Plastic drain pipe mixup © D Friedman at ABS Black Plastic Pipe in Buildings
Properties, uses, standards, defects, failure claims, class action

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ABS or black plastic plumbing pipes:

This article describes the properties of ABS plastic piping and tubing used in buildings. We include information about failures and problems with some generations of plastic pipes (ABS, polybutylene) and we describe good building practice installation details where plastic piping is being installed. We discuss distinguishing between leaky ABS drain piping and other under-building water or leak sources.

The articles at this website will answer most questions about plastic building water supply and building drain piping products, failures, and claims as well as many other building plumbing system inspection or defect topics.

We also provide a MASTER INDEX to this topic, or you can try the page top or bottom SEARCH BOX as a quick way to find information you need.

ABS Plastic Pipe Failures, Leaks, Claims, Settlements

ABS Drain Piping (C) Daniel Friedman

As our black ABS (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene) drain piping photo shows (above), some drain line leaks having nothing to do with product defects can occur in this system if the piping is not properly installed.

Field investigations of leak stains (as in our photo) as well as investigations of sewer gas odors (SEWER GAS ODORS) have traced these problems to failure to properly clean, prime, and glue the pipe joints during construction.

However, "All Black -hit," defective black ABS plastic waste pipe manufactured in the mid 1980's failed by cracking, as Cranor's photo below illustrates.

"All Black -hit," defective black ABS plastic waste pipe manufactured in the mid 1980's failed by cracking. The result was litigation and some damage settlements, but currently it is unlikely that a homeowner will find legal relief for newly-discovered ABS drain waste vent piping cracks and failures.

History of ABS Pipe Failures: ABS Plastic Drain/Waste/Vent (DWV) pipe failure Brands

Our photo (left) illustrates a homeowner-installed water softener drain cut into an ABS drain line - an unsanitary cross connecction explained

ABS drain pipe material failures were reported for pipe made between 1985 and 1988. [1][2][5][6][7] below

Photo of a home water softener system

More information: U.S. CPSC Hot Line: 800-638-8270

ABS Plastic Pipe Leak Failures Still Being Discovered

Cracked leaking ABS Drain Piping (C) Daniel Friedman John Cranor The House WhispererABS plastic drain and vent line failures are still being discovered, as John Cranor's photo from 2011 illustrates.

Home inspector John Cranor provided the photo at left of a cracked ABS drain line, commenting:

This photo of cracked ABS is damage that I feel has to be related to the defective ABS that was reported years ago.

I am in VA and have inspected close to 6000 homes and this was the first I have seen this issue here. I saw at least six spots on the drain pipe in the crawl space that had similar cracking and white crusty residue like shown in photo.

I know there was once a lot of information out there about this issue but now I cannot find hardly anything. The website is now owned by some plumbing contractor and it has no useful information about ABS or its issue.

The seller of the property where I took this photo has some plumber saying there is nothing wrong and that he has never heard of a problem as I described. He claims the white residue is mud and that he could see no crack.

How to Detect or Find ABS plastic pipe cracking failures

Plastic drain pipe mixup © D Friedman at Although the cracked ABS drain line is quite visible in Mr. Cranor's photo (above), or in some areas where piping is exposed (photo at left) there may not be ready access for visual inspection of all surfaces of all of the plastic ABS drain lines in a building. Here are some tips that can reduce (not eliminate) the chances of missing faulty black ABS plastic drains:

ABS Class Action & Litigation

The prior class action litigation involved five of the six ABS pipe manufacturer's brands listed above: Centaur, Phoenix, Polaris, Gable, and Apache. (Spartan was excluded). We have not found evidence of an class action (June 2012). The attorney involved in prior actions, David Birke-White, indicated (paraphrasing) that defective ABS piping failures are a progressive problem and that piping that had not already failed will do so in the future.[1]

ABS DWV pipe failure references

Some "ABS Pipe Failure Leaks" may be from Other Causes

ABS sewer line repair in a basement slab (C) SGQuestion: How do I know if a wet area is from a plumbing leak or ground moisture

I purchased a condo last year, was aware that it had had this type of 2" sewer line replaced, when it failed big time, in April 2015. At the time we were advised that all the bad ABS had been replaced.

We now find that the 2 bathrooms still have this line running through the cement pad. We have been unable to view lines with scope due to (angles) curves in line.

The picture is of previous line repair (some of it) and dark area although showing moisture, also reflects overlap of cement fill. There has not been any overt wet areas, just damp, and demonstrated on water/moisture meter.

In addition the condos were built on a low lying foundation prone to moisture.

... when moisture (mold) showed up in my carpet, under a plastic chair pad, we found areas of moisture in all areas of room, as well as coming up around previously replaced lines, I began to wonder if plumbing an issue or ground moisture.

Plumbing seems to work without problem, even under load of bath tub empty or washer run. I am catching a whiff of rotten eggs from time to time, esp. in morning before I get up.

Short of jack hammering up both bathrooms (tub, shower, and sinks, as I understand the toilets would not have the at risk sewer line). Is there any option for determining if lines have failed?

I happened to track down the plumber who did the repair in past (prior to my ownership) and he confirms this information. He did not add any viscus plastic barrier before he put in new lines. Stated it was not standard of work. Many of the condos in my complex have similar issues-it is a big deal, all were built mid 1980's.

Appreciate any guidance into proceeding with these issues. - Anonymous by private email 2016/12/25



This apparent ABS sewer line leak sounds like a real headache. I would have speculated that the moist areas you report are more likely to be roof spillage or surface water collecting near and under the building, finding its way into the piping trenches and up under the basement slab, if not that you report a rotten-egg smell. Typically that odor is sewer gas.

If the sewer gas has been present (at least in wet weather) the odor still could be due to a combination of water under the slab and previous sewage effluent that leaked into the same space.

But if there was no odor after the repair in 2015, that is if the sewer gas like smell is new, I'm worried that there's a leak that was missed or a repair that failed.

I wouldn't give up on getting a scope through the drain line. Proper plumbing drain installation avoids sharp 90 degree turns because of the drain clogging problem that they cause, so it should be possible for an experienced technician to get a sewer line inspection camera through the lines.


If you find that additional drain line repair is needed, it might be possible to re-line the piping in-place. See TRENCHLESS PIPE REPAIRS


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