When is Re-Piping Necessary?

During your daily tasks of cleaning, eating, cooking and bathing, you probably don’t think about how much you count on your plumbing system to work properly. There are a number of factors that affect the condition of your plumbing, and those factors can impact the durability and functionality of the water lines that feed hot and cold water out to your Outer Banks home.

  • Age of Home
  • Type of material used for piping
  • Frequent leaks/repairs
  • Mineral deposit build-up
  • Plastic fittings or cut-offs

Evaluating your plumbing system

If you have a home 50+ years old, you may have pipes that are made from galvanized steel. This means your plumbing could be developing rust, or picking up certain contaminants (such as lead), or even be subject to corrosion over time. If that’s the case, then the best course of action is to consider a whole-house re-piping. This is the most efficient way to protect your water supply and prevent more costly problems like clogs and leaks down the road.

If your home was built in the late 70’s to mid-90’s, you may have polybutylene pipes. Polybutylene pipes are blue, grey or black. Due to low material cost and ease of installation, polybutylene piping systems were used to replace traditional copper piping. The problem with these pipes, they discovered, is that oxidants like chlorine, react with the polybutylene piping and fittings causing them to become brittle (in fact, a $950M lawsuit was eventually settled). Small cracks resulted, causing leaks and plenty of damage to many homeowners. Read more about the lawsuit and other information in our recent blog.

If your home is ‘new-to-you’, you may not have the history of prior leaks. One way to see if there is any evidence of this is to inspect the ceiling in your carport (below the first floor of your house) to see if a portion of the plywood has been cut out to gain access to the joist space. Another sign might be stains on inside walls or on the ceiling. If you notice either of these things, then that may be a sign of a previous repair.

Signs it might be time to re-pipe

Frequent repairs over the years is a sign that there are problems with your water distribution system. Here are a few clues that indicate it might be time to consider re-piping your water lines.

Multiple Leaks – A couple of leaks here and there may simply mean you need repairs in that area or that you need to replace one section of your piping. But if you’ve had to repair many leaks your plumbing system may be failing. Ultimately, re-piping will be a better option than replacing corroded pipes bit by bit.

Plastic Fittings – Older homes with plastic fittings and plastic cut-offs may have a higher failure rate than metal fittings and metal cut-offs. One reason for this is that older technology plastic tends to expand and contract depending on the temperature of the surrounding air and water inside them. This could cause fittings to loosen and water leaks could result.

Mineral Deposits – Although rare on the Outer Banks of North Carolina, there have been instances of mineral deposit build-up over time that occurs inside the pipes in homes with hard water. The build-up may cause problems for appliances in your home, not to mention a discoloration (white or yellowish-green) around faucets and showerheads. You may not necessarily need to re-pipe because of mineral deposits, but if your water pressure appears to be reduced, then new pipes (and maybe even a water softener) should be installed.

Preparing for a Visit from a Professional

The homeowner is the most reliable source of information for a plumbing professional when it comes to understanding the history and issues of the home’s water system. To prepare for your appointment, here are a few things you’ll want to verify:

  • Frequency of any known leaks
  • Any damage caused because of these leaks
  • Saw or cut marks to access pipes
  • Stains on interior walls or ceiling
  • Areas where previous repairs or patches took place
  • Random cut-offs under sinks or piping that has been replaced

Protect your Investment

Getting on a regular maintenance schedule will help you protect your home from unnecessary damage and repairs and keep your water lines working flawlessly. For vacation homes or homes that are vacant at times, having a shut-off valve can minimize the chance of bursting pipes or unexpected water leaks if the water is completely shut off. Not sure where your cut off point is or if you have a shut-off valve? We can find yours or install a convenience valve for you if you don’t have one. Contact us today to schedule an appointment.