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Cast Iron Pipes: Pros and Cons

When asked to picture in your mind a home plumbing pipe, what do you think of? Maybe you see PVC or another plastic pipe. Perhaps you see copper water lines? Chances are your mind didn’t automatically leap to cast iron pipe. Most home improvement stores don’t display them and they aren’t readily used in home water line applications either. The importance of cast iron in plumbing pipe use cannot be discredited, however, because there are plenty of reasons why this less than infamous pipe is extremely useful in plumbing.

What is Cast Iron Pipe?

Cast iron is not to be confused with his elemental cousin iron. Iron is typically lustrous whereas cast iron (or gray iron) is an alloy of iron. The alloy is described mostly by the color of the cast iron. “White cast iron” has a white fractured surface whereas gray cast iron has small specks of graphite throughout the material making the pipe itself gray.

Cast iron is typically pretty brittle and much more brittle than regular old iron, which means that installers must be extra cautious when installing cast iron pipes. Cast iron does, however, have a strong resistance towards oxidation (or rusting), deformation, and pre-mature wear and tear. Cast iron is used in multiple mechanical applications other than pipes such as automobiles and machines as well, and is all over a trusted and often-used material.

Cast Iron Pipe Function

While cast iron pipes are an important piece of the plumbing puzzle, they aren’t meant to be used in every asset of your home’s plumbing pipes. You wouldn’t want your main water line to be comprised of cast iron because of how dense and unwieldy the material is. Cast iron pipe wasn’t always restricted from water pipes, though, and when it first started to become popular it was wide-spread used as a water carrier pipe. Today though we have other pipes such as copper that just tend to be a better fit and more useful in a water pipe situation. Instead, cast iron is typically used to make up your drain, vent, and waste lines.

Your drain and waste plumbing lines carry both non-hazardous and septic waters to the sewer or septic tank. Vent drains are made to make sure that septic fumes don’t waft back into the home. Sewer and septic are able to go down, but no fumes can come back up into your home. This is a very important piece of your home’s plumbing because those fumes have the potential to be dangerous and even deadly, definitely not something you want floating up into your basement or bathroom.

Cast Iron Pipe Installation

Most plastic pipes and some types of metal pipes are welded together with solvents or solder. Cast iron pipes use mechanical fittings to join together. The most common type of fitting for cast iron pipes is a rubber-like coupling that slides over both ends of the pipes and use a band to clamp them and keep them secured. This affects installation laboriously as well as affecting which parts and tools you need to have on hand.

Pros and Cons of Using Cast Iron Pipe Over Plastic

Cast iron pipes are substantially more durable than plastic drain pipes. They are capable of resisting more wear and deformation and are more reliable when you consider the job they perform. Cast iron is, however, more expensive. The parts for cast iron are more expensive than plastic parts. Also, installation of cast iron pipes tends to be higher than for plastic pipes due to not only the materials and mechanical fittings but labor as well.

Home Service Doctors can help with installation or maintenance of your cast iron pipes!

Call today to ensure your home or office is piped and functioning correctly. 

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