Perforated septic pipe

Perforated septic pipe DEFAULT

How to Install a Perforated Sewer Drain Pipe

Perforated sewer pipe -- usually made of PVC in modern systems -- is embedded in gravel in an underground trench below the level of the septic tank. Your septic tank is the pretreatment part of your septic system, where bacteria digest the septic solids. The tank releases partially processed liquids to flow down a closed pipe to the septic field, or leach field. While the septic field is at a lower elevation than the tank, the field and the pipe inside it must be level. Permitting authorities in your county or city must sign off on your plans before you can install a septic system, and the plan for the project will show the elevation and layout of the trenches for the perforated pipe.

  1. Dig out the soil in trenches of the depth, width and configuration required on your approved plan. Every plan is specific to the property where it will be built and is dependent of the size, shape, natural slope and soil composition of the property, as well as the speed at which water percolates through the soil and the size of the home the system serves. The floors of the trenches should be as close to level as possible so that wastewater distributes evenly throughout the system. Use a backhoe or similar digging equipment for this job.

  2. Put 6 to 12 inches of gravel in the bottom of the trench. Choose gravel that is larger in diameter than the holes in the perforated pipe. Your municipality may have a specific requirement for the type of gravel you must use and the depth of gravel the perforated pipe must sit on.

  3. Lay out the perforated pipe pieces on top of the gravel with the majority of the holes pointed downward and connect them with PVC self-priming glue. The pipe sections are made with coupling flanges on one end of each pipe, so the next pipe in line will slide inside of the one before. Smear PVC glue on the inside of the female flange and outside of the male end and slide them together quickly, before the glue has a chance to dry; make sure that the perforation holes are all pointed the same way. Cap any terminal ends of the pipes with glued PVC caps. Not all leach field plans have terminal ends on the pipes.

  4. Place a level on the long runs of PVC and adjust the levelness of the pipe by wiggling and pushing high portions against the gravel until the bubble is in the middle of of the glass on the level. You can add gravel under stretches of pipe that are too low. You can also use a transit level or laser level to situate your pipes and some municipalities actually require that you do so.

  5. Glue the incoming ends of the perforated pipe into the couplings on the nonperforated PVC pipe coming out of the system distribution box. A distribution box ensures that the wastewater distributes evenly into multiple runs of perforated pipe.

  6. Place approximately 6 inches of gravel over the pipe, using care to avoid disturbing the pipe placement. Your municipality may require an inspection before you do this.

  7. Cover the gravel with a single layer of geo-textile fabric to help keep soil from infiltrating the gravel, and fill the trench the rest of the way with soil.

  8. Things You Will Need

    • Gravel

    • Geo-textile fabric

    • Backhoe

    • Builder's level, laser level or transit level

    • PVC self-priming glue


    Avoid deviating from the plan that your permitting authority approved. If you don't follow the plan during installation, the county or city will not approve the final product, and may even make you tear it back out. Avoid planting trees or other plants with invasive roots on or near your drain field. Roots can grow into the perforated piping and follow it all the way up to your septic tank, completely blocking the system.


Orangeburg pipe advertisement at InspectApedia.comOrangeburg Pipe
Identification, properties, history, uses

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Orangeburg pipe used in drainage & septic systems:

Orangeburg pipe is black, not orange, and is fragile after spending decades buried underground. Here we describe the composition, history, and uses of orangeburg pipe.

This article defines and describes different types of building supply and drain piping with an alphabetical list of piping materials and properties.

We also provide an ARTICLE INDEX for this topic, or you can try the page top or bottom SEARCH BOX as a quick way to find information you need.

Orangeburg Pipes at buildings: definition, properties

Orangeburg pipe as downspout drain © D Friedman at Orangeburg pipes, named not for their color but for the town(Orangeburg NY) where the Fibre Conduit Company, a major pipe manufacturer was located, were used outside buildings to connect the building drain to septic systems or in some areas to sewer pipes.

In North America Orangeburg pipe was used in both municipal water supply piping systems and in both public sewer systems and in private septic systems as well as other site drainage systems from the 1860s to as late as the late 1970s.

Orangeburg pipes are black, and somewhat fragile bituminous-coated fiber pipes.

[Click to enarge any image]

OPINION: think Orangeburg pipe? think "tar impregnated cardboard". Inexpensive, widely used.

Orangeburg piping was used in both un-perforated form as septic distribution piping and more widely in perforated form as effluent distribution piping in septic drainfields and as buried downspout drain lines.

As we explain


Orangeburg drain & septic field piping, most widely used in drain piping and septic fields, was made of multiple layers of ground wood fibers bound with an adhesive mastic (coal tar), impregnated with coal tar pitch, and typically looking like black"tarred" piping.

Older orangeburg pipe will often be delaminating and may have broken or collapsed.

Orangeburg piping was first used in Boston in 1865.

Orangeburg pipe history at InspectApedia.comDespite it's name, "Orangeburg pipe" is not orange in color and it never was, though if you want to see some orange-colored sewer piping see our description of Terra Cotta (clay) pipes below in this article.

The name Orangeburg pipe comes from the main producer of this product, the Fibre Conduit Co., in Orangeburg, New York. By the time the sign advertising "Orangeburg root-proof pipe" was produced the company also had facilities in Newark California.

The Fibre Conduit Company was founded by Stephen Bradley (owner of electric lighting and power companies) in Orangeburg NY in 1893.

In its earliest production the steam waste exhaust from early steam-generated electrical power plants was used in the manufacture of orangeburg pipe to heat and dry it.

Later orangeburg pipe was also used as five-foot sections of electrical wire conduit, probably a successor to the much heavier and more costly tar-filled pipes that carried Edison's earliest Solid Iron Tubing or Steel Pipe & Pitch Insulated Electrical Cables.

An advantage of asphalt-based conduit piping was its resistance to corrosion and acids.

The 1939 Worlds' Fair advertisement described wide use of Orangeburg pipe by that year. [Advertisement shown below]

Orangeburg pipe was sold for underground ductwork use with a concrete encasement as well as an Orangeburg "Nocrete" version was used for electrical service entrances and similar applications.

Orangeburg pipe history from a 1939 ad at the Worlds' Fair in New York - at InspectApedia.comBy the late 1930's to early 1940's this wood-fibre-based conduit or piping was marketed under the brand Alkacid. Later Alkacid and other brands of fibre-based asphalt impregnated pipe were replced by asbestos-cement pipe or transite pipe.

You can see my photo of a section of that earlier electrical cabling


After 1948 the originator of orangeburg pipe, the Fibre Conduit company changed its name to Orangeburg Manufacturing.

Black coal-tar impregnated fiber piping was widely used in North American from 1950 to 1970.

List of Manufacturers of Orangeburg Pipe

Orangeburg drain piping and sewer piping was not made just by Fiber Conduit.

  • American Manufacturing
  • American Piping Co.,
  • Bermico (Brown Manufacturing) [advertisement shown below]
  • Fibre Conduit Co.
  • J.M. Fiber Conduit Co. (Orangeburg NY)
  • Orangeburge Manufacturing

Life Expectancy of an Orangeburg Pipe Drainfield

Bermico sewer pipe ad at InspectApedia.comWe estimate by the late 1940's, and continuing through the 1960's perforated Orangeburg pipe was widely used in the U.S. and parts of Canada for area drains and particularly as distribution piping in septic drainfields.

We still come across Orangeburg pipe when excavating old septic drainfields and on occasion when inspecting an older home, say before 1970, you may see the top of a section of Orangeburg pipe peeking up above ground as a connection for a roof gutter downspout.

In our Orangeburg pipe downspout drain photo above on this page we were pointing out (the pen) that perforated pipe was used as a buried drain right next to the building - inviting basement water entry even if the drain is not yet clogged.

And figure, if you see a buried downspout drain using a material not commonly installed for 40 years, that the drain itself may be blocked or collapsed by now.

Watch out: What about a septic drainfield built using Orangeburg pipe?

Orangeburg pipe was less rigid than terra-cotta piping (though also less fragile), making it vulnerable to both crushing-collapse and tree-root invasion. In fact some of our research sources cited root invasion as the most common mode of orangeburg pipe failure, though with age, collapse is also common.

If you encounter a septic absorption bed or drainfield that used Orangeburg pipe you should not count on the continued usability of that septic system. Such a drainfield is by now likely to be in questionable, if not failed condition.

Orangeburg Pipe Dimensions: diameters & wall thickness

Orangeburg pipe was manufactured in a variety of diameters and thicknesses for various applications including electrical conduit and sewer or drainfield effluent distribution pipes. Orangeburg common diameters ranged from 3" to 8" I.D.

Orangeburg pipe used as perforated septic drainfield piping had a nominal ID of 4.00 inches and an O.D. that varied by manufacturer; the pipe wall was about 3/16" to 1/4" thick.

Orangeburg with a 4.0" ID and that's 3/16" thick would have an OD of about 4.375"

Orangeburg pipe lengths varied but it was often sold in 10 ft. lengths.

Orangeburg Pipe Patent History

Pitch impregnated pipe precursor to Orangeburg Ellis Patent 612897 at

  • BIKLEN, Donald W. Bituminized fiber pipe. U.S. Patent No 2,839,088, 17 Jun. 1958.
  • BRADLEY JR, Stephen R. Machine for making pulp pipes. U.S. Patent No 799,028, [PDF] 9 12 Sept. 1905.
  • BRADLEY, Stephen R. Process of manufacturing pulp pipe. U.S. Patent No 966,729, [PDF] 9 Ago. 1910. Assignee: Fibre Conduit Co., Orangeburg New York. [The company later changed its name to the Orangeburg Pipe Co. - Ed.]
  • BULLOCK, P.; MILFORD, M. H.; CLINE, M. G. Degradation of Argillic Horizons in Udalf Soils of New York State 1. Soil Science Society of America Journal, 1974, vol. 38, no 4, p. 621-628.

    Excerpt: Lengths of Orangeburg pipe were prepared which were 10 cm in diameter, and perforated at 5-cm intervals with four holes 1.5 cm in diameter and arranged 80 to 100° apart around the pipe.
  • Ellis, Benhamin F., Construction of tubes and cylinders, US Patent No 6l2,897. Patented Oct. 25, 1898. B. F. ELLIS.

Illustration: from the Ellis patent cited just above. [Click to enlarge any image]

  • Fairbanks, Henry, Machine for making pulp pipes and pulp-covered rolls, US Patent 583398, [PDF] June 8, 1897, filed August 14 1893, SN 483,080.

    Be it known that, I, HENRY FAIRBANKS, of St. Johnsbury, in the county of Caledonia, and State of Vermont, have invented certain new and useful Improvements in Machines for Making Pulp Pipe and Pulp - Covered Rolls, of which the following, taken in con-p nection with the accompanying drawings, is a specification.

    My improvement relates to machines by which rolls are covered with wood or paper pulp by winding successive layers of the soft film upon them, which covering may be dried upon the roll or loosened and slid off to be used as tubing. In order that the pulp-layer may be laid evenly upon the forming-roll A, it is necessary that this roll be held against the pulp-bearing surface with a uniform yielding pressure and follow its motion without jar.

    Evidently it is a disadvantage if a heavy frame carrying the forming-roll must be moved with this roll to secure constant contact. To correct this, my improved machine has the re volving frame arranged simply to guide the motion of each forming-roll while receiving its layers of pulp, and provides a separate de vice for pressing it against the moving sur face Supplying pulp.
  • GANNON, Charles R. Pitch-impregnated fiber pipe. U.S. Patent No 3,927,696, 23 Dic. 1975.
  • JENKINS, Charles F. Common causes of material degradation in buried piping. Westinghouse Savannah River Co., Aiken, SC (United States), 1997.

    ... backfill plays a larger role in mechanical capability of the pipe system than it does for most other materials. Orangeburg pipe 1 frequently fails by root intrusion at joints

  • Kirkland, William, IMPROVED DRAN AND WATER PIPES, US Patent No. 76,778, [PDF] April 14, 1868

    Be it known that I, WILLIAMP. KERKLAND, of the city and county of San Francisco, State of California, have invented an Improved Drain and Water lipe; and I do hereby de clare that the materials used, and the manner of mixing and preparing the same to manu facture the said pipe, with the best apparatus lknown to me for the purpose, are described in the following specification.

    The nature of my invention is to provide an improved drain and Water pipe combining strength with durability and cheapness. To accomplish this object, I employ a series of strands or cords loosely twisted, and place them in a tank or caldron of boiling asplial tum or pitcly substance, an rolnfine ti ir ends to a cylinder or roller suspended over the tank. These cords or strands are so at tached to the cylinder or form that in turn ing they will cross each other diagonally.

    Between each coil of rope I place a layer of oakum or hemp, and when a desired number of coils or layers has been wound upon the l'Oller it is withdrawn, and the pipe is coated With the contents of the tank above described.

    To more fully illustrate and describe my in Vention, I employ a tank or caldron, in which is placed a pitchy substance, (I prefer asphal tum after the oil has been extracted, butcom mon pitch from trees or resin might answer,) which should be well mixed by boiling, and kept heated. In this I place a series of strands, loosely twisted, or cords in two sets, so ar. anged as to be easily withdrawn from the tank, which may be accomplished, after they are attached to the cylinder, by confining their ends to a strip of paper or cloth.

    After the form has been turned completely around once commence to place a layer of oakum or hemp at right angles to the Strands, turning the cylinder until a pipe of suitable thickness and trengtli is obtained, when the form is re moved, and the pipe so formed is dipped in the pitch or asphaltum in the tank, above de scribed, which coats it completely inside and out, this forming a pipe of asphaltun ol' pitch. and fibrous material without iron or other form.
  • Schladweiler, Jon C., P.E., R.L.S.; Historian, AZ Water, "Coal Tar Impregnated Wood Fibre Pipe (Commonly referred to as “Orangeburg,” “Bermico,” etc. pipe)", retrieved 2018/05/25, original source:
  • Schladweiler, Jon C., Tracking down the roots of our sanitary sewers. Proceedings of the Water Environment Federation, 2001, vol. 2001, no 2, p. 1-27

    [Orangeburg pipe] came in sizes from 3” to 8” internal diameter. The couplings were pure compression; no gaskets. The pipe manufacturer changed its name to Orangeburg Pipe ...
  • STANLEY, William E.; ELLIS, Robert D. Paper Pulp Wastes Treatment: Orangeburg Manufacturing Co. Sewage and Industrial Wastes, [Image file of journal article page] 1954, p. 991-1001.

    Orangeburg sewer pipe and Orange burg electrical conduit have been man ufactured at the present factory loca tion since 1893. The product is a hard coal-tar pitch compound reinforced with a preformed wood fiber structgure, about 75 percent hard coal-tar pitch and 25 percent wood fiber. The raw materials include coal-tar pitch, selected clean waste paper, and mineral fiber.
  • WOLF, Harold W. Resistance of bituminous fiber pipe to penetration by rats. Public Health Reports, 1962, vol. 77, no 9, p. 806.

    (1) Orangeburg root-proof or perforated pipe and fittings. Catalogue No. 307. Orangeburg Man ufacturing Co., Inc.


Reader Comments & Q&A


Thanks for the helpful Orangeburg pipe question: Yes, Orangeburg was used in some municipal water supply lines as early as the 1860s and remained in widespread use in North America up to the 1970s. We've seen photos of street excavation with Orangeburg pipe fragments.

For water supply piping Orangeburg was replaced most-often with white (or green) PVC (polyvinyl chloride plastic) water supply pipes while Orangeburg pipe used in drain systems and septic systems was usually replaced with black ABS (acrylonitrile butadiene styrene) pipe.

Was there ever any Orangeburg pipe manufactured as water SUPPLY line?

Thanks so much! I’d be hesitant to try and remove it as it’s at least half below grade...any value in going over it with some already paint just to seal any potential compromised areas?

Yes. Or if you can pick up the pieces intact, without creating a mess, the old pipe can be disposed-of as construction debris.

Thank you! It’s actually weirdly semi-buried, as you can see in this photo (the black pipe near the new downspout extender I installed) seems to be in good condition and is under the deck so it’s a low traffic area. Would you suggest just leaving it alone?

Black Orangeburg Pipe used as a downspout drain carrier (C) Rollings

Above: Ellen's photo of the end view of a segment of Orangeburg pipe shows the black asphalt-impregnated layers of wood-based material of which Orangeburg pipe is comprised.

It may contain asbestos but as it is buried, there is no measurable airborne asbestos hazard.

One of my downspouts was feeding into this pipe. House was built in 1959. I’m guessing it’s some type of Orangeburg pipe? And I’ve read mixed opinions on whether an Orangeburg pipe fo this age could contain asbestos...any insights would be most appreciated. Thanks!

Black Orangeburg Pipe used as a downspout drain carrier (C) Rollings

I'm sorry but without more information any guesses likely to be wrong. In fact ceramic sewer lines (which are not Orangeburg) were sold in varying lengths.

Orangeburg pipe - discussed on this page - is NOT a ceramic product but is bituminous, made of wood fibre and asphalt. Orangeburg sewer piping had a nominal inside diameter or I.D. of 4.00" and an outside diameter or O.D. of about 4 1/2".

Orangeburg Pipe Inside Diameter:

2" to 18" depending on use

Orangeburg Pipe Outside Diameter:

Orangeburg pipe walls were roughly 3/16" to 1/4" thick, possibly thicker for the larger diameter versions.

It sounds like you're describing an Old Bell and hub system that used what's properly named "Mission Band-Seal Vitrified Clay Pipe" - this is not Orangeburg, though the color of vitrified clay pipe is, indeed, orange or orange-brown.

Ceramic or clay sewer or drain line pipes were usually shorter in length, typically 4 ft. or 6 ft. long with a nominal ID of 4,6,8 or 10 inches.

My suggestion is to excavate a long one length and then you will know the standard length at least in that area.

Clay drainfield piping (not Orangeburg pipe) or "drain tiles" shown in our photo below is discussed in our article on sewer line replacement,


Photograph of a clogged, broken clay drain line pipe section after excavation.

I am repairing root intrusion at the joints of 4" sewer pipe that is older than orangeburg.
It's quite stout thick ceramic pipe.
The pieces of pipe (so far)seem fine.

The roots are just starting to come in at the joints.
I've been digging them up at the joints and cleaning there.

My main question is, do you know how long generally the pieces of pipe are.

If I knew that it will save me quite a lot of unnecessary digging.

Thanks, Jim

Terra cotta, orangeburg, vitreous clay,

What types of piping were used in drain feels prior to 1963

Thanks for the excellent Orangeburg pipe questions, Phil.

To have space for a detailed reply I repeat your question and answer it in the article above- you may need to clear or refresh your browser cache to see the updated page.

1. What are the inside and outside diameters of 4" ORANGEBURG PIPE (sewage application) ?

2. What is the pipe wall dimensions of 4" orangeburg pipe?

3. Is there a BRAND NAME company that makes a re-liner insertable into an orangeburg pipe for prevention of collapse???

4. If not (3.) then is there an existing size/type of PVC or metal pipe that would work similar to a reliner insert???

Question: dimnensions of orangeburg and options for repairing in place

2019/07/19 MR. PHIL said:

1. What are the inside and outside diameters of 4" ORANGEBURG PIPE (sewage application) ?

2. What is the pipe wall dimensions of 4" orangeburg pipe?

3. Is there a BRAND NAME company that makes a re-liner insertable into an orangeburg pipe for prevention of collapse???

4. If not (3.) then is there an existing size/type of PVC or metal pipe that would work similar to a reliner insert?


Orangeburg common diameters ranged from 3" to 8" I.D. Those are "nominal" interior diameters - the actual products varied slightsly.

Orangeburg pipe used as perforated septic drainfield piping for residential use had a nominal I.D. of 4.00 inches and an O.D. that varied by manufacturer; the pipe wall wastypically about 3/16" to 1/4" thick.

Orangeburg with a 4.0" ID and that's 3/16" thick would have an OD of about 4.375"

Question: what's the right type of copper pipe to use at my urinals?

Inspector is challenging me about the type of copper pipe installed for waste pipe on my urinals. I installed DWV Copper tube and he says type m is minimum. What do you say I cannot find anything in ontario plumbing code 2006. - Karac Rushton - 6/29/2012

Reply: 2007 Ontario Plumbing code permits K & L copper; M above ground; DWV above ground but not buried.


I'm not sure why you're asking about copper pipe on a page about Orangeburg pipe but I'll take a stab at answering.


the 2007 Ontario Plumbing code is available online at opseu560[dot]org/BuildingCode-2007[dot]pdf and section 7 discusses plumbing.

There are some additional standards that apply: Conformance to Standards

(1) Every water closet and urinal shall conform to the requirements in Article

(2) Every vitreous china fixture shall conform to CAN/CSA-B45.1, "Ceramic PlumbingFixtures".

(3) Every enameled cast iron fixture shall conform to CAN/CSA-B45.2, "Enamelled Cast IronPlumbing Fixtures".

(4) Every porcelain enamelled steel fixture shall conform to CAN/CSA-B45.3, "Porcelain-Enamelled Steel Plumbing Fixtures".

Copper pipe shall conform to ASTM B42, "Seamless Copper Pipe, Standard Sizes".

That code includes a table of allowed uses of copper. Table - Permitted Use of Copper Tube and PipeForming Part of Sentence

In the table, if I read it correctly it says that

the drainage system piping can use K & L hard copper, and M-hard above ground but not buried, and DWV above ground but not underground.

So if all your DWV is above ground, by that table you're in compliance. You can show the table to your building inspector, and if you are polite you might get somewhere.

Don't forget that the local code compliance inspector has FINAL AUTHORITY.


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How to Install a Perforated Sewer Drain Pipe

Your septic system is comprised of pipes leading from your home to your septic tank, solid piping leading from your tank to a field bed and a perforated sewer drain pipe for drainage. Since improper placement of this pipe can cause sewer backup or clogs, knowing how to install one properly before undertaking this project is very important.

First, if you're working on a new installation, this job is best left to a professional. New septic systems must be approved by a permit in Broken Arrow and the surrounding areas before beginning. Grading and drainage requirements are quite stringent and a plan must be submitted for approval. If you're simply replacing an existing pipe, you should be fine as long as the problem you're having is due to the pipe itself.

You should use a four-inch pipe made of rigid PVC that has appropriate drainage holes. Never use corrugated flexible piping as these can't be cleaned without damaging the pipe. Once you've dug down to the original pipe, remove it carefully. Ensure there's a layer of gravel still in place for proper drainage. If necessary, add enough gravel to level the pipe with the system piping (usually six to 12 inches deep. Then, clean the main pipe thoroughly and allow it to dry.

With the majority of holes facing down, place your sections of perforated sewer drain pipe where they'll be installed. Using PVC primer and glue, glue the individual sections together. Use a level to make sure the pipe is in line, and then attach it to the non-perforated drain pipe on the tank. Next, cover the pipe with another six inches of gravel and a barrier to prevent the finishing soil from going into your gravel.

Air Assurance can relieve your septic drainage worries and develop a plan to best suit your needs. With award-winning services provided to the greater metro and surrounding areas of Tulsa, we're the team you can count on.

Our goal is to help educate our customers in the Tulsa and Broken Arrow, Oklahoma area about energy and home comfort issues (specific to HVAC systems). Credit/Copyright Attribution: “iQoncept/Shutterstock”



Pipe perforated septic


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