DrainageWhich Sewer Pipe is best – PVC or Clay?

4 November 2021by John McDermott0

PVC sewer pipe is now the most widely used drainage system for housing and light commercial applications and serves as an excellent alternative to clay. The UK Government recently set a target of a million new homes across the UK by 2020 and with a rush to build these homes, the demand for PVC sewer pipes is set to rise. But which pipe is best – clay or PVC?

This is a question we’re frequently asked by our customers. We’ve detailed below our thoughts.

Option 1: Clay Pipe

Many older properties still use clay or cast iron sewer pipe, and clay sewer pipe is still laid today. Here are just some of the benefits to using clay pipe:

  • It’s inert, which makes it highly resistant to chemical degradation
  • High longevity (if the pipe is not damaged)
  • Good structural integrity, which prevents deflecting or flattening under load

Clay pipe is becoming more and more outdated though. Whilst clay is still a good choice, there are a few downsides:

  • More expensive than alternative products
  • More costly should the pipe fail prematurely and require replacement
  • Heavy & hard to cut
  • Roots attach to the porous surface causing damage to the pipe
  • Susceptible to breakage and cracking
  • Susceptible to blocking

However, if an older sewer pipe is still carrying waste with no leakage, there is no reason to replace it.

Option 2: PVC Pipe

Many builders and developers are now opting for PVC sewer pipe for its superior properties. The main benefits of PVC sewer pipe include:

  • Lightweight, making it easy to handle when installing
  • Strong, which minimises cracking and breakage
  • Flexible, which minimises potential damage
  • Long-lasting with less need for replacement and repair

PVC sewer pipes feature a smooth interior providing an excellent carrying capacity of solid waste matter. The smooth exteriors also help resist root anchorage, making it a great substitute for clay pipes. It’s also cheaper.


Whilst this depends on the exact composition of the surrounding soil, any PVC underground drainage pipe manufactured to BS4660 or BS EN 1401 should last in excess of 50 years.

The life of any drainage system will be prolonged by a good installation and maintenance when required – slow flows, gurgling sounds from the sink, bath or shower or foul odours in the house or garden are all symptomatic of a blocked drain and should be investigated as soon as they occur.



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