Repiping 101: An Introduction
Do homeowners need to worry about repiping their household plumbing?
Repiping is not a regular, run-of-the-mill kind of plumbing issue. While occasional plumbing issues are a normal and an expected part of homeownership, repiping isn’t. Indeed, many plumbing repairs are minor and some even performed in many cases by the homeowner.
However, if you are having continual plumbing issues, including major loss of water and/or water contamination, particularly if your home is old construction, it may be time to consider repiping.
Before deciding if this option is right for you, it is important to first understand exactly what repiping entails. As you might imagine from the name, repiping means removing all the cold and hot water pipes throughout the entire home and replacing them with new pipes.
It is difficult to know when the cost and inconvenience of frequent plumbing issues become sufficient to warrant considering entirely repiping your home. Only a trained plumbing professional can advise you on the best solution for your home.
That said, however, in the spirit of an educated consumer is a wise consumer, there are a few things you need to know about when it is necessary to repipe and what the process entails. So we’ve put together a short Repiping 101 tutorial to guide you through the main points about repiping.
Let’s tap into our Repiping 101 lesson by looking at:
- Factors that lead to repiping
- How repiping works
- Who to call for a repiping project Signs It Could Be Time to Consider Repiping Your HomeThese are some signs that it could be time to start thinking about repiping:Your Home is 50 Years Older or More
Up through the mid-twentieth century, galvanized steel was the primary material used in plumbing. While galvanized steel is strong, it generally succumbs to corrosion after about 50 years and needs replacement. Even more modern pipes, such as polybutylene (poly) piping doesn’t last forever, so keep an eye on plumbing systems that could be reaching the end of their lifespan.
Rust and/or Minerals are Building Up in Your Water
The two telltale signs of rust and mineral buildup are low water pressure and reddish-brown water coming out of the faucet. As rust or minerals accumulate over time, they slowly begin to constrict the flow of water, resulting in low water pressure. Red or brown water results when bits of rust break off from the pipes into your water supply, affecting your water quality. It takes a long time for this much buildup to occur, so by the time you notice red or brown water, it is past time to consider repiping to fix the problem.
Multiple Pipe Leaks
A common analogy used to describe your plumbing system is to compare it to the circulatory and nervous system of the human body. Just as blood vessels and nerves are wound through the skeletal frame, so too are the various branches of cold and hot water pipes leading out from your home’s water intake pipe and hot water heater. At the same time, these pipes remove waste from your house into a sewer or septic system. Just as blood vessels are subject to clogs, so too do pipes clog. Also like the human body, sometimes the clogs are the result of misuse, but just as often old age. Time wears things down.
While you can expect occasional isolated pipe leaks from time to time, frequent or recurring leaks are usually a sign that the entire system is deteriorating and requires replacement. You can keep replacing pipes as they burst, but if you are doing this frequently, there are likely other problems occurring where you can’t see them, and which could cause other problems besides low water pressure due to pipe leaks.
One such hidden problem is slab leaks. When homes are built on a slab—a layer of concrete poured over soil or gravel—the plumbing runs beneath the concrete. Should the plumbing beneath the house foundation leak, that’s a problem that requires quick attention.
In addition to age, slab leaks are caused by cracked pipes, a not unusual occurrence in areas high in clay soil content that shift and exert pressure on the pipes. If pipes are installed close to hard surfaces, there’s a risk of abrasion. Pipes vibrate when water passes through them, and the vibration causes pipes to knock against the hard surfaces, causing knicks to the pipe material and eventually holes. Then there’s the usual issue of general corrosion over time.
Because slab leaks occur beneath the concrete foundation, the signs of a leaking pipe aren’t always obvious. The longer you allow a slab leak to run unabated, the more likely the home can suffer major damage.
Sings of a slab leak include:
- Cracks in the foundation
- Water puddles
- Hot floor (indicating a hot water leak)
- Continual sound of running water when all house taps are closed and water-using appliances aren’t operating
If you’re remodeling your home, you might as well go the extra mile and consider repiping, particularly if the remodeling is a kitchen or bathroom where water is consumed. Even if it’s a partial repiping, if you’re going to take down walls and cabinetry to update your look, you might as well update the plumbing to ensure the look is preserved and avoid costs down the road.
How Does Repiping Work?
Complete home repiping may seem like a daunting task, but it more than pays for itself by cutting down on plumber services and the expensive water bills associated with constantly repairing leaky pipes.
Before any work is performed, a thorough inspection of the home and surrounding property is performed to outline a project plan. Depending on the size of your house, repiping may take anywhere from a couple of days to a week. Typically, it is possible to do the bulk of the work that requires complete water shut off while you are out and about during the day, so you experience minimal disruption to your daily routine.
To begin the repiping process, the plumbing team first covers any carpet and furniture to protect them from dust and debris. They then make small cuts in the wall and drywall to locate the pipes and remove and replace them, leaving as much of the original building material as possible intact.
Repiping employs copper, PVC and CPVC pipes, all of which are extremely durable and save you money by preventing future issues and repairs. Typically, installation of replacement pipe is routed through already existing holes in your floors and walls whenever possible. Any excess spaces are tightly sealed.
If further renovations are desired, such as installing a tankless water heater or expanding the water system to accommodate a remodel, these is when those additional alterations are made.
The repiped plumbing system is thoroughly tested to ensure proper water pressure and that everything is running smoothly throughout the house. Finally, the drywall and other materials are repaired, patched, and retextured so it looks as though nothing ever happened.
Benjamin Franklin Professional Repiping
Understandably, many homeowners are reluctant to consider undertaking such a huge plumbing project. But if the signs point to multiple issues with your home plumbing system, doing it all at once can be a more convenient and cost-effective option than constantly calling your plumber to fix relatively minor issues. Repiping cures a number of plumbing woes, including:
- Low water pressure
- Yellow, rusty or brown water
- Odors from rust and other contaminants built-up in pipes
- Unexpected burst of scalding hot water, such as after water in a sink or washing machine turns off, or a toilet is flushedIt is unavoidable that repiping causes some not inconsiderable “downtime” in your home water service. However, a skilled professional team can perform the project with minimal disruption to your daily routine.At Benjamin Franklin Plumbing, we are proud to meet the plumbing needs of homeowners throughout the Bay Area and beyond. Whether you just need a few simple tune-ups, are looking for a reliable plumber to have on-call for sudden leaky pipes and clogged drains, or are seriously considering a complete overhaul of your home’s water delivery system, our team is here to help. From diagnostics and emergency repairs to cleaning, maintenance, and the installation of new water systems, our highly skilled professionals do it all.