Repiping a House – Everything You Should Know
Homeowners are always going to face plumbing issues. It’s inevitable. But sometimes, a simple repair isn’t enough — you need to have your entire home repiped. A complete home repipe sounds like a huge job, but you don’t need to be intimidated. In this guide, we’ll go over the entire process — from determining if you need a repipe, to choosing a plumber and what pipe materials to consider.
A little disclaimer: unless you have real-world, professional plumbing experience, repiping is not a do-it-yourself job. Repiping a house involves demolition, plumbing, reconstruction, and in some cases, using an open flame. Don’t attempt to do any of this yourself.
How Do I Know If I Need To Repipe My House?
A complete house repipe is a considerable project to take on. It’s a significant investment in both time and money. But in many cases, having your old pipes replaced is recommended or even unavoidable. Here are some reasons you might need to repipe your house:
- You are constantly paying for plumbing work and repairs. A new pipe network can get rid of lingering plumbing issues. Having a brand-new system in place will help you avoid having to do any further repairs for many years down the road.
- Your house has lead pipes. Lead pipes are only a concern in very old homes (think 1920’s or earlier). But believe it or not, there are still some houses out there with lead pipes. Lead presents some serious potential health risks.
- Your house has galvanized steel pipes. Galvanized steel was a staple in piping in American homes before World War II. The problem with galvanized pipes is that after a certain number of years they can become corroded. Once corrosion starts building up in these pipes, water flow is restricted and sediment can end up in your drinking water.
- You’re looking to do a remodel. If you’re thinking about installing new bathroom or other plumbing fixtures, replacing them and doing a repipe at the same time can save you time and money.
What Is Involved In Repiping A House?
Repiping an entire house is a big job. After all, you’re talking about replacing cold and hot water supply pipes as well as waste drainage pipes. For many homeowners, a complete house repipe might be one of the biggest renovations they ever do. Here’s a breakdown of the process:
Before Any Work Is Done
The first step is to get an inspection and an estimate. You can shop around during this phase as many plumbing companies will offer a free estimate for a complete repipe. They will also let you know if you should go for a small repair, repipe a single section, or do a complete repipe of your entire house.
If you decide to go with a whole house repipe, your plumber may have to secure a work permit from the local government. Next, the repiping installers will decide on the best materials to work with. This can include copper, pex or CPVC piping.
Getting To Work
The plumbers will take great care to protect your furniture and other belongings, covering all work areas in plastic. During the construction process, your home’s water service will need to be temporarily shut off. Good plumbers will be able to do most of the work that requires water shut off during the day, so your evening routines shouldn’t be affected.
Professional plumbers have special tools that allow them to pinpoint the exact locations of pipes behind your walls. Holes are cut into your drywall to allow access to your home’s pipes. After the new pipes are installed, the repiping installers will patch up the drywall and repaint to restore your home to its previous condition.
How Long Does Repiping A House Take?
A complete repipe can take anywhere from a few days up to a week. Smaller homes can be repiped in as little as two days, while large homes with multiple bathrooms can take much longer.
However, it’s important to note that you won’t necessarily be unable to use your plumbing during that entire time. Most of the work involves building the new plumbing network alongside the existing pipes. The only time you’ll be without water is when they are changing over from the old system to the new one.
How Much Does Repiping A House Cost?
The cost for repiping an entire house varies depending on a variety of factors. According to Home Advisor, the project can range from $1500 – $15000. Costs depend on the size of the house and its plumbing network and the type of piping installed. If you need to get any building permits, you’ll need to factor in the costs of those as well.
These are the most expensive pipes, with costs around $1-$3 per foot. Also keep in mind that copper is a commodity, so its price can fluctuate day-to-day.
CPVC is cheaper than copper pipes and is often the preferred material for renovations. Costs for CPVC piping start at around $0.40 per foot.
PEX pipes, which are the newest types of pipes used in home plumbing, are even cheaper than CPVC. PEX pipes can go for as little as $0.30 per foot.
The removal of the older pipes is also something to consider. Many homeowners choose to keep the old, unused steel pipes behind the walls. Others may decide to have them removed. Expect an additional fee if you have your plumbing company extract the old pipes.
How To Hire The Right Plumber
Since repiping is such a huge and critical job, it’s important to hire the right plumber. You don’t want to end up with someone who cuts corners and ends up costing you more money down the road. Look for a plumber or plumbing company that:
- Is fully licensed and has proof of insurance.
- Has plenty of quality references and online reviews.
- Has been in business for many years. You don’t want your home to be the place where a new plumber gets their practice.
- Provides a full, detailed estimate including labor costs, material costs, and miscellaneous expenses (permits, inspections, etc.).
- Offers a guarantee or warranty for their work.
Let’s Talk Pipes: PEX vs. Copper vs. CPVC
One of the big decisions you and your plumber will face before you repipe your house is what kind of material to use. Today there are basically three options – copper, CPVC, and PEX – and each comes with its own advantages and drawbacks. Many plumbers have their own preference and will almost always recommend going with their favorite building material.
Getting a good understanding of each type of pipe will help make an informed decision. If you really like the sound of PEX pipes, for example, you might want to seek out a certified plumber who specializes in PEX repiping.
Copper pipes is the oldest piping system currently in use. Many plumbers and builders swear by copper pipes because they’re a tried and true material. It’s considered the gold standard in home plumbing systems, and they can last 75-100 years. There’s been a trend lately in the industry to use alternative materials like PEX and CPVC in new constructions and remodels.
- Are more durable and longer-lasting than PEX pipes
- Won’t corrode like galvanized steel pipes
- Don’t harbor bacteria or other contaminants
- Are temperature resistant
- Are able to withstand shock from earthquakes
- Smaller than CPVC pipes
- Has been used for decades and is a proven, reliable pipe material
- Copper pipes can burst or leak if they freeze during the winter
- Are more expensive than PEX pipe
- Since the price of copper is constantly in flux, the cost of copper piping can vary wildly
- Are vulnerable to acidic water, potentially leading to pinhole leaks.
- Need to be insulated.
- Are generally louder than PEX pipes. Water hammer is a common complaint with copper pipes.
- Require larger sections of drywall to be removed during installation.
- Require soldering with an open flame, which could be potentially hazardous to an existing home.
CPVC (Chlorinated polyvinyl chloride) Pipes
CPVC pipes are very common in repipes and remodels. They started showing up on the market in the 1960’s and have been steadily gaining in popularity ever since. It’s easier to work with than copper pipes and is well suited for installation in an existing structure. They might not last as long as copper pipes, but they should give you at least 50 years of solid plumbing.
- Chlorinated PVC pipes are safe for transporting drinking water.
- Can be used to transport hot water
- A cheaper alternative to copper pipes.
- Are resistant to acidity and other chemicals in water.
- More expensive than PVC pipes, but has more versatility.
- Can crack during earthquakes, something to consider if you live in earthquake-prone areas.
PEX (Cross-linked polyethylene) Pipes
PEX is the newest piping material currently in use. It started being used in new construction in Europe before gaining a foothold in the United States in the late 90’s and early 2,000’s. PEX is versatile, flexible and easy to work with, making it a favorite for modern day builders. But since PEX is so new on the market, not much is known about how long a PEX plumbing system will last.
- More cost-effective than copper pipes
- Flexible material means its quieter than copper pipes
- Flexibility makes PEX pipes easier to install, as they can be fed around bends in walls
- Flexibility also eliminates the need for joint fittings, which can be a common source of leaks
- Environmentally friendly
- Less likely to crack or burst during freezing conditions
- Naturally insulated, which helps against thermal loss
- Great option if your home is built on a concrete slab foundation
- Can be installed using smaller openings in drywall due to its flexibility
- Less durable than copper pipes
- Relatively new to the plumbing scene; the long-term prospects of PEX piping are still unknown
- Will degrade in as little as 30 days if exposed to sunlight
Consider Other Plumbing Upgrades
If you’ve been thinking about doing some upgrades or other plumbing renovations, getting them done while you’re having your home repiped might be a good move. Since the piping in the walls and around fixtures will be exposed, you could save money by having your upgrades done now. Here are a few upgrades to consider:
Tankless Water Heater
Tankless water heaters give you hot water on demand. Imagine having nonstop hot water. They can last up to three times longer than traditional storage tank water heaters. In addition to their longer life, they also take up far less space than regular water heaters. Since they heat water as it passes through, they’re able to deliver hot water quicker without the delay you get from storage tank water heaters (which have to heat up 30-50 gallons of water at a time).
Flo by Moen Smart Water Shutoff
If you’re repiping your house because your old pipes are leaking and wasting water, you should consider installing a smart water device in your new plumbing network. The Flo by Moen Smart Water Shutoff can help you keep your new pipes intact by alerting you to pressure loss and unusual flow activity in real-time to detect leaks or areas of concern in the plumbing system. And, if something goes wrong while you’re away, the Smart Water Shutoff can automatically shut off your home's water in just 5 seconds, saving your home from thousands of dollars worth of damage.
For the more environmentally conscious homeowners, repiping is a great time to upgrade your home with low-flow fixtures. Newer models of shower heads, faucets and toilets all use less water which can increase the value of your home and lower your water bill. A home fitted with low-flow fixtures can save thousands of gallons of water every year.
Repiping doesn’t have to be an overwhelming process. Understanding the work that is done and the different materials used will help you make the right decision when it comes to repiping your home. Having your home repiped is a big financial investment, but once you have it done you’ll have a reliable plumbing network that will last you the rest of your life.