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Thread: Would You Completely Re-Pipe?

  1. #1
    DIY Junior Member cowboyjosh78's Avatar
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    Default Would You Completely Re-Pipe?

    So I know some folks in Ohio who are about to undertake upon a major remodel to a custom ranch type house built in either 1976 or 1980, I can't remember the year; anyways they asked me if id be a good idea to rip out and re-pipe and re-wire all the spaces being touched. For example the kitchen is a gut job, would you all replace all the pipe and start over or work with the 30 year old pipe? All the pipe is copper and they have lived in the house since day 1 and have never had anything other then typical things like the occasional frozen pipe or fixtures needing fixed and replaced up until now. I also know the house has been remodeled and kept pretty well; they are just concerned about the old pipe failing as soon as the builder (same builder who originally built the house is going to do the remodel and addition) packs up and leaves.

    Im a home builder, not a remodeler, but these are my friends folks and he asked on his folks behalf; so I decided to throw it out there for you guys who see 30 year old copper on a regular basis.

  2. #2
    Forum Admin, Expert Plumber Terry's Avatar
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    It would depend on local water conditions.
    In Seattle, copper lasts a long time, In parts of Los Angeles, it doesn't.
    Since I'm in the Seattle area, I don't change out copper pipes, only galvanized. But I will say that some well systems to the East of me have been very hard on copper.

  3. #3

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    Quote Originally Posted by cowboyjosh78 View Post
    So I know some folks in Ohio who are about to undertake upon a major remodel to a custom ranch type house built in either 1976 or 1980, I can't remember the year; anyways they asked me if id be a good idea to rip out and re-pipe and re-wire all the spaces being touched. For example the kitchen is a gut job, would you all replace all the pipe and start over or work with the 30 year old pipe? All the pipe is copper and they have lived in the house since day 1 and have never had anything other then typical things like the occasional frozen pipe or fixtures needing fixed and replaced up until now. I also know the house has been remodeled and kept pretty well; they are just concerned about the old pipe failing as soon as the builder (same builder who originally built the house is going to do the remodel and addition) packs up and leaves.

    Im a home builder, not a remodeler, but these are my friends folks and he asked on his folks behalf; so I decided to throw it out there for you guys who see 30 year old copper on a regular basis.
    I'm not a plumber but I just had to bypass a copper hot water slow leak under our concrete slab (we have a 39 year old ranch style house). Since your friend's home is a ranch style house, is it on a concrete slab with the copper lines under the slab? Also, since their house is 30 years old it probably has a trunk and branch type copper system. If yes on both counts, re-piping at least the trunk lines above or below the slab might be something they want to seriously consider. They could connect the the new trunk lines to the existing copper lines above the slab at each location to save some money. Repairing leaks or replacing copper trunk lines under a slab is not something to look forward to.

    Also, since it's been 30 years, ask the couple if they ever left a water heater installed until it started leaking. If yes, there's a possibility that the water heater rusted out from the inside and that the hot water lines have rust particles in them. Rust and copper are dissimilar metals with water as the electrolyte and can result in pitting of the copper from the inside out. In that case, at least the hot water lines might need to be replaced.

    Regarding the wiring, if it's aluminum they might want to consider replacing with copper wires.

    HRG
    Last edited by HomeRepairGuy; 12-27-2010 at 02:28 AM.

  4. #4
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    quote; but I just had to bypass a copper hot water slow leak under our concrete slab

    WHY the copper leaked would determine whether it was symtomatic problem. MOST underslab leaks are caused by errors by the original installer, NOT a deficiency in the copper itself. It is only after you have two or more leaks in different areas that the condition of the tubing itself becomes a concern. I have repaired COUNTLESS single leaks in homes, but cannot remember ANY that had a second leak at a later date. You are asking a question which cannot be easily answered. The easiest answer, and it is a copout, is that if they want to invest the money to repipe, and would feel "safer" doing it, then DO repipe the area. It may NOT be necessary, but it WILL prevent any second guessing if something should start leaking later. Just do a GOOD job of repiping so YOUR work does not leak, or fail.

  5. #5
    DIY Junior Member cowboyjosh78's Avatar
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    The house has a basement, all the plumbing is accessable since the basement has ceiling tiles, the kitchen plumbing is a bit more concealed i found out as the kitchen is over top a cistern. In that part of the world hot water tanks do rust and fail, but apparently its rare for copper to fail and pinhole.

  6. #6
    General Engineering Contractor ballvalve's Avatar
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    If its type "L" and the neighbors do not leak, you might be good for 30 more years.

    You could stub out pex in hard areas while its open for the pleasure of the future plumbers.

  7. #7

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    Quote Originally Posted by hj View Post
    quote; but I just had to bypass a copper hot water slow leak under our concrete slab

    WHY the copper leaked would determine whether it was symtomatic problem. MOST underslab leaks are caused by errors by the original installer, NOT a deficiency in the copper itself. It is only after you have two or more leaks in different areas that the condition of the tubing itself becomes a concern. I have repaired COUNTLESS single leaks in homes, but cannot remember ANY that had a second leak at a later date. You are asking a question which cannot be easily answered. The easiest answer, and it is a copout, is that if they want to invest the money to repipe, and would feel "safer" doing it, then DO repipe the area. It may NOT be necessary, but it WILL prevent any second guessing if something should start leaking later. Just do a GOOD job of repiping so YOUR work does not leak, or fail.
    In our case, finding the leak under the slab would have required breaking the slab (maybe in multiple places) to find the leak. I decided that it was far easier and more cost effective to bypass the copper by running PEX in the attic regardless of whether the problem was pipe integrity or a bad installation. Breaking the slab would have meant cost for breaking + the plumbing repair + refilling the hole and patching the concrete + redoing the entire floor tile since it would be very improbable that the identical floor tile could be purchased.

    Plus the new PEX line "guarantees" that it will never be necessary for a second under slab repair. Running new PEX trunk lines is very easy and not that expensive labor wise since no joints are required at turns.

    Having done the PEX install, I love PEX and will never go back to copper,
    HRG

  8. #8
    In the Trades ilya's Avatar
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    I live in Ohio but water can vary a LOT. If hot water tanks are short lived in their area it might be worthwhile. Here in Akron I would leave it be. The adjacent burg of Cuyahoga Falls has very aggressive water. Asking the neighbors may help. Wiring must be brought up to current code when you open up the walls. .
    not a licensed plumber

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