Orangeburg pipe is an extremely historic and unique style of piping made up of dried wood pulp impregnated with coal tar pitch. Originally developed during the industrial age in the United States as a conduit, Orangeburg quickly made its name as a go to piping material for plumbing and sewer repair. The first appearance of Orangeburg pipe was in 1893 Orangeburg, New York.
In the early 1900s, the market for fibre conduit expanded. It was developed flat, (in an oval shape) and used to contain electrical cables that ran through the subway systems. Because of the success of Orangeburg piping, several companies started making fibre conduit. It was later tried by the petroleum industries as pipe to move salt water resulting from oil drilling operations. It was learned shortly after that the pipe did not work well under “pressure” situations, while in “gravity” circumstances it performed fairly well.
In 1948 when the post-war housing boom was underway, there were limited options for various sewer pipe materials. At this time, a heavier, and round version of Orangeburg were manufactured for use as an affordable pipe for plumbing and sewer repair. The joints were made from similar material (wood pulp and pitch) and were attached through the use of compression only. This made the pipes, especially susceptible to root intrusions. This lightweight and brittle pipe could easily be cut by a carpenter’s saw.
It was discovered right away that this type of pipe had a tendency to deform when subjected to concentrated pressures over long periods of time. Because of this, the manufacturer emphasised the need to properly bed the pipe using soil free of rocks and debris. However, proper bedding did not prevent deformation of the pipes by tree roots.
In the 1950s and 60s, the demand for fibre sewer pipe skyrocketed. The Orangeburg plant was expanded several times, while other companies started manufacturing similar sewer pipe impregnated with pitch. Orangeburg remained the largest manufacturer of wood fibre pipe by far. In these years, 500 tons of Orangeburg pipe were shipped per week from New York to all over the United States, including here in Tacoma where it was used for plumbing, and sewer repair.
Based on everything that has been learned about Orangeburg pipe over the last 50-60 years, It is no longer used for plumbing or sewer repair. In fact, if you suspect your sewer system is made up of this type of pipe, you should find out where it is and what condition it is in. Orangeburg has long demonstrated itself to have a limited structural life expectancy. This type of pipe has a tendency to deform even when properly bedded, and there have been reports of tree roots wrapping around the piping and deforming or crushing it.
If you are curious about what material your pipes are made of, or suspect that your sewer is made of Orangeburg piping, feel free to give us a call at (253) 285-1771 or click here to request an appointment, and we will come out and check on the status of your sewer line for you.