliable. If correctly installed with a solid base, clay drains could last up to 100 years. However, due to the rigid and brittle nature of clay or terracotta pipes problems can begin to occur over time.

Problems with clay piping


Whilst this isn't a problem for everyone, a plumber will tell you that they don't like having to move clay pipes, as they are ridiculously heavy and are very hard to transport. Its PVC equivalent, however, weighs next to nothing in comparison, making it a much easier option.

Difficult To Work With

Not only are clay pipes super heavy, they are also really fragile and, being so fragile makes them very difficult to work with. They often require very careful attention to detail and alternative measures of repair, and they can be quite costly to fix and replace compared to their PVC counterparts.

Root Intrusions

Clay pipes don't fit together perfectly and, as a result, small gaps are left in the joins between the pipes. These gaps are all a tree root needs to be able to intrude into the pipe and once in the pipe, they grow and turn into a blockage... which requires a lot of labour to fix.

Root Intrusion

Tensile Strength

Clay pipes are extremely strong under pressure, however, their tensile strength is anything but. They are prone to cracking and shattering under blunt impacts or ground movements, which can cause leaks or even serious collapse. This can quickly become a massive issue for the homeowner and, at times, surrounding neighbours.

Collapsed Pipe

Scale And Flaking

Over time, clay pipes will develop small chips and scale which causes the pipe to flake. These can then catch things such as hair or toilet paper. Eventually, if left without treatment, the pipe will become blocked from all of the debris that has been caught by that original flake.

Flaked Pipe

Other issues

Some other complications which can occur with clay drain pipes include:

  • A slight movement or settling in the ground around the pipe can disturb couplings and potentially create water leaks.
  • Subsequent water loss can wash away pipe bedding, causing more drain movement.
  • Misalignment allows debris to be snagged on the inside of the pipe eventually causing a partial or full drain blockage - this doesn’t just apply to tree roots.
  • One misaligned pipe can then nudge the next pipe out of place and so on, causing more and more issues along the drain length.
  • Heavy vehicle movement over pipes under driveways or roads can cause cracks or even total drain collapse.

What do you do if you have clay piping?

It is advised, where possible, that if you can replace your clay pipes with PVC you will be a lot happier later as you will not suffer from many of the problems listed above.

If you are already in a home that does have clay pipes, you may want to consider having pipe relining conducted on your clay pipes to extend the life of the pipes as well as making them more structurally sound. Have a chat with an industry professional, such as Reline Solutions, regarding pipe relining and the benefits it can offer.

Reline Solutions

If you have clay pipes under your home, we can help you to extend the longevity of them by providing a full pipe reline. Our pipe relining service gives the strength back to old pipes and prevents intrusions, so give us a call today on 0403 355 550 and see how our pipe reline specialists can help you.

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