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When Should Water Lines Be Replaced?

Water line replacement is something no homeowner wants to contemplate. The bad news is that if your water line hasn’t been replaced in 20 or 30 years, there’s a decent chance that it’s reaching the end of a typical water line lifespan. It’s no guarantee, though, as a lot depends on the local environment, as well as if your water line is made from copper or plastic.

If your house was built prior to the 1970s, there’s also a decent chance it’s using galvanized pipe coated in zinc. But no material lasts forever, so read on to learn the basics of replacing a water line in your home.

Signs of water line trouble

Water quality varies wildly depending on where you are. Places like New York City and Denver have high-quality tap water, while the city of Flint, Michigan still hasn’t recovered from the water crisis that began in 2014. In general, though, we have certain expectations for how water should look when we turn on the faucet.

It should be clear and without a strong smell, for starters. If your water has a rusty tint to it, that could be because of corrosion in your water line. Some minerals in your water are good and healthy, but rust isn’t one of them.

You also know your home’s water pressure better than anyone else. If the water pressure seems down, it’s worth keeping an eye on things to make sure the issue doesn’t get worse. Bad water pressure is often a sign of something going wrong farther up the water line.

Again, you should look for any differences in water pressure. If your water pressure is naturally a bit iffy, then that’s normal but frustrating. If there’s a sudden drop in pressure, though, you may be dealing with a serious situation.

Who can replace water lines?

You should not replace water lines on your own. There are some household projects you can do yourself, like installing new carpeting in your bedroom. But when it to comes water lines, you want to steer clear unless you’re an experienced plumber. If your brother or next-door neighbor says he can do it for cheap, ignore him unless he also has a plumbing license and certification.

So remember, a water line replacement is not a DIY project. A team of experienced plumbers should come out to your house and look at the current water line before figuring out what to do next. In some cases, the next step might be a conventional water line replacement. That happens when plumbers dig up your old water line, tear it out (with utmost care), and then put a new water line in. However, there are also newer, more advanced ways to replace that water line.

One increasingly popular method is known as trenchless water line replacement. This process uses small “access pits” rather than traditional trenches that you’ll find in conventional water line replacements. It’s a more efficient process by far, but you may be thinking, “That sounds expensive.” It’s actually typically cheaper than the old dig-and-replace method we mentioned earlier.

Experienced plumbers may also opt to use methods like directional boring (as in, with a drill) or pneumatic missile installation. The access point for the water line matters a lot as well. For instance, going underneath your home’s slab is going to be trickier than just going through a spot in your backyard. In some cases, the water utility may have to get involved, especially if the water line is in the middle of the roadway in front of your house.

Finding a plumber you can trust is always critical, but it matters even more when you’re putting the fate of your home’s water line in their hands.