Must we replace old waste pipes?

Originally Posted By: Pamela Perry
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I’ve just purchased a 70-year old home with original water (galvanized steel and cast iron) and waste (galvanized steel) pipes. My home inspector recommended replacing both the water and waste pipes. We plan to re-pipe the house as necessary prior to moving into it, since we’re also gut-renovating the 2 bathrooms. I had 2 reputable and recommended plumbers provide estimates to me of the cost of re-piping the house. Plumber A suggested that we replace water and waste pipes. Plumber B suggested we replace only water pipes and not waste pipes, on the basis that waste pipes don’t have standing water and therefore aren’t as prone to build-up and corrosion. Plumber A’s estimate is $10,000 higher than Plumber B’s. We’re feeling like “poor” new homeowners and want to save money, however, we’d like to do the right thing. Do you think that replacement of waste pipes in a 2000 square foot home accounts for the $10K difference between these bids? Do we need to replace all of the waste pipes? Can we replace waste pipes just from the new bathroom fixtures to the existing vertical stacks? What if we just replaced the horizontal waste pipe in the basement? I’d love some advice!!

Originally Posted By: jedwards
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First, the disclaimers-- I'm a home inspector, *not* a plumbing contractor, nor do I have knowledge of typical plumbing repair costs in your area. That said...

Replacing the old galvanized waste pipes certainly wouldn't be a bad thing in general; for whether they really *need* replacing, you have to rely on the advice of the contractors you consult, including the home inspector. It's not unusual for a home inspector (me included) to recommend replacement of all old galvanized pipe as a matter of course, if for no reason other than to avoid liability, regardless of whether the pipes are really in need of replacement-- many HI's prefer to err on the side of caution. After all, we HI's (or most plumbers, for that matter) aren't going to disconnect the pipes to examine their interior, or give an estimate of how much more useful life they have. My personal opinion is that vent stacks aren't an immediate concern just because they're galvanized pipe, if there's no indication of present or impending failure.

$10K *seems* awfully high as an upcharge to replace waste pipes if you're already replacing supply pipes, but I'm not in the business of giving estimates, and again, I don't know your market. My best advice would be to gather a few other recommendations and estimates and then decide. Sorry to be so vague, but that is, unfortunately, the nature of this beast. Best of luck to you.

John Edwards
Assurance South, LLC home page
Pre-Paid Legal Services

Originally Posted By: Brian A. Goodman
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I hate speaking to this kind of thing sight unseen, but I have to agree with John that 10 grand sounds out of line for just adding the waste pipes to the job. Get more estimates, you should start to see some trends to the numbers.

Just out of curiousity...
A. Is this house on a slab (doesn't sound like it)?
B. How many bathrooms are there?
C. Is most of the plumbing grouped in one area, or spread around?

Originally Posted By: ecrofutt
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Before spending that much money on replacing the underground waste pipes, I’d sugget you invest in a video inspection of the interior of the pipes.

There are several companies around that will run a video camera up or down the pipe so you can see the actual conditons inside the pipe.

Usually inexpensive compared to the costs you are quoting to replace the pipe sight unseen.

In Central Kentucky, you can get these types of inspections for $200.00 or less depending on length. Some companies may even offer a no cost video inspection because it gets their foot in the door on bidding to replace it.

In some cases, (I don't know for sure, but it may not be possible with galvanized steel) you can use pipe bursting technology to replace the pipe without having to dig up the ground. (Used mostly with the old clay tiles (Orangeburg) pipe.)

Good Luck.

Erby Crofutt
B4U Close Home Inspections
Georgetown, Kentucky

Originally Posted By: Pamela Perry
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Thank you all for your input!