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Orangeburg Pipe Downfall

The Beginning of the End

Because of World War II and following post war housing boom, there were almost 500 tons of Orangeburg pipe shipped out to customers per week during the 1950s and 1960s. However, it was becoming evident that Orangeburg pipe had a tendency to deform and had a lifespan of only 10 to 50 years. It wasn’t uncommon for Orangeburg pipe to fail in less than 10 years.

To help combat deforming and rupture, manufacturers suggested that Orangeburg pipes be bedding in gravel or sand. However, when Orangeburg pipe does break it can be hard to fix with having to replace pipe. This becomes difficult if the pipe is buried or in the walls of a building. Also, modern plumbing techniques such as snaking and hydro jetting can cause damage to the pipes if they have become deformed.


Although the Orangeburg Manufacturing Company had little competition from other fiber conduit companies, they did have competition from other materials. In the late 1960s, the PVC pipe industry began to emerge as a threat to the Orangeburg Manufacturing Company. PVC piping was a cheaper pipe that was more reliable than Orangeburg and had a longer lifespan. These qualities made it more suitable for usage with drain and sewer lines.

As the 1970s started, PVC was quickly becoming the go to material for drain and sewer lines. The Orangeburg Manufacturing Company was having a hard time competing with the PVC. In the fall of 1972, the Orangeburg New York plant closed. However, the fiber conduit remains in the same roads, streets and buildings it was originally built in. Furthermore, millions of feet of Orangeburg pipe are still in use across the United States.

Orangeburg Piping is Not Perfect

Despite the fact that some fixtures still have Orangeburg in use, this type of piping often has problems. In fact, the majority of pipe failures in Livonia have been associated with Orangeburg piping. There are several reasons why the system may fail:

  1. The bedding around the piping may shift over time, causing the pipes to shift and break apart.
  2. Tree roots invade the pipes and, as they do, loosen or break apart pipe sections and stop flow.
  3. The piping material may deteriorate over time. As it deteriorates, it flattens because of the earth pressure around it, and it loses its circular cross section. Losing that is important because the circular shape is where most materials flow.
  4. Orangeburg piping material is held together by bitumin. Putting any type of solvent, paint thinner, mineral spirits, or adhesive cleaner into the pipes will cause deterioration of that bitumin.
  5. In some cases, this piping will maintain a circular outer shape, but have an interior cross section that is out of round and failing. This is unique to Orangeburg piping.

How To Fix Your Failing Orangeburg Piping

Despite it’s age, Orangeburg piping requires the same repairs as any sewer problem would. A professional can come out and clear the problem, or they’ll have to replace it. Using a plumber’s snake to clean the pipe is a simple solution; however, doing so could be damaging to your Orangeburg pipes. Because of the reasons previously mentioned, clearing it may not be enough to keep it from failing again. In most instances, replacement is your best option. To make replacement not so burdensome, RooterMD uses a method called “pipe-bursting” or “trenchless.” In short, trenchless pipe replacement is used so minimal damage is done to your yard when digging for the pipe.

Orangeburg Pipe Services from RooterMD Plumbing

If you think you have Orangeburg pipe in your home or business then contact the professionals at Rooter MD to inspect your building. We have the tools and methods to replace your Orangeburg pipes and improve your buildings water quality and value. Contact Rooter MD Plumbing today at 248-850-2061, so we can inspect your pipes, find the problem, and suggest the best plan of action.