What You Need to Know About Repairing or Replacing Fresh Water Lines in your Home

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Fresh-Water-Lines

Problems with fresh water lines are often a bit more urgent than with sewer lines. This is because there is always water in your fresh water lines unlike a sewer system that only has water in them if there is water running somewhere in the house.

So if you’ve got a fresh water leak that means water is continually leaking. Whereas with a sewer leak, water only leaks out when water flows through the lines.

Main Fresh Water Lines in a House vs. Other Water Lines

Before we talk about problems and fixes for fresh water lines, let’s quickly go over the difference between the main water line and the other water lines your home uses.

The main water line is the one that connects the city’s line to your home. And it’s buried underground. There is a water meter connected somewhere along the line. This meter can be used to help determine if you have a leak and also what the water company uses to calculate your water bill.

There’s also a main water shutoff valve. It’s always a good idea for you to know where this valve is. Then if there’s a burst pipe or you need to make a simple repair, you know how to turn off the water supply to your home.

The main water line is then connected to the cold water lines in your home. Almost all homes today are built with these lines in the walls but older homes in the Dallas area still have water lines under the slab.

The cold water line is attached to the water heater which is triggered when you turn on the hot water. It heats the water and delivers it to faucets, dishwashers, and washing machines through the hot water lines.

Signs of Fresh Water Leaks in your Home

I’ve talked about fresh water leaks on the blog before so I won’t go too in depth here.

But here’s a list of things to watch out for if you think you have a fresh water leak:

  • Higher than normal water, gas, or electric bills
  • Little to no hot water
  • Hissing sound in the walls
  • Hearing running water when there is no water on
  • Wet or warm spots on the floor
  • Low water pressure
  • Standing water in the yard

Types of Fresh Water Pipes

If it turns out you do have a leak, we have to find out what kind of material your pipes are made out of before we can create a repair plan for you.

Quest

Polybutylene, more commonly known as Quest pipe, was most often used in yard lines. There were a few cities in the DFW area, particularly Mesquite, that also used Quest inside the house in the walls.

Once billed as the “pipe of the future,” Quest did not live up to the hype. Many homeowners found themselves dealing with a lot of problems like sudden failures and flooding, flaking, and scaling which resulted in a number of lawsuits in the 80s.

So if you have Quest pipe, we will always recommend replacement over repairs. While it’s not impossible to repair, there’s no real good way to do it, and you’re guaranteed to need repairs not too long after. Also the fittings themselves are not good and aren’t really being made anymore because of the problems people have experienced with Quest. It’s even banned in some areas of the United States.

PEX

PEX can be used underground and in the walls and attic. I have some concerns about PEX pipe, but we do use it to replace water lines because it is not as expensive as copper.

My main issue with PEX is the fact that there are many different manufacturers but no standard to which they all make the pipes to.

Say The Home Depot have been selling one type of pipe and one type of fitting. Then next year, they get a better deal with a new manufacturer. If you have the pipe from before and need to make a repair, you now have to repair it with a different fitting that wasn’t designed for that pipe. It will probably work for that pipe but it wasn’t made for it which could cause issues down the road.

So while I do believe there are potential benefits of the plastic PEX pipe over copper ones, I still have some concerns about it because of the lack of standards and uniformity.

Copper

Copper has been the go-to pipe for fresh water for many years. However, PEX is edging it out because of the higher costs of copper.

A couple benefits of copper is it lasts longer than PEX. And unlike PEX, there is a standard when it comes to manufacturing. There could be one manufacturer or hundreds but you’d never know it because all copper pipe and the fittings are identical no matter where or when you buy it.

Galvanized Steel

Galvanized steel pipes were the pipe of choice from the late 1800s to the mid 1900s because that’s what was available at the time.

The steel is “galvanized” with a pure zinc coating to protect it from corroding. However, the zinc starts to wear off over time leaving the pipes exposed to air and, obviously, water. Once that happens the pipes start rusting. Then rust and metal particles will break off and start to clog the line.

While rust isn’t dangerous to drink, it does change the taste and color of your water and can even stain clothing during the wash. Not to mention as more pieces reduce the diameter of your pipes, you will noticed a drop in your water pressure, and you eventually get a clogged line or even a break in the line.

And there’s even some cause for concern that the pipes could leach lead into your water supply if the zinc used to galvanize the pipes was impure (which sometimes it was).

All of that to say, I wouldn’t recommend galvanized pipe at all, especially not when there are better options on the market like pex and copper.

PVC

While PVC is the best option at this time for sewer lines, it is not ideal for fresh water. If you have PVC water pipes, we always recommend replacing it with either PEX or copper instead of repairing it.

There are a couple reasons for this.

Generally PVC can be used for fresh water but it’s very fragile. Any little movement can break it especially underground. In the North Texas area with our constantly expanding and contracting soil type, the foundation moves itself which then causes the house to move. That movement can crack the pipe, even above ground pipes. But PEX or copper have a little flexibility so they aren’t as susceptible to breaking like PVC.

So why can it be used for sewer but not water? PVC water pipes are 3/4″ to an inch in diameter whereas PVC sewer pipes are 2 to 4 inches. This seemingly small difference in size makes a huge difference when it comes to the fragility of the PVC.

And don’t forget, water pipes ALWAYS have water in them so any crack or break means a leak until it’s fixed (or in the case of PVC water pipes, replaced).

A Temporary Water Line Fix?

There’s no good way to temporarily fix a water line leak.

Bottom line, you have to figure out a way to connect the pipes back together in a way that it won’t leak. If you do that with a rubber hose, it might work for a couple days but it won’t work for long. So you can call that temporary.

But you still have to get to it whether it be under the slab or in a wall, so you may as well repair it — with the right fittings at that point — permanently.

Fresh Water Line Repair or Replacement Cost in a House

Just like there’s no one-size-fits-all PEX pipe fittings, there’s no one-size-fits-all answer.

Whether it’s a repair or a replacement, every home is different and we can’t know how much something is going to cost until we assess your specific home and the damage.

Generally, though, repairs usually run around $600 to $900. And keep in mind, because we recommend replacing Quest pipe with PEX or copper, we don’t offer a warranty on Quest repairs.

To replace a water main line in the yard, it can cost anywhere from $2,000 to $8,000.

For lines in the house, we would actually reroute rather than replace. This means the lines under the slab are abandoned, and we reroute new pipe through the walls and the attic. This can cost anywhere from $4,000 to $15,000.

Homeowners Insurance for Water Line Repairs or Replacement

If the damage is to the main line outside, no, homeowners insurance does not cover it. Anything that happens outside the house is not covered.

And as far as inside the house, they will often cover damages from sudden or unexpected flooding like from a burst pipe. But most policies do not cover the damages from things like a slow leak.

Also don’t expect the insurance company to pay for repairs to the line or for replacements or rerouting. Just damage to your home and property such as floors and furniture.

Make sure you check your policy to see what your insurance company does and does not cover.

Do You Have a Fresh Water Leak?

If you think you have a fresh water leak, give us a call at 972-494-1750 or email service@inhouseplumbingcompany.com. We can help you figure out what the next steps are that work for you.

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