In North America alone, there are approximately 850 water main breaks each day. While the city of St. Louis is normally responsible for repairing water mains in the street, the water lines that run from the stop-box on your property to your home are your concern. Others, or those who are residing in unincorporated St. Louis County and select municipalities, take part in a program where their entire service line is covered.

When a water line has an issue, pipe corrosion is the leading cause. It is an unavoidable problem that comes with the passage of time. So when the inevitable occurs, what are the owners of the water lines to do? Should you fully replace the line or opt to attempt a repair of the existing line? This article will cover the important factors that will impact your decision and provide common options.

Important factors to consider

Here are the factors that you should consider when planning to replace or repair your water line:

  • Age of the waterline. The average lifespan of a water line is 50 years, so if your line is older than that, a full replacement is probably in order.
  • Material of the waterline. Older homes may have lead piping. If you find that your property has lead water pipes, we always recommend a full replacement with a safe alternative.
  • Past repairs. If the lines have ever been repaired previously, a full replacement is the best option. Once repaired, water lines are much more susceptible to further problems down the road.
  • Potential for future repairs. Again, this has a lot to do with if the pipes have ever been repaired previously. If you were not the first owner, we’d recommend being diligent in finding out if repairs have ever been made. Check municipal records.
  • Extent of the damage. If there is a small crack, a repair might do the job just fine. If the line has completely burst or suffers from extreme corrosion, replace the entire line.
  • Cost analysis. Knowing that repaired pipes are weaker and more prone to troubles in the future, you want to make sure that spending money on a repair job won’t be a complete waste. A general rule of thumb is that if the cost of doing the repair is 50 percent or more of the cost of a full replacement, choose to replace the line.

Your options

If a simple repair is not possible, there are two common methods of replacement:

  • Traditional trenching. The water line in its entirety is dug up, exposed and replaced.
  • Trenchless replacement.  A new, smaller pipe is inserted by machine throughout the entire length of your current line.

Those living in unincorporated St. Louis County and other municipalities are not responsible for most of the replacement costs for their water line. Property owners pay a small monthly fee on their water bill and are then covered against major issues. Make sure to check your municipality’s website for information regarding this program and your eligibility.

The professionals here at Bieg Plumbing are ready to assist you with your water line repair or replacement needs. With over 60 years of plumbing experience, you can rest assured knowing that the information and options that we provide are honest and knowledgeable.

As St. Louis residents have known for decades, when you’re out of luck, call in the red truck!


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