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Question DetailsAsked on 3/22/2017

I have moved into a house where the water has not been ran in 15 years. What needs to be done? I have rust coming

I need to know if I need new pipes installed

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3 Answers


1,See if you can catch it.LoL

2,Run the outside hosecock until the water runs clear.Then the rest of the fixtures.

3,You can have the water tested with your local Water Department.

4,Check with your neighbor see if they have the same problem.

5, If you have a Fire Hydrant outside or close by, you can ask your local Fire Dept to Flush the line out.( Have Donuts for the people who keep us safe. )

6, Pex or Copper flushing lines should work.

7, If you have galvinezed pipes then its time to change pipes.

8, Do not flush toilet as this can cause the Ballcock to get cloged with particles and it will not shut off, but run in the middle of the night .

Source: Lic Master Plumber.

Answered 3 years ago by MiaMat


Other response is good - it did not mention PVC/CPVC also probably fine after flushing.

Galvanized - commonly 15 years of sitting it would be shot, but depending on how old the pipes are and whether the water is corrosive or acidic or not, might be OK - especially if over about 40-50 years old because it might be galvanized iron rather than galvanized steel, so might lat 100 years or more in that case. I would open up a couple of places and look for how much corrosion there is, and also how filled they are with mineral or algae buildup (which might predate the 15 years timeframe).

Oh - if brass piping (rare after about 1955-1960) same issues as copper but generally a lot more durable and long-lived,but check for same issue - usually issues will be at connections.

Though I am not confident I agree on simply flushing being enough with pex or copper pipes - I would also be doing a careful inspection of all visible pipe and fittings for corrosion and leakage. Pex - many brands - gets pretty brittle over time, in addition to the many lots and brands which were defective, so depending on your brand it might crack and break if you flex it a bit - which would be an indication you should replace it.

If continuous polybutylene or similar brittle/stiff plastic tubing (not reinforced poly which is generally "soft" to the touch and flexible, so I am talking smooth black or colored tubing with compression fittings) and over about 10 years old I would assume it is going to fail - not from the sitting for 15 years, but just because so much of it was inherently defective or made with the wrong type of plastic so it fails after a decade or so.

Copper pipe with a lot of bloom on the outside (green surface stain or light green surface corrosion) would be suspect, though if in a real humid/damp area maybe not. Some houses in humid or seashore areas and in damp crawlspaces have terrible looking external bloom yet nary a leak. Look for "boils" or "blisters" or "scale" of green or blue-green on the outside, or places with blisters or streaks of white buildup indicating a pinhole which has healed itself but is still indication of corrosion in the pipe. I take a piece of 200 grit emery cloth or silicon carbide sandpaper or a piece of steel wool and rub a few of those - if you get down to clean bare copper pipe in a few strokes then is just external corrosion, but if there is a central pit or hole into the pipe (which may or may not start leaking/spraying) then you have corrosion from the inside out, and a lot of them would indicsate the piping is probably nearing its life. (White / yellowish buildup from minor leaks at threaded fittings you may just be able to clean up with steel wool and reseal.)

Simplest test with copper pipe - flush and drain, then disconnect a few fitting and look inside the pipe with a good flashlight to see if you have heavy corrosion or buildup on the inside, because not only can it commonly corrode badly as the water goes stagnant in the lines, but the stagnant water commonly forms sulfur compounds that can eat away at the pipe, leaving it heavily pitted and thin on the inside. Depends a lot on your local water chemistry.

The final decision, assuming you do not have leaks after you pressure it up and flush it, might rest on how valuable or high-end the furnishings and finishes or the amount of remodel to be done. You might try using it and see how many leaks you get - if more than one every year or two or getting pipe splits (probably from water having frozen in the pipes), most people would get fed up and replace the piping. OF course, if the pipes has water in them (as opposed to having been drained out) more chance of damage, especially if house was not heated and got below freezing in the winter.

On the flushing - as other comment says, start with exterior faucets and sprinkler system for the flushing (to flush the incoming line) and check your main shutoff valve (and meter if you have one) - may need to replace that valve because it likely is frozen up or will not entirely shut off now. You want to be sure your main shutoff works before you start testing fixtures and such. Then drain and flush water heater - I would not put new one in until water flushing is completein house - so you don't get crud into a new one.

Then run 15 minutes full flow in all faucets (best with 2 people doing this - one testing, one running around listening and looking for leaks) - start with everything open (making sure you are not having a sewer backup from the high flow - should not cause a problem unless there is a blocked sewer line, like from corroded line or root growth into the line over the years), then cut down to only one fully open at a time - that clears the main feeder pipes with maximum flow, then with the single faucet flow maximizes flow through the individual branches. And test all shutoffs under sinks and such for function.

One hint to avoid significant water damage if you spring a leak or two - between individual faucet tests, listen with ear to the faucet or pipes listening for leakage sounds when everything (including any pumps or fans) are off.

Assume that one or more faucets and shutoff valves for them may leak or fail to shut off all the way, so they may need rebuilding of the internal parts, or replacement.

Flex tubing under sinks may be suspect too - I would just replace any copper tubing to faucets, dishwasher, reefer that you can if it does not mean replacing the faucet too (sometimes the faucet does not have a connecting fitting, just long tails of tubing to connect to the shutoff valve, so your call whether to replace entire faucet in that case).

Dishwasher, clothes washer, other water-consuming or heating appliances should NOT be run until the lines are disconnected from them and flushed clean as part of the whole-house flushing - then connect the appliances after the water is flowing clean.

Toilet - best to disconnect flex tubing at tank and flush the pipe out there first, then reconnect and use toilet after only clean water is flowing - though sounds like you may already be using all the fixtures.

Well/lines from well pump and lines from street - the flushing out may solve the problem, or possibly (especially if galvanized steel, usually on house from about 1970's/1980's and before) you could have corrosion issue or heavy buildup of iron or manganese algae in there which will restrict flow. Could check at a few fittings (usually fittings block up the worst) or just wait and see what happens.

Wells sometimes will flush themselves clean, commonly after 15 years pump would need replacement and screen commonly needs an acid treatment to remove the rust issue - wpould need to be tested/checked by a Well and Pump contractor.

Pressure regulating and backflow preventer likely shot or rusted up.

Water heater I would assume is trashed - ditto to overpressure/overtemp relief valves on any water heating appliance.

Boiler would need to be checked and flushed good, and the pump checked - some can tolerate sitting like that (especially solid cast iron boilers), others and in corrosive water environments could be an issue, but other than replacing out of hand about all you can do is flush then pressure test - of course where leakage would go and how much damage it would cause affect that decision. Ditto to steam/hydronic circulating lines - you can flush and cross your fingers, or possibly have plumber disconnect from low-pressure boiler and pressure test the radiators and lines to appropriate static pressure test pressure for your type of system (commonly 30-40 psi versus the around 15-20 psi they commonly operate at) to find leaks before they cause long-term rot issues.

Don't forget to test sump pump and sewage grinding / lift pumps if any - I would have the sumps cleaned FIRST before using them if possible. Might work, might very well be frozen up with corrosion.

Note on water flushing/testing - traps may have plugged up as they dried out, so be careful when first running water in sinks. Also, if metal drain piping, the traps is commonly the first place they rust out, so watch for that when you first fill them - you can run a bit of water to fill the trap, then use stethoscope to listen for sound of drips under shower/tub - under accessible sinks use paper towel to wipe around for wetness. Under-sink drain pipes with threaded connections (like plastic pipe) may have loosed up a bit at the seals too - so may need a bit of judicious tightening. If metal drain pipe, before messing with fittings soak with penetrating oil well for a couple of hours - and be prepared for it to break, because after that much sit time they may well be so corroded up they willnot turn - just snap.

After water is flushed through water supply lines, they should be treated with chlorine to disinfect them - plumber can treat with hypochlorate or similar product. Whether you have to disinfect the supply line from street or not depends on local code - actually if this house if for your personal use probably household lines do not haveto be disinfected by law - but a good idea. Ditto to having water tested if coming from a well, to be sure there is not nasty stuff in the groundwater or dropped into the well - dead animals, sewage leakage from nearby leach fields, chemicals or fertilizers, etc.

Tough call whether you pre-emptively redo the piping or not. If this is a major remodel case with a lot of drywall being torn out, new flooring, etc anyway - I would definitely replace the water supply lines - not the sewer lines unless there is cause to work on them - yuou could get them routed out and a camera run for probably under $500 (all the way top street/septic tank) to inspect their condition. Might be similar consideration if this is being outfitted as a rental owned by you and you do not want a risk of major work being needed in the near future. Whether remodel/ungrade costs are being financed with a mortgage or out of pocket might affect the issue to - if coverable under a mortgage might be safer to do now if you cannot foot the several thousand to as much as ten thousand $ potential bill for repiping (for typical 1500-3000 SF range house) out of pocket if needed in the future. Ditto consideration if a vacation home that will be vacant a lot so any water leaks might not be detected for some time so could cause a lot of rot and mold issues if can run for weeks without detection. Ditto consideration if a home that will be idle a lot and could freeze in the winter if there is a power failure - old lines would be more prone to rupture in that case.

Other things - electrical panels (all meter, main breaker, disconnect, distribution/breaker panels) should be blown out with compressed air to remove insect/vermin bodies/nests/webs.

Check/blow out all fans (bathroom, kitchen, whole-house, attic) - for dusting up, vermin nesting in the vents, bearings frozen up.

Check crawlspace, basement, attic for leakage signs every day or two for first week or two, because after seals and such has been rewetted (if it was drained) they may leak after awhile - daily listening at a pipe/faucet when other noise sources is off would be a good idea too - you can hear a VERY small water pipe leak that way.

If septic system was not pumped before it was shut up, may need to have it pumped - let contractor know it has sat for 15 years - may need to bring a pressure washer to break up the solids if they went dry over the period, because they can really cake up in that case.

Check crawlspaces and attic and fireplace/chimney and such for signs of insects, vermin, bird nests etc.

HVAC systems should be serviced / inspected before use - including checking that roof caps are intact and not rusted out and no nests in flues. Ditto to fireplace rain cap. Furnace/boiler might have survived depending on enfironmental factors - would be a rare A/C which could survive that unless it was winterized first, and definitely should be checked for refrigerant leakage because a cold start with leaked out refrigerant will toast it in quick order.

Answered 3 years ago by LCD



This is James in Member Care. I'm happy to help!

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Answered 3 years ago by Member Services

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