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Plastic Drainage Pipes – What Are the Different Types and Strengths?

HDPE/N 12 Corrugated Dual Wall Pipe – Strongest

It is built using polyethylene of high density, in layman’s terms, really strong plastic. The N-12 pipes have a smooth interior wall and a corrugated exterior wall and are exceptionally strong. This pipe is equivalent in strength to concrete pipe, although lighter in weight and much easier to cut, and more economical as well. It can be used in multiple applications but more commonly where a high strength rating is required. For example, a commercial driveway where trucks would be driving over the area where the pipe is underground. Due to the lighter weight, the HDPE pipes have less handling concerns and there is no requirement for heavy lifting equipment to move it, especially if larger diameter pipes are needed. It can be cut with a basic PVC saw or reciprocating saw. The price is typically considerably less than concrete pipe, especially with labor installation time considered.


Oversized drain lines pose problems in plumbing systems

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One of my favorite plumbing trivia questions is, “How many water closets can you connect to a 3-in. drain?”

The answer is 16. That’s correct — the International Plumbing Code allows 16 private water closets to connect to 3-in. building drain that is pitched 1/2 in. per foot. Of course, you couldn’t connect any other fixtures to that drain line, so the answer is somewhat unrealistic. However, it does point out how much we are still oversizing drain lines.

As a profession, we have been embedded with the mentality that bigger is better. That is just the way we were raised. And it is not just plumbing contractors with this mentality; it has  permeated its way into plumbing engineers’ minds, too. If there is one thing that contractors and engineers tend to agree on, it is that bigger is better.

It was Dr. Al Steele who started a campaign in the 1970s that bigger is not better. Al passed away about 20 years ago. However, his message is still loud and clear. Yet, we don’t want to completely listen to what he had to say.

The first place where “bigger is not better” has been somewhat successful is in residential construction. Many new homes today are piped with 3-in. and smaller drains throughout the residence. However, where we fail is with the connection directly outside. The sewer is increased to 4 in. How many single-family dwellings have you seen with a 3-in. building sewer? I can answer that — none.

Yet almost every home could have a 3-in. sewer. The only time a 4-in. sewer would be justified is when you have a Hollywood home with umpteen bathrooms.

A disconnect exists between the East Coast and the West Coast regarding drain line size. The plumbing codes in the east have embraced smaller drain line sizes. Codes in the west have not. While out east you can have 16 water closets on a 3-in. drain, the West Coast will allow 4 (maybe). The East Coast allows a kitchen sink drain to be 1 1/2 in.; the west requires a 2-in. drain with a 1 1/2 in. trap. Eastern codes allow a shower drain to be 1 1/2 in., while western codes require 2 in. shower drains.

I remember one instructor saying that as soon as you think a drain is large enough, make it even larger. His example was to connect a 1.6-gallon-per-flush water closet to a 10-ft.-diameter drain. The question is, “How far will the solids travel?” The answer is, “They won’t.” The flush will go plop and the solid will just sit there.

That is understandable for a 10-ft.-diameter pipe. But translate that mentality to just a slight increase in size for the drain. The same will occur; the larger you make the pipe, the less the solids will travel. Make the pipe the size allowed (following East Coast mentality) and the solids stay in suspension the entire way.

One of the comments recently made out west regarding the plumbing code was that we need more cleanouts. It is a comical statement because the increase in stoppages is directly related to the oversizing of the drain.

Food disposers, urinals

Some believe this smaller size may be great for residential, but it isn’t any good for commercial plumbing systems. Think about that statement. Does it make any sense? Of course not. The same problem occurs in commercial plumbing systems.

One plumbing contractor whispered to me to not say too much about properly sizing drain lines. He said that his service division makes a lot of money clearly those drains. “If you have them size the drain correctly the first time, I’ll lose money with less drain cleaning,” he said. As much as he was joking with me, that is the truth. Smaller drains translate to less stoppages.

Other comments about commercial plumbing systems include the need for larger drains for food waste disposers and urinals.

There is this thought process that a food waste disposer translates to a pumped waste. Thus, a large drain is justified. This is another misnomer. A food waste disposer is not a pumped waste; the waste stream is the same as any drain. The concern the manufacturers have is oversizing resulting in stoppages. That’s right; with all the chopped-up food waste, you need to maintain proper velocity in the drain to carry the food waste out. Make the drain too big and the chopped-up food waste drops out of suspension.

With urinals, there has been a push toward nonwater-supplied models. But with the “bigger is better” mentality, these nonwater-supplied urinals are being connected to 2-in. drains. Put four nonwater-supplied urinals together and the drain is increased to 3 in.

Let’s think about this. When you really have to empty your bladder, the amount of urine is one pint. So, put four nonwater-supplied urinals together and you have a whopping half a gallon of water going down the drain. That’s in a 3-in. drain. That same 3-in. drain could accept the discharge of 16 water closets flushing 1.6 gal. The drain could really be 1 1/2 in. for those four urinals. If the drain was 1 1/2 in., the plumbing system would work correctly.

One comment made by some plumbing contractors was, “We need the drain larger because these nonwater-supplied urinals are no good and will have to be replaced with normal water-supplied urinals.” Well, if you make the drain that large, you are dooming nonwater-supplied urinals to failure.

Overcoming the “bigger is better” mentality is important in commercial as well as residential construction. Although if you want your service side of the business to keep snaking drain lines, keep oversizing the drains. Otherwise, remember the words of Dr. Al Steele, “Bigger isn’t better!” 


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Sewer & Drainage Materials: Hard-Wearing Culvert Pipes for Sale

In simple terms, a culvert can be defined as a tunnel that is constructed under a roadway or railway in order to transport electrical cables or provide cross drainage. Culvert pipes come in various shapes and designs that depend on factors such as roadway height, the elevation of the water surface, and hydraulic conditions. At our warehouses in Avoca, Rochester, and Watertown, we carry culverts of all makes and models. The most important culvert types include:

Pipe culverts

Owing to their affordable pricing and relatively easy installation, pipe culverts are by far the most popular option today. They come in various shapes (elliptical, circular, pipe arch) and can be used either individually or in combination with multiple culverts in case of larger flows

Box culverts

Another popular option, box culverts feature a concrete floor that allows for smooth water flow. They are typically made from reinforced concrete, creating a rigid frame structure. While box culverts can be great for non-perennial streams, they do have some setbacks. For instance, diversion or dewatering may be necessary for installation, as the culverts need to be installed on a dry surface.

Arch culverts

Arch culverts are lightweight arches suitable for openings of larger but stable waterways. Pipe arches are characterized by a more aesthetically pleasing appearance and are recommended for sites with limited headroom. These culverts are typically made of stone masonry, RCC, or metal and are relatively easy to install.

Bridge culverts

Bridge culverts are exactly what their name indicates: both a culvert and a bridge. They are rectangular and typically constructed on canals and rivers by laying a foundation underground and a pavement surface on top. This multipurpose culvert is constructed to be extremely strong in order to withstand traffic.

Metal box culverts

These culverts also serve a dual purpose but are slightly more economical when compared to the standard bridge culverts. Metal box culverts are low profile and typically manufactured from standard or deep corrugated structural plates. They are the best for sites where there is a need to maintain the existing road grade.



Almost every contracting project’s final product requires access to water. And when a project involves water, it almost always requires drainage pipes. With any form of pipe or wiring, there are many variations, each with different advantages and disadvantages specializing in particular situations.


What is Drainage Pipe?

A drainage pipe is any pipe used to facilitate the transfer of water from one place to another. The main purpose is to dispose of wastewater from homes, office buildings, or industrial areas. Disposing water properly and efficiently can prevent water build-up, leading to flooding, structural damage, soil erosion, and other issues. For this reason, drainage pipes can even be used for the work at the job site as well as the final project. 


These drainage pipes vary in both material and use. Some drainage pipes are used to remove water from specific areas such as roofs, while others are exclusively used to move water underground because of their material and composition. The type of drainage pipe a contractor chooses will often be based on the project’s drainage situation. Choosing based on price alone is usually insufficient due to the severity of the ramifications of failure. The three qualities contractors will utilize to determine the type of drainage pipe used are strength, size, and installation ease. Typically, almost all new drainage pipes are plastic so as to be resilient to all weather and ground conditions.


Photo by Jimmy Yan

Plastic or Metal?

If you live in a home built before the 1960s, your drainage pipes are likely metal. Even though plastic was invented in 1907, it wasn’t widely available or heavily used in building construction until the second half of the twentieth century. The common metal pipes include the original cast iron, as well as the softer, less-corrosive copper pipes. 


While metal was popular in drainage pipe construction earlier, it is rarely used in new installations. The only time metal pipes will be used for drainage systems is to repair existing metal pipes within the property. Otherwise, if you were to replace the pipes, you would replace them with plastic alternatives. 


The main reason for switching away from metal is due to the material’s high tendency to rust. Being resistant to weather conditions, especially extreme weather conditions, is a quality that many contractors will consider when choosing the appropriate drainage pipes. Even without consistently wet weather, moisture exists everywhere – especially underground. The moisture in the air or on one’s skin is actually enough to begin the oxidation process on the surface of metal pipes. Such oxidation can inevitably lead to rusting, which makes the pipes substantially weaker as their durability becomes compromised. It doesn’t help that drainage systems create extremely damp environments based on running water’s continual movement. 


With metal pipes, there is always an expiration date because rust and corrosion are not just risks but inevitabilities. When metal pipes fully rust through, they can become cracked, form gaps, or, in extreme cases, completely collapse. The simple choice of plastic pipes circumvents all this risk and removes a contractor’s greatest fear: renovation and replacement. For the property owner, damaged drainage pipes can result in tens of thousands, sometimes even millions, of dollars in both damages and replacement costs. If you can pick your drainage pipes, always pick plastic.


Types of Drainage Pipes

Below are different drainage pipes that have been separated by material and style. The piping style can be adapted to various plastic drainage pipes and have specific uses of its own. Here are the different types of drainage pipes available and how and when they are best used.

street pipe

Photo by alexkich



Polyvinyl Chloride pipes are the most commonly used pipes for any drainage project. Due to the material’s malleable properties, PVC pipes can come in almost any size. These types of pipes are great for drainage situations where the water and environment exert a great deal of pressure and weight. It is also one of the few plastics that can be recycled. So, if you are a contractor on a project where the client is demanding a more eco-friendly approach, PVC might be an ideal purchase. PVC’s strength, durability, and resistance to both water and some chemicals make it one of the more inflexible pipe types, especially amongst plastics. 

concrete pipe

Photo by Prachum


While plastics are the drainage industry’s status quo, concrete can be a frequently inexpensive choice for drainage systems that utilize heavy-duty or industrial piping. Concrete, while completely inflexible, is used in projects and situations that demand zero leaks. Concrete piping can also be used as a complimentary exterior shell for drainage pipes of another material. In this case, the concrete would protect a weaker or more vulnerable pipe by acting as its outer shell. 



This is the most flexible of the plastic pipe types. Polyethylene’s easy manipulability makes installing these types of pipes incredibly simple. If the project requires piping and water to be transferred in small spaces with many turns, polyethylene pipes are likely the optimal choice. 



Smooth Wall

For single-direction water transfer with a smooth interior surface, smooth wall pipes are going to be your best friend. While they are more difficult to install, they are more rigid and sturdy than other winding pipe styles.


Single Wall Corrugated

These corrugated pipes are typically low-cost, flexible, and super easy to install. The largest drawback is that the pipes’ corrugated texture can make them vulnerable to clogging, and they often require steeper angles for drainage than regular pipes.


Dual Wall Corrugated

This is the compromise between the smooth wall and the single wall corrugated pipes. It is not as easy to install or as flexible as the single wall corrugated pipes, but it does have a smooth interior wall. This type of fusion cost requires money, as these pipes are usually more expensive. 

wall pipe

Photo by Panaiphoto

Final Thoughts

Picking the right type of drainage pipe can require a lot of time and effort. Depending on the material and the style, you may have to alter the drawings or blueprints of a project to accommodate or vice versa. Your time shouldn’t be used to relay decisions and updates between the field and the office. A construction project management tool like eSUB can connect your teams together via cloud-based document sharing, reducing the time you spend making decisions and increasing the project’s overall productivity.
Contact us for an eSUB CLOUD demo and to learn more about how project management software developed for subcontractors can streamline your processes for more profits and less chaos.



Drain pipe large

Drainage Pipe Overview

Choosing a Drainage Pipe to remove excess surface water doesn’t need to be an arduous task. We offer products to suit the demands of individuals and businesses who are looking to improve the structure of soils, yield and profitability.

To ensure that you choose the right Drainage Pipe, you need to be mindful of your specific requirements. A Land Drainage Pipe can be used for commercial, industrial and agricultural applications to provide you with an effective solution for managing the drainage of surface water.

Backed up with a 50 year guarantee, our Drainage Pipe comes in several variations and offers you exceptional quality.

Land Drainage Pipe

If you’re looking to maximise your investment; you could benefit from a Land Drainage Pipe from Cotterill Civils! The Land Drainage Pipe Coils are available in a choice of sizes, so you’re bound to find exactly what you need to prevent wet spots and water logging.

Any high-density Polyethylene Land Drainage Pipe that we supply is designed to offer high strength and resistance to chemicals, ultimately allowing you to save money and time.

What are Land Drainage Pipes?

Land drainage pipe, also known as land drainage coil, is used to prevent the build-up of excess water, which can lead to waterlogged sports pitches, poorer crop yields, erosion and environmental damage.

Our land drainage coil is designed to be flexible, durable and easy to install.

How does Land Drainage work?

Soil typically becomes saturated for one of two reasons. This is either due to the type of soil it is, such as clay, or excessive rainfall where no more water can be absorbed into the ground. Land drainage works by installing plastic land drainage coil underground. This alleviates excess water by allowing it to flow into and through a pipe, in areas that are waterlogged.

The land drain pipe will then direct the water to a nearby disposal point – such as a nearby stream, storm drain or soakaway system – to prevent a build-up of excess water.

Twin Wall Pipe

The Twin Wall Drainage Pipe provides a straightforward solution that requires minimal joining. This Drainage Pipe is designed to be lightweight which essentially makes it easier for you to transport, handle and install but can also be cut to length to match specification.

Large Diameter HDPE Pipe

Unlike any other Land Drainage Pipe, the Large Diameter HDPE Pipes are perfect if you’re looking for products that have the ability to flex under pressure and eliminate damage. This type of Drainage Pipe is perfect for an array of industrial, agricultural and energy applications because it has been specifically manufactured to withstand pressures and impacts from large loading vehicles.

Galvanised Steel Pipe

The Galvanised Steel Drainage Pipe is a versatile substitute to the HDPE Pipes that we supply. Generally, the Steel Pipe is used to create underpasses and waterways for vehicles, pedestrians and livestock and it’s no surprise when they are designed to last up to 120 years!

As well as these Drainage Pipes, we also offer Irrigation Pipes and Culvert Crossing and Ditch Piping options in a number of materials, ranging from galvanised steel, high-density Polyethylene and concrete.

Here at Cotterill Civils, we aim to provide a suitable Land Drainage Pipe for all applications to ensure that you have every opportunity to complete your drainage system to a high-quality standard. In choosing Cotterill Civils for your drainage supplies, you can benefit from our competitive prices and professional customer service, taking into consideration your specific needs and wants to ultimately provide you with a tailor-made solution.

Our Land Drainage Products

We supply a complete range of products that are designed to be lightweight and durable and are available in a choice of sizes.

Pipe Installation

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