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Really, it’s all there in the name.  You have most likely heard the term re-pipe. For many of our customers, it is a mysterious, dreadful word that translates as something equivalent to a root canal. Maybe you or someone you know has had one done before. Maybe your tap water has a rusty brown color or slightly sulfur smell to it and you have heard a re-pipe can help. There are many chronic plumbing conditions that a re-pipe can be a permanent remedy to. Whatever your situation is, in this section we would like to dispel any anxiety or confusion about what a re-pipe is, what is involved in having one done and what value it might be to you.

A History of CPVC

As with every other industry, new advances in technology trickle down from the manufacturer to the plumber and on to the customer. Many years ago most homes were piped with copper or galvanized steel. Here in Florida, the pipe was run underground, beneath the home’s concrete slab and the strength of the metal and the safety of being buried seemed like a perfect solution for long-lasting, durable plumbing. However, as it turns out several conditions including corrosion from hard or aggressive water, high chlorine levels, salt in the soil near the coast, acidic soil farther inland, electrolysis and treatment or lack of treatment from the municipal service can all wreak havoc on these metals. When there is a problem, it is difficult to repair because the pipes are buried under the home and the thick concrete slab between the plumber and the pipe must be broken up, removed and later re-laid. This is often expensive, tedious and time consuming.

In an effort to move away from copper and galvanized steel, the plumbing industry began working with polybutylene piping. Polybutylene is a grey, flexible plastic pipe that is joined together with crimped copper or brass rings. But polybutylene has not faired well either and manufacturing issues eventually led to it being removed from the plumbing code system. As far back as the 1960s, the plumbing industry moved to using plastic PVC pipe for the piping outside the home and as vent and drain lines. PVC piping is not rated for indoor use because it does not hold up to hot water. So, it was only a matter of time before CPVC began finding its way into people’s homes as a replacement for copper, steel and polybutylene piping. CPVC or chlorinated polyvinylchloride is a type of plastic pipe that has proven to be a durable, year-round solution for in-home plumbing.  It stands up well to the Florida climate, is rated for use with hot water and, like PVC, is easier and less expensive to install than its predecessors were. 

What's Involved?

During a re-pipe, all of the pressure pipes from the point that the cold water service enters the home through to the shut-off valves under the kitchen and lavatory sink, the tub and shower valve and the hot water heater are replaced. This usually does not include the drains. Essentially, all of the pressure piping in your home is removed and “re-piped” in with newer, cleaner, more durable piping. To accomplish this, the plumber cuts the old piping out then runs new lines through the attic or around the home and drops them back into the walls where the original pipes were. The result is that outwardly, your plumbing fixtures have not changed at all, but the pipes that service them are fresh and new.

There are many reasons to re-pipe. Again, the older copper, steel and polybutylene pipes can become brittle and problematic with time. Copper and galvanized steel piping corrodes over time as well and the passage that water is able to flow through becomes smaller and smaller until it is without value to the home owner. Many of our re-pipe customers choose to re-pipe because it is less expensive to replace all of the piping than to continually patch holes and repair leaks. Another problem is dirty water. When metal pipes have gotten very old, they become corroded and the residue from this corrosion compromises the incoming water supply. Supposedly fresh water leaves the faucet orange, rusty or bitter tasting, cloudy or just plain dirty. Yet another situation that can arise is a break in the old piping under the house slab. To repair this leak, the floor in the home and the concrete slab underneath it will have to be removed.  The ground will need to be dug up to reveal the pipe and then the leak repaired. Often, this type of repair is complicated by the process of searching for the leak and the area of the floor that must be removed can be quite large. A much simpler and less expensive solution is a re-pipe.

Three of the biggest questions most of our customers ask are “How do you price a re-pipe?”, “How long does it take?” and “How long will the new piping last?”

Many factors go into estimating a re-pipe price. Among them are the number of fixtures that the technician has to run new plumbing to and the accessibility of your attic. Some people decide to upgrade their fixtures or add additional shut-off valves or outside hose bibbs at the time of the re-pipe. Many of our customers replace their water heater with a new one when they re-pipe. All of these things contribute to the price of the project. These same factors affect how long the re-pipe will take. The technician must run all the new hot and cold lines through the attic. If the attic space is tall and open, the technician can work quickly. If the attic is small with a low roof or if the technician has to create access to the fixtures through closets or cabinets the work takes longer. Generally, a re-pipe takes 2-3 days to complete on a moderate size home with reasonable accessibility.

As for how long the new piping will last, we provide a one year warranty on all of our labor and back our manufacture’s 2 year warranty on parts. Beyond that, consider the many ways that piping can corrode, breakdown and fail that we have discussed in this article and the advances in new technology that have been designed to answer those issues.  We are confident in representing the quality and durability of CPVC piping.  The founders of our company have been involved in re-piping in this area with CPVC since the early 1980s and have never had to re-do even one.

What Is a Re-Pipe?
by Steven Billa