1Doesn’t plastic pipe install just like concrete?
Per the plastic pipe industry, installation of should be per ASTM D-2321. This standard has over 20 responsibilities for the Design Engineer with regards to plastic pipe installation.
2I’ve seen the plastic storm chambers for underground detention. Is there a concrete option for the same application?
Yes. Reinforced Concrete Pipe and Box culverts have been frequently used for underground detention. They are much less installation sensitive than the plastic systems and often require much less select backfill. Plus, with the inherent strength of concrete, reinforced concrete pipe and box detention systems may be used directly under parking lots.
3I’ve been told that plastic pipe will last just as long as concrete. Is this true?
Despite claims longevity for plastic pipe, the industry has not been around long enough to back up most of these claims. The Corps of Engineers give concrete pipe a 70 to 100 year design life. Compare that to an estimated best of 50 years for plastic.
4Isn’t plastic pipe a lot cheaper than concrete?
When just looking at material costs, plastic pipe can be cheaper than concrete. A much better way to compare pipe costs is the total of the cost of the pipe itself and the cost to install it. When factoring in the added cost of select fill, added excavation and compaction, including gasketed connections and post installation inspection needed for proper plastic pipe installation, the difference in costs between concrete and plastic can be quite small. The big difference between concrete and plastic pipe is not the cost, but the value each brings to the project. Concrete pipe gets stronger with age and won’t melt, burn or deflect. The same can not be said for plastic pipe.
5What standard is concrete designed to?
Reinforced concrete pipe is designed and manufactured per ASTM C-76. It is installed per ASTM C-1479.
6Plastic pipe can be reused to make other plastic items. Therefore, isn’t it more environmentally friendly than concrete pipe?
Plastic pipe may be recycled into other plastic products. However, due to the shorter life span of plastic pipe, it could require replacement at some point.
Concrete pipe is made of inert materials which do not impact the environment. It can be crushed and reused to make other aggregate based materials. With concrete’s long design life, it supports the environment by not having to make additional product to replace product at the same location.
7Is flammability or temperature a concern for concrete pipe?
Concrete will not burn. Concrete is not temperature dependent. Plastic pipe, however, is highly flammable. After the Texas wildfires of 2009, and a major plastic pipe failure due to heat and fire, TxDOT issued a memorandum requiring non-flammable end treatments when flammable culvert material is used.
8Concrete pipe is so heavy, isn’t it easier to install plastic pipe?
While it may seem that this is the case, plastic pipe installation per ASTM D 2321 (the manufacturer’s recommendation also) is quite tedious and time consuming. Requirements for select fill and specific compaction targets can take much longer than installing concrete pipe and add cost to the installation. Additionally, the weight of concrete pipe can offset the buoyancy effects of a high water table preventing flotation of a buried pipe.
9The project owner has instructed me to use plastic pipe to keep material costs down.
While the upfront cost of plastic pipe versus concrete may seem to be cheaper, the total cost or “value” of the installation can be quite different. When factoring in the cost of select fill, labor for the strict compaction effort requirements, post installation inspection, and shorter lifespan, the costs can look quite different. Our recommendation is that a “least cost analysis” be undertaken to give the owner the true cost of installing plastic pipe versus concrete pipe.
10I have been told that the new Polypropylene Pipe (PP) is just as good as concrete. Is this true?
These claims have been made recently and could not be further from the truth. Polypropylene is a thermoplastic pipe, just like HDPE. It may be stiffer than HDPE, but this does not even come close to having the same structural strength as concrete. Additionally, some of the chemicals in the manufacture of PP may be different than HDPE, but it is still a flexible pipe and subject to the same ASTM and AASHTO standards as HDPE. It is also highly flammable, just like other plastic pipe.
11What training is available for design or installation of concrete pipe?
AmeriTex Pipe, the American Concrete Pipe Association (ACPA) and the Texas Concrete Pipe Association (TCPA) provide many opportunities for training of Engineers, contractors and inspectors. These trainings can be as basic as a lunch “PDH” seminar at your office to a hands on training in the field or at one of the manufacturer’s plants. Topics range from the basic “Concrete Pipe 101” for Engineers to full blown training for Municipal Inspectors. ACPA also conducts an annual pipe school for members and guests. Contact your AmeriTex rep or the ACPA for more information. www.concretepipe.org
12I have heard of the potential of failure of plastic pipe from the concrete pipe guys. The manufacturer offers a warranty, so I am protected, correct?
Yes, the major manufacturer of HDPE and PP pipe does offer a warranty. But if you read the details of the warranty, for the warranty to apply, the products must be installed in accordance with all site conditions required by state and local codes, applicable product or industry specifications and guidelines, manufacturer’s installation recommendations and other applicable laws. This is not giving you the option of “one of the above”, this requires you to design to ALL of the above. In the most widely specified thermoplastic pipe installation specification – ASTM D2321, there are an additional 24 ASTM and AASHTO specifications referenced. Be sure to read and thoroughly understand any warranties offered from ANY manufacturer of ANY product you use
13We want to use local producers as much as possible to help qualify for LEED credits. How many concrete producers are there in Texas?
There are over 16 concrete pipe and box manufacturing facilities in the State of Texas. The chances are good that there is one or more close enough to your project to be considered a local supplier.
14What type of quality control measures are in place at concrete pipe plants?
Concrete pipe and box manufacturers have to comply with over 195 ASTM standards alone in the manufacture of our products. Add in AASHTO, TxDOT, city, county, and other specifications and you can easily see that concrete pipe producers are held to an extremely high standard. The American Concrete Pipe Association has a QCast certification process for producers. www.concretepipe.org/qcast/
15What sizes do concrete pipes and boxes come in?
While not all producers have the same manufacturing capabilities, you can usually find concrete pipe in diameters from 12” to 120”, and box culverts from 3’x 2’ up to 14’ x 14’. Some facilities are capable of making boxes up to a 24’ span.
16My project requires curves and turns in the drainage line. Can these be precast or must they be cast in place?
Concrete pipe and box producers vary in their manufacturing capabilities, but bends, turns, elbows, “T”s and other “specials” or connections can be precast in the same facilities as the pipe and box. These would be manufactured to the same specifications and standards as other precast pipe and box products. Contact your local producer for specifics.

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