Serving Greater Pittsburgh, Cranberry Township, McKeesport, Bethel Park


Terracotta Drainage Pipes

Terracotta Drainage Pipes - Image 1Terracotta pipes have been used for centuries to transport water and waste in underground drainage systems. Although they were once considered a reliable and durable option, they have been recognized as susceptible to damage as they age and have thus been replaced with far more durable and reliable materials. As a result, many homeowners with old terracotta pipes are experiencing wet basements and flooding due to crushed, clogged, or tree root-filled pipes.


One of the primary reasons that old terracotta pipes are prone to damage is due to crushing. Over time, the weight of the soil above the pipes can cause them to become compressed, leading to cracks and fractures. In addition, any nearby construction or heavy equipment can also cause the soil to become compacted, further increasing the risk of pipe damage. Shifting soil, fracking and all other instances where vibration and/or movement of the soil occurs can result in trauma to the weak terracotta pipes.

When terracotta pipes become crushed, they can no longer effectively transport water and waste. Instead, water may become trapped in the pipes, leading to backup and overflow. In some cases, this may cause significant basement flooding, resulting in costly repairs and remediation efforts.


In addition to crushing, old terracotta pipes are also prone to becoming clogged with debris or tree roots. This is because terracotta pipes are weak and provide little resistance to stress. As debris accumulates in the pipes, the water flow becomes restricted, leading to backup and overflow.

Clogging is a common issue for homeowners with old terracotta pipes. As the pipes fail, they no longer provide a conduit to transport water to the designed discharge location.

Tree Roots

Perhaps one of the most significant contributors to damaged terracotta pipes is tree roots. As trees and shrubs grow, their roots seek out sources of water and nutrients, often infiltrating underground drainage systems in search of moisture. Over time, these roots can penetrate and grow inside the pipes, causing them to become blocked and damaged.

Tree root damage is particularly common in homes with older pipes, as terracotta is a weak material that provides an easy entry point for roots. The resulting clogs and damage can lead to significant water backup and flooding, particularly during periods of heavy rain.

Impact on Basements

The damage to old terracotta pipes can have a significant impact on the health of a home's basement. When pipes become crushed, clogged, or filled with roots, water can no longer effectively drain away from the foundation. This can cause water to seep into the basement, leading to moisture buildup, mold growth, and potential structural damage.

In addition to the physical damage caused by water, a wet basement can also have significant health implications for homeowners. Exposure to mold and mildew can lead to respiratory issues, particularly for those with allergies or preexisting respiratory conditions. In severe cases, chronic exposure to mold can even lead to neurological issues.

Remediation Options

If you suspect you may have an issue, call or click Keystone Basement Systems for help at 1-800-771-3244.

About the author

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Aaron Stull
Aaron Stull is a second generation foundation repair specialist from the greater Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania area.

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