Choosing between a repair and a repipe is important to think about and plan for. Which is right for you? Do houses need to be repiped? Here’s what you should know.
Deciding whether to do minor repairs or repiping your house will depend mainly on the problems you notice.
If you’re dealing with a localized problem with one particular pipe or fixture, for example. In that case, you’ll find that going with a repair will be okay. If you’ve got multiple leaks or any water damage, you’ll most likely have to repipe since this is the only thing to stop more damage in the future.
How often should plumbing pipes be replaced?
Thankfully, home repiping doesn’t have to be very often! The actual timings will differ depending on what your pipes are made of. Your choices are going to be:
- PVC and PEX
- Cast iron
This is one of the most conventional options out there for pipework. This kind of piping should last you 50 years or more.
PVC and PEX
This plastic-based pipework is modern compared to other options, giving you a long lifespan. As in, the lifespan is indefinite. Since plastic doesn’t degrade, your pipes won’t degrade over time!
It sounds strange to you now, but cast iron pipes were standard in earlier times. They are heavy but sturdy. You can expect to get between 75-100 years out of them, or even longer!
Less common but still used, brass pipework should offer homeowners a lifespan of between 40-70 years.
This material has the shortest lifespan compared to the others. It’ll offer up between 20-50 years when used in a home.
Practicality isn’t the only thing to consider. But health and personal preferences also factor in since many believe in keeping pipework classic when living in period-piece homes!
Tip: Old pipes can make your water dangerous. According to EWG, old pipework can contain lead, a neurotoxin, and is dangerous to health.
Reasons for a house to need repiping
You may notice some or all of these reasons. The more of these signs you notice, the sooner you should have it done. Some of the most common signs that a home needs to be repiped include:
- Noisy pipes
- Water smelling or tasting off
- Rust-colored water
- Dangerous temperature changes
- Inconsistent water pressure
- Leaks and water damage
1. Noisy pipes
You know that shrieky, clunking sound that comes on when you turn the pipes on first thing in the morning? It’s a sign that your pipes have aged and need to be replaced. A water leak is always an expensive and severe problem, so you don’t want to wait too long.
2. Water smelling or tasting off
It could be mild or strong enough for many in the household to notice, but these are signs that you need to have your water tested and your pipes closely examined. Your pipes could make your water dangerous, not the water itself.
3. Rust-colored water
Any time that your water is tinted by rust, you shouldn’t drink it. You shouldn’t even boil it and then use it. Rust-colored water means your pipes are corroding, and it can be dangerous for you to use the water.
4. Dangerous temperature changes
Not only are temperature changes annoying, but they’re also downright dangerous at times. If your hot and cold water fluctuates wildly. You’ll want to have a professional plumber in soon to see what’s happening. Fluctuations can cause burns and increase the likelihood of kitchen or bathroom-related injuries.
5. Inconsistent water pressure
Frustrating and confusing, inconsistent water pressure is going to cause a lot of problems in daily life. It also can increase the likelihood of a leak. It may indicate that you do have a leak. Take this sign seriously to protect yourself from high repair costs!
Corrosion isn’t something you can detect unless you see it by looking at exposed or accessible pipes. Any signs of corrosion mean calling a plumber as quickly as possible since they can lead to leaks and water damage.
7. Leaks and water damage
Since I’ve discussed this above, you know that any kind of leak — even a minor one — will be hard to stop unless you address the problem.
Did You Know? While you only need to repipe your home once every 40+ years, a bad storm or anything else causing damage to your home can require it sooner!
Other signs you need to repipe your home
There are other signs that you should consider getting your home assessed for its pipework. These include:
- Always calling a plumber
- Not trusting pipes
- Feeling uneasy in colder temperatures
It can be hard to isolate these signs when you compare them to the list above, but these are all valid reasons that you need a professional to come and look at your system.
How long does a house repipe take?
The actual timeframe will depend on the design of your home, its size, and the complexity of your plumbing work. On average, repiping can take between 2 and 7 days.
Should I replace all my copper pipes with PEX?
Most plumbers will recommend PEX pipes, but will they be the best material to go with? If you compare them directly, it will come down to understanding your preferences.
Copper is the traditional choice with a long lifespan and great integrity to its name. It also can be mounted outside and is bacteria-resistant.
However, PEX is superior to copper because it is cheaper, flexible, and designed to mount inside or outside. It often offers the best combination of features for modern homeowners. Copper still has a lifespan to think about, though, and is a common alternative for those that don’t want PEX for one reason or another.
The best material to repipe a house
Let’s take a moment to think about the materials to repipe a house and compare them directly to each other. When your main goal is to go the longest between repiping (as is the goal for most people), you’ll enjoy cast iron, PEX, and PVC pipes the most. They start at 75 years, pass to 100 years, and continue indefinitely.
Obviously, cast iron pipes aren’t considered standard these days, so you’ll want to go with PEX and PVC. The other main option is copper. Even though it’s inferior to plastic-based pipework when compared directly, a specific historical aspect of using copper is often appealing, even if it’s not quite as forward-thinking as PEX in investment.
What to expect when repiping a house
So, what goes into repiping a house? It’s a pretty intense experience for the homeowner, but it’s not overwhelming with the right plumbing professionals. Cracked Slab explains the process as including the following stages:
- Cover all sensitive areas or remove sensitive pieces/furniture
- Turn off water
- Find pipes behind drywall and cut access to them
- Replace all new pipes, joints, etc.
- Attach new pipes to fixtures
- Test all pipes, joints, fixtures
- Close-up walls/ceiling/basement access
- Clean up mess
How do I prepare my house for repiping?
That process sounds easier said than done, as you can imagine. You can make your mind and stress levels easier by doing some prep yourself. This is an excellent idea if you’ve never had a repiping done before.
- Cover your furniture before anyone arrives
- Remove anything sentimental/high-value from your home (pack away)
- Empty sink cabinets, vanities, etc.
- Be prepared for water an extended water shut-off and a mess in your home
It sounds intimidating when you think about it, but it doesn’t have to be. Just do what you can to help prep, and then sit back and watch the pros at work!
Is it expensive to repipe a house?
There are a lot of factors that go into determining the cost of repiping. I wrote an article on the cost of repiping a house to help you out. Generally, it will come down to your home’s square footage, the design and access to plumbing, and the amount of plumbing you have.
How invasive is repiping a house?
To the standard homeowner, having plumbing teams around your home with walls ripped open and no water can seem invasive. However, it doesn’t have to be invasive if you’re prepared properly and understand the process.
Does repiping a house add value?
Repiping doesn’t add value to your home but can make it easier to sell. Since prospective buyers will expect that your home has an up-to-date plumbing system, not having one can drive them away.
You should repipe houses if you’ve had the same system for more than 40 years and you have leaks, water damage, noisy pipes, bad-tasting or colored water, etc. For the best experience, hire the right professionals for the job and know what materials you want to use and the process to expect!
Is someone you love looking for help and support in repiping their home? Share this with them to give them the info they need!