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My House's Copper Repiping

Updated on August 26, 2016

Any house that was built before 1962 most likely had plumbing made of galvanized metal. This type of plumbing usually lasts no more than 30 years before corrosion and rust take the course. My house was built in the 1950s and one day in the 1980s, I started to notice that the water from the faucet was in brown color after more than 8 hours of no household water use. However, the watercolor went back to clear after letting it ran for 2 minutes. I tolerated the inconvenience for several weeks. Then, one day, the pipe underneath the bathtub had a big leak and the only way to stop the flooding was to shut off the main valve located at the sidewalk of the street. I decided that it was time to pony up the $2500 to replace the aging pipes inside the house.

The Route

Based on a referral from the neighbor, a copper repiping specialist came and conducted an inspection. Based on the simple and straightforward layout of a 1950 era house, the plumber promised that the repiping job could be completed in one day. The plumber explained that the existing pipes located underneath the concrete floors and between the walls would be left alone. The new ½ inch copper pipe would be routed around the exterior of the house to reach the interior faucets through the walls. Some places would be broken into in order to gain access. Afterwards, the broken walls would be patched up and painted over to return them to their original conditions. The exception would be the pipes routed to the water heater and the washing machine located in the garage. Those pipes would be secured on the outside of the wall.

At the day of the repiping job, 3 workers arrived early in the morning to work on different sections of the house in parallel. The workers were efficient and professional as they had done many similar jobs in the neighborhood before. They finished the repiping task in the evening and water flowed freely and clearly with no leak.

The Valve

Every faucet has a shutoff valve which is located below the sink. One valve is for the hot water and one is for the cold water. Its main function is to facilitate easy repair of the faucet. The shutoff valve consists of several nuts and tubes that normally can last for as long as 30 years without breaking or leaking. All the shutoff valves were also replaced at the time of the repiping as a necessity since the old shutoff valve would no longer fit. In the event that one is broken or leaks, the shutoff valve and the associated parts are readily available at the local hardware store.

The Mainline

Not long after the copper repiping of the interior of the house, I discovered a bulge in the ground of the front yard one morning. Standing on the bulge which was about 3 feet in diameter was like stepping on a water bed; I could feel the water underneath. I called up a plumber who started to dig up the ground blow the bulge and exposed a rusty galvanized metal pipe located around 4 feet deep. A small hole in the pipe was the source of the leaking water. The plumber installed a clamp over the section of the pipe with the hole to plug the leak. He suggested replacing the whole line running around 35 feet from the house to the street. The job involved digging a 2 feet deep trench to lay in the 1 inch copper pipe. The cost would be around $1500.

After getting another leak in the front yard in about 2 months, I decided to pony up the cost to replace the mainline. The most difficult part was to make the connection to the main water pipe located at the water meter close to the street. A 5 feet deep hole had to be dug to expose the old pipe and the hook-up. The plumber also installed a shutoff valve right at the house so that there was no more need to use a special range to turn the water off at the meter close to the street.


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