Before owners put the wrench to a leaking pipe or decide to replace portions of a pipe itself – STOP! Was the house built before or in the 1960’s? Are there galvanized steel pipes, copper pipes, clay pipes, or cast-iron pipes? Before they decide to take on the job themselves, knowing the kind of pipes the home has and selecting the right replacement pipes could save headaches, money, and time.
Most of the piping used before the 1960’s was galvanized steel, the bane of plumbing for older homes. Over time galvanized steel pipes plug, corrode, and need replacement. Plumbing contractors might suggest replacing the entire piping system, but this can be costly. Owners looking for a less expensive alternative should, at a minimum, consider fixing any pipes made of galvanized steel. Once this decision is made, owners must then choose a suitable material for the replacement pipes. Generally, copper or plastic piping is best.
When replacing pipes, it is important to comply with city building codes. Palo Alto, for example, accepts K or L-type copper pipes because they are self-sanitizing, ensuring that no toxic growth will accumulate in the pipes. K-type copper, however, is preferred due to its strength and thickness. In addition to its self-sanitizing properties, copper piping creates a biostatic atmosphere, thereby impeding bacterial growth inside the pipes (a very important health concern). Aside from copper, Palo Alto also permits other types of replacement pipes such as: PE (Black Poly), CPVC (chlorinated polyvinyl chloride), and PVC.
Clay and Cast-Iron Pipes
In older homes, sewer lines with clay or cast-iron pipes are often found. Clay pipes are generally vulnerable to being crushed or facing root intrusion while case-iron pipes may corrode and deteriorate. When repairing a sewer system, it is extremely helpful to use a video camera, such as a “sewer scope”, during inspection. The “sewer scope” can help detect a lot of relevant information such as:
tree root intrusions, separated pipes, offset pipe joints, or broken pipes.
Interior Copper Pipes & Plastic Pipes
For the interior of the home, many owners have chosen to replace galvanized plumbing with copper plumbing. Typically, for a 1,500 square foot home, this type of replacement costs approximately $8,000 to $10,000.
Pex piping, a type of plastic piping, is a less expensive alternative and usually costs around $4,000 to $6,000 due to lower material/labor costs. Although some environmental groups worry about unknown health risks associated with plastic water supply lines, Pex piping has been used widely throughout the United States.
No matter the type of pipes or their age, well-maintained pipes will always last longer! Pipe replacement may be a tricky and complicated process, therefore, it is always best to consult a qualified specialist.