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Replace Your Main Water Pipe in Six Easy Steps

Two signs that you may need to replace the supply line from the water main to your house:

  • You are experiencing loss of water pressure, or
  • Your front lawn has turned into a swamp

Older homes often have galvanized iron water lines, which will corrode inside over time, causing loss of water pressure. In a worst-case scenario, this corrosion will cause the pipe to start leaking, flooding your lawn and driving your water bill to astronomical heights. You can hire a plumber to replace your water supply pipe (you may need to take out a loan), but if you are reasonably handy and can recruit a friend or neighbor to spend a Saturday helping you, you can do it yourself and save big bucks. Here's how.

  1. Excavate around the water main at the street and at the place where the water pipe connects to the house. You can plot the path of the supply pipe from there. You will need to connect these two excavations with a trench down to the level of the existing pipe, cutting the sod and laying it aside. To make a trench a sidewalk, attach a rigid piece of pipe to a garden hose and use it as a water-powered drill
  2. Calculate how much new pipe you will need, along with any fittings and connectors. Use PVC Schedule 40 pipe, and if the old galvanized pipe was ¾" in diameter, consider upgrading to 1" PVC. Purchase the materials you need at your local hardware or home improvements store, and remember the PVC glue and primer.
  3. You can leave the old pipe in the ground. The trench should be deep enough to prevent freezing, but you may want to wrap the new PVC pipe in insulating tape to be safe. By all means use the insulating tape anywhere the new pipe is exposed.
  4. Shut off the water at the main. Disconnect the old pipe at both ends. You will probably get water in your trench as the water stored in the house pipes drains out.
  5. Lay the new PVC pipe in the trench, using connectors and PVC glue between each length of pipe. Attach the pipe to the main and the house with the new fittings.
  6. Turn on water at the main and check for leaks. If all is well, you can now fill in the trench and replace any sod you had to remove.

Now pour yourself and your helper a cold beverage and toast your new, leak-proof water line.