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Misconceptions About Concrete Pipe Performance

Debunking Misconceptions About Concrete Pipe Performance

By Josh Beakley, P.E., ACPA Vice President of Engineering

Concrete pipe and concrete pipe joints are among the most durable, resilient infrastructure materials on the planet. While reinforced concrete pipe offers proven performance, the ACPA occasionally encounters misinformation about its products’ longevity and durability. Here, we address three misconceptions surrounding concrete pipe performance — joint performance, porosity, and gas permeability – to debunk some popular myths and provide resources for further information.


Are concrete pipe joints sound? When properly specified and installed, the answer is a resounding yes. In our experience, issues with concrete pipe joints typically arise from two scenarios:

  1. improper specification of the pipe joints, particularly for sanitary sewers; or
  2. older pipes that have not been installed to today’s standards, which have continually improved.

Concrete pipe offers the design engineer several different joint types, depending on the application, to meet the utmost demanding project specifications. Because of its superior durability, strength and joint system performance, con

crete pipe remains the pipe of choice for engineers and owners of drainage and sanitary sewer projects.

Concrete pipe joints can be designed to meet different sealing requirements, with the ability to accommodate lateral or longitudinal movement by using several joint options, including: mortar, flexible joint sealants, rubber gaskets, and external sealing bands. For more on the performance of concrete pipe joints, see our resource Concrete Pipe Joints: Your Best Choice.


It’s no secret that all concrete is “porous” to a certain extent. However, concrete pipe remains leak resistant. A properly manufactured precast concrete pipe has a tight enough pore structure to resist the infiltration or exfiltration of fluids, as evidenced by its use as a drainage material. To say concrete pipe is porous simply implies there’s an issue when there isn’t. Concrete pipe manufactured in today’s modern facilities use mechanical means of consolidating the concrete to keep pore structure tight. When properly specified, both the pipe wall and joint are tested to verify leak resistance.

Gas Degradation

A mention of “gas degradation” related to concrete pipe is likely in reference to hydrogen sulfide in sanitary sewers. Hydrogen sulfide gas is formed in sanitary sewers as a result of the decomposition of human waste. Thus, this is not an issue for storm sewers. However, for sanitary sewers, there’s no question that while the gas itself is not harmful to concrete, its reaction to the moist wall of the concrete pipe and the resulting sulfuric acid is detrimental.

Once again, with older sewers, this phenomenon was not well understood. As such, there are some concrete sanitary sewers that have been improperly designed and are experiencing issues.


To combat the hydrogen sulfide situation, admixtures help resist the deterioration of the concrete from microbiological attack. Additionally, a new ASTM Standard was released in 2020 to help address this issue: C1904 – Standard Test Methods for Determination of the Effects of Biogenic Acidification on Concrete Antimicrobial Additives and/or Concrete Products.

For more information on hydrogen sulfide, see the chapter on this subject in our Concrete Pipe Handbook.

As mentioned above, today’s concrete pipe manufacturing utilizes advanced processes for ensuring concrete pipe quality. To promote best practices in concrete pipe manufacturing, the ACPA offers its Q-Cast program, a voluntary plant certification program facilitated by a third party to verify manufacturing processes that will produce excellent quality materials. What’s more, the ACPA offers certification for storm and culvert pipe, and a certification for sanitary pipe with stringent requirements to ensure the pipe is leak resistant.

For more information on concrete pipe performance, contact us at