Main Line Water Leak?

what type of replacement pipe should you use when you experience a main line water leak?

What is the best type of pipe to use for your main water line?

Let's discuss a few types of pipe to form an answer.

What is your main water line?

When we use the term “main water line” we are typically referring to the below ground section of water line from your water meter to the foundation where it enters your home. 

This length of main water line can vary greatly between homes. Some lines are as short as 20′ while others may run over 200′. The length of the water line will have a major impact on the price to replace the pipe. Other factors such as trees, driveways, sidewalks, flower beds and other utilities will also impact the price of a main water line replacement.

When should a main water line be replaced?

A main water line does not always have to be completely replaced. It will depend on the situation. 

Older homes that develop multiple below ground leaks often are a prime candidate for main water line replacement. Most older homes (pre 1980) will have copper piping in the ground. You may also find polybutylene piping in homes built in the 80s and 90s. But even newer homes (2000 and later) may need full replacement depending on the type of pipe that was installed. Some homes used non UV protected PEX which can break down and crumble making a repair vitually impossible.

The most common pipes we find are copper, poly, pex and PVC. But sometimes we find CPVC or galvanized. While galvanized was accepted as water piping 50 years ago, it shouls never be used today.

Bottom line, it’s all about money. Sometimes a full replacement will save you money if repairs are continuous.

What types of pipe are available?

There are several types of pipes used for water lines today. But each have their own pros and cons. Not to mention, each plumber has his/her own preference when it comes to installing water lines.

1. Copper. Copper has been around for a very long time and it’s a good pipe. It’s still used and sometimes required for certain water piping applications. Copper is very good when you need someting rigid. We typically use copper for tub/shower valve spouts/risers and for fixture supply piping (so that it is rigid when you turn the valve on and off). But we don’t recommend copper for below ground installation or for the long runs between fixtures in your home.

2. CPVC. HPC does not use CPVC and will never say it has any pros unless you like cheap. CPVC is a very brittle pipe. It’s so brittle we hate to cut it to repair it. So we definitely do not recommend CPVC for any water line application.

3. PVC. PVC is a great pipe, for drains. We only use PVC for drains. While PVC is the staple for most irrigation and pool companies, HPC does not use PVC for plumbing pipe. PVC can become brittle over time and the glue joints can break down, especially around elbows where water pressure is constantly pushing against it. Male/female connectors also have a tendency to crack at the threads (especially at the water meter). And while there’s a good chance you may have PVC for your main water line, we don’t recommend it nor do we install it.

4. PEX. PEX is the newest pipe of the 4 we’ve mentioned so far. At HPC we think it’s the best as long as it’s UV protected. PEX is flexible, comes in long rolls so you only need a few fittings below ground, and the price is reasonable. HPC will always recommend PEX for below ground main water line.

** The next 2 options should never be used for water lines.

5. Polybutylene. Yes we find a lot of poly that was used as main water line. It’s illegal to use it now but in the 80s and 90s it was the staple for water lines. So if you by chance run across a free 500′ roll of poly that’s been sitting in someone’s shed since 1982, don’t use it as your main water line!

6. Galvanized. Galvanized pipe is a great pipe when used for gas. And in the earlier part of the 1900s it was widely used for water lines. But it should never be used as water line today. We too often see galvanized nipples used to connect hose bibs, water heaters, tub valves and fixture stops today. Please don’t let your “plumber” use galvanized on any part of your water supply. And if your main water line is galvanized, plan on replacing it because connecting to it for a repair is 99% impossible.

HPC's Recommendation

Hanahan Plumbing Co will always recommend PEX for replacement of your main water line.

But if you have an existing copper of PVC main water line, we’ll try to repair it for you unless replacement is the best option.

Thanks for checking out our post.

Thanks for reading and we hope we’ve shed some light on main water line replacement piping options.

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Steven Dyson

Steven Dyson

Owner of Hanahan Plumbing Co and licensed mechanical contractor since 1997.

24/7 Emergency Service
843-793-1473

1287 Yeamans Hall Rd.
Hanahan, SC 29410

Serving Hanahan, SC & the Surrounding Lowcountry Area

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