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The History (& Problems) Of Cast Iron Pipes

cast iron pipes
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Just how long have people been moving water from one location to another? It’s a question you may never have considered before, but the history behind it is fascinating. Civilizations have been creating different ways of moving water since the time of ancient Roman aqueducts, and the process has only gotten easier with time. One method from the past that still occasionally makes a presence today is through cast iron pipes.

These were first created using molds and held together with screws and joints. In major cities across the United States, a look underground would reveal cast iron sewer lines that could date back decades – sometimes almost a century. Once considered the gold standard of sewer piping, these pipes are now coming to the end of their lifespan.

Why Cast Iron Pipes Were Used

Cast iron pipes were once the strongest material to use in early sewage systems, carrying water for hundreds of miles at a time. They were hard to damage due to their strong material, which was designed to hold up under pressure when the water lines were full to capacity.

When Cast Iron Pipes Were Used

Cast iron pipes date back to the 17th century and were once considered innovative and modern. The wealthiest of the wealthy, including King Louis XIV of France, used these pipes. The king’s royal pipes were up to 15 miles long and connected to his palace from the Seine River, and also supplied water to surrounding buildings in the area.

In the United States, cast iron pipes date back to the early 19th century. Fast forward in time, and homes with indoor plumbing became more common in the 1930s. At this time, they were the only available option, but still only affordable to the wealthy because the cast iron was highly labor-intensive.

They became more common for sewage piping use years later and outdid other pipe materials due to their reliability. The material didn’t face any competition until the 1970s when plastic became more common to use in piping.

Why They Are No Longer Used

The labor involved in making cast iron pipes is quite intensive, making them an expensive option for most people. They also don’t have the required flexibility to be durable in modern construction. The modern design of homes requires more flexible pipes of smaller size.

Modern Replacement Pipes

Cast iron pipes finally went out of fashion in the 1980s. They were replaced by Polyvinyl Chloride plastic (PVC), which can be made quicker and more easily. PVC has the required strength to be durable for long-term use, and is cheaper and easier to make, making them the preferred option overcast iron.

The Potential Damage Risk From Cast Iron Pipes

Cast iron pipes still in use with older homes are at risk of being affected by tree roots. There have been many cases were tree roots actually end up damaging the cast iron material, which, needless to say, isn’t good for water transfer. The resulting leaks can result in black water (which is as unhealthy and gross as it sounds), contaminating your water with rust, fungus, and bacteria. Broken or damaged pipes can also cause leaks and standing water in your floor and ceiling.

Cast Iron Pipe Repair and More In South Florida

If you own an older home, you may still have cast iron pipes. To protect your drinking water and your home’s interior, you may want to have your pipes relined or serviced, if not outright replaced. At Art Rooter, Sewer & Drain Cleaning, we’ve seen the damage that these old pipes can cause. While our team is well equipped to handle any resulting damage, we recommend replacing your pipes with a more durable modern option.

To learn more about our plumbing services, call us at 1-888-773-1524.

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