If you live in an older home or are experiencing leaks, it may be time for a full or partial plumbing replacement.
Talk to the friendly licensed plumbers at DS Plumbing. They’ll assess the situation and provide you with all the options and what they mean in terms of cost and long term benefits and consequences. We look for solutions that make sense, but leave the final decision to you.
There’s no guesswork on the cost thanks to our full estimates provided up front, and we 100% guarantee your satisfaction.
You can call us or use our online booking tool.
How To Tell When It’s Time for a Plumbing Replacement
Plumbing will last about 80 years, depending on the material used for the pipes, the quality of the installation, and whether or not harsh chemicals were poured down the drain.
If you live in an older Ottawa home and the plumbing has never been changed, it may be time to at least have it checked. It can be less expensive in the long run to get it replaced than to have it degrade to the point where it starts leaking in several places at once. As a homeowner, you may not even know there’s a problem unless there’s visible water damage or frequent clogs.
Replacing some stretches of plumbing or getting a full plumbing replacement may be needed if:
- Your pipes have frozen and burst. They can also develop smaller leaks along the connections.
- Banging or knocking when water goes through the plumbing. This can be caused by pipes that aren’t secured tightly enough. If it can move enough to bang, it can loosen the glue or solder. It can also be caused by high water pressure, but it takes an expert to tell the difference and either way connections should be checked.
- Sewer smells or other bad odours. Sometimes if plumbing isn’t vented correctly sewer smells can enter your home.
- Plumbing that clogs easily. Using incorrect connectors or connecting pipes of different diameters together (we’ve seen this) can create bottlenecks that can lead to clogs.
- You see water damage anywhere in your home. Leaks never go away – but they can get bigger over time.
Over time, there has been changes in the materials used, changes in the quality of materials, and changes in installation techniques. Even the plumbing code has changed. Your new plumbing will be less vulnerable to problems, and if you replace your plumbing once, you shouldn’t have to do it again unless you renovate.
If You’re Renovating…
Anywhere in Your Home
If you’re renovating your home and there are walls open anyway, that’s a great chance to have a plumbing inspection done without additional damage. We strongly recommend it if your home is 50 years or older.
Kitchen or Bathroom
If you’re doing a kitchen or bathroom reno, sometimes a general contractor will be moving sinks or bathtubs around. If they’re not experts with plumbing, just the simple act of wrangling heavy fixtures into place can move and damage pipes. Some contractors will even push and pull plumbing to get it into place. The pipe gets manipulated like a giant lever, causing strain on the closest connector and causing seals on connections to crack or break. If the connector is far away from the bathroom you may not be able to tell that your recent renovation led to the leak.
We recommend replacing the pipe back to the closest connection when renovations involve any plumbing fixture. It will save you money and headaches in the long run.
Also, if you plan to finish your basement, we recommend you think about what plumbing inspections or work you may need to do before finishing. If you know you need to put in a bathroom, a sump pump, a backwater valve, or get an inspection or replacement done, now’s the time. You don’t want to break through your two-year old tiles if you don’t have to.
Buying or Selling Your Home
As part of buying a home, it is advisable that you get the plumbing checked as part of your home inspection. Many insurance companies will not cover certain plumbing materials, and they want it replaced before they insure your home. Ask the seller about the plumbing and if they don’t know be skeptical, especially if it’s an older home.
Very old plumbing is something that can affect the price you get for your home, so if you have older plumbing talk to your real estate agent about whether they think it’s necessary and/or if it will provide a return.
What’s Involved in Replacing Plumbing?
For partial pipe replacements, we will normally use the same type of material, for example connecting copper to copper. If we’re doing a lot of repiping we may use flexible PEX piping where possible to avoid having to open walls. You can read more about PEX below.
We can connect different types of pipe together as long as they have the same interior diameter and correct connectors. Connecting different diameter pipes together will create flow restriction where they connect. The resulting turbulence can promote blockages.
If you have cast iron drains we generally recommend replacing them, as they are likely to be corroded. The most important thing to remember, however, is that just because your pipes are older, it doesn’t mean they necessarily need to be replaced. We will alert you to the potential issues that exist, and let you decide. For more extensive work, we do offer financing.
Plumbing Materials That May Be In Your Home – Pros and Cons
Over the last century, plumbing materials have changed incredibly. As it ages, plumbing materials will degrade in different ways, which means you should be alert for different issues. As a homeowner, one of the most important things to do is never put chemical drain cleaners down the pipe.
Most of the materials below are used for both drains and water supply lines, except where indicated.
Cast iron drains were first made before quality control really existed. Often the pipes would vary in thickness all the way around the pipe or in different sections along the length of the pipe. This would create areas that were thinner. These thin patches can crack and corrode more easily.
Newer cast iron is more regular, and has an equal thickness all the way around. It is still often used in commercial applications, but we don’t recommend it for residential. It is more expensive and difficult to install.
Cast iron naturally corrodes over time. The interior pits and flakes, which can lead to both leaks and clogs.
As everyone knows, steel can corrode. When it’s used in drain lines, the interior is coated in zinc for protection from air and water that can help it corrode.
As steel was used in homes from the turn of the 20th century to the 1950s, you can almost guarantee that the zinc has worn away in places and that the plumbing’s days are seriously numbered. Once it starts rusting, flow can be restricted and water pressure may be affected. Rusting pipes are also more prone to developing leaks and clogs.
Copper started to be used for water supply lines in the 1930s, and was used for drains and soil stacks in the 50s and 60s. It was in common use for water supply until the 90s, and we still install it for some people today.
The newer the copper, the thinner it is likely to be, but on the other hand newer copper is more likely to be of overall better manufacturing quality. With older copper, the joints can fail over time if pipes are not supported properly, as lead solder was softer back then. Copper drains and soil stacks also have thinner walls than either cast iron or plastic, and they are subject to corrosion.
Copper pipes are also prone to mineral buildup which can reduce water pressure over time. They are also vulnerable faster corrosion in acidic water, but Ottawa city water is alkaline and ranges from pH 8.4 to 8.8, so it’s not a concern if you’re on the city’s supply. Copper is more expensive to make, store and install.
In the 1960s onwards, you often see acrylonitrile butadiene styrene (ABS) drains. It’s still in use in Canada today, and we use it as it’s the approved material according to the current code regulations.
It’s a great material: it really lasts and doesn’t corrode in the presence of water and air like metals can. It does, however, become brittle over time, especially when exposed to (you guessed it) chemical drain cleaners.
PEX (cross-linked polyethylene) is only used in hot and cold water supply lines, not for drains. PEX is now standard for newly constructed homes, as it is less expensive to make, store and install.
It is also highly durable, and its flexibility makes it great for repiping an older home, as fewer connectors are needed and fewer walls and ceilings need to be opened up. It is also highly resistant to mineral buildup. Its one disadvantage is that it can react with highly chlorinated water and break down. So far it looks like the levels of chlorine in Ottawa’s water are fine.
Right now it looks like PEX and copper are about the same durability and longevity, but we’ll know for sure in a few decades.
Permitted Materials for New Plumbing Installations
Right now, it is permissible by Ontario code to install PEX, copper and ABS (depending on if the pipe is used for water supply or a drain). For the right answer for your home, ask your DS Plumbing expert. There are a lot of variables, including the exact application and the chemistry of your water.
Get an Expert Opinion
Over the lifetime of a home, it’s not a matter of if your plumbing needs to be replaced but when. We can help you plan your plumbing replacements so they make sense for you in the long run. With older homes, it’s better to be safe than sorry – but that’s the decision we leave to you.
As plumbing experts, our job is to tell you the options so you can weigh the risks for yourself, and then carry out the work you decide you want done. As for workmanship, we promise 100% satisfaction on your chosen option. (read our reviews here).