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Question DetailsAsked on 10/11/2016

life of a residuntal water line

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Varies widely based on soil chemistry and whether there is groundwater flowing around/along the line, and of course on any soil movements. In bad cases they can go out (with metal lines) in a couple of decades, and of course soil movements can break any line. And of course, each manufacturer or manufacturer's association gives numbers that look good for their particular product.

Generally, barring soil movements, lead and ductile and cast iron and concrete water lines (meaning generally pre-80's for these types in residential services) last generally at leat 50 and commonly well over a hundred years and some lead and cast iron and concrete lines have been in use for hundreds of years. Asbestos and other fiber-asphalt lines (no longer used in US) also generally near a century and sometimes far more. Copper typically is figured as generally good (in most areas) for 40-50 years and commonly goes to 60-75 or more, especially with the older much thicker copper. Galvanized steel generally 20-60 years against external corrosion but can reach 100+ in non-corrosive soils - it more normally goes in 20-40 years from internal corrosion or plugging from iron or manganese or lime buildup. But steel pipe is not considered likely to exceed a service life of 30-40 years in normal areas, and is rarely used these days in residential service other than for high-pressure pump service (like a high lift from well to house) and sometimes for buried irrigation piping, and even then plastic is normal for those. Plastic coil tubing from pre-1995-2000 or so typically 15-30 years by the record - the early stuff had a lot of problems, especially butyl plastic and some early PVC/CPVC. Modern coil plastic should last more like 50 or so years, and stick PVC and similar soft plastics again 50-100 or more - there have been few aging failures of modern plastics so their expected life is somewhast indeterminate. HDPE stick or coil piping should last significantly longer - based on some 40 years of service to date, estimates are probably 200 or more years - and comes in coils up to 1000 feet long so in many cases intermediate joints are totally eliminated, and is commonly used in residential service lines. Cross-linked polyethylene (PEX and similar) is generally not designed for buried service but I have seen it used for that - manufacturers say 50+ years but I would not count on more than 20 or less and would not recommend its use - certainly not buried at least. Most normal for new installations is one of the vinyl chloride products - PVC, CPVC, etc. or one of the polyethylene coil tubings including HDPE but there are a half dozen formulations out there.

It would be a good idea to talk to a couple of plumbers if considering replacement, regarding what types of modern pipes they have had repair issues with in their particular area. And any issues with buildup of minerals in the pipe - which plastic is generally less susceptible to, and chlorinated plastics are generally the most resistant to if an algal growth issue.

These days, most residential service piping is plastic - PVC or HDPE or a variant, though a lot of copper coil tubing is still used in many areas. That choice depends on local soil conditions, and particularly on water chemistry and personal preferences - because in some areas copper corrodes too fast, but in other areas is liked because it does not have the plastic taste that accumulates in residential lines with plastic pipe (more so with HDPE than PVC or CPVC) during the many idle hours of a typical residential use day. In some areas HDPE is also preferred because they are pulling the line (trenchless installation) and HDPE is welded so no enlarged joints to constrain pulling it, and it is also much more resistant to puncture and cracking so it is used in some areas with sharp rocky soil (though all trench buried pipe should be bedded in sand).

Answered 3 years ago by LCD

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