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Replacing Lead Pipe

or Galvanized Pipe with Copper Pipe in Toronto

History of Residential Piping in Toronto

Toronto, like many places, has a history of evolving plumbing technology. Up till the second half of the 20th century, lead and galvanized steel were common materials in residential plumbing. Time and science has shown the problems with these piping materials, and the City of Toronto has undertaken to specifically address the problem of lead piping in residences.

<image: lead_service_pipe.jpg [link to photo attribution made as footnote]>

Lead Service Pipe Replacement

Lead Water Service Lines

Before 1970, and particularly before the 1950s, it was common in Toronto that piping running from the City’s water supply to the inside of homes was made of lead. As the realization grew that lead exposure generally presented a health hazard, steps were taken to reduce or eliminate the use of lead in many applications, including in paints, gasoline, and lead plumbing.

The City of Toronto then decided to undertake to replace lead pipe deployed in its water distribution system, and to work with homeowners to eliminate lead pipes in the home.

To this point, the main water distribution lines in the City of Toronto’s distribution system have been replaced, but lead water service and lead drain pipe remains in the last runs of the distribution system, and in older household water service connections.

To eliminate these remaining uses of lead piping, the City supports homeowners replacing lead water service lines, taking responsibility to replace lead piping outside the private property line, and assigning responsibility to the homeowner to replace lead piping inside the property line. As some older homes were also billed at a flat rate for water consumption, the City will coordinate in this work by also installing water metering for homes doing pipe replacement, generally reducing water costs for homeowners.

The City will usually schedule work within 12 weeks or so, and will coordinate with private contractors employed by the homeowner to work within the property line. Private contractors must be Toronto licensed to meet City requirements.

When replacing City water service lines, it makes sense to install or replace old water shutoff valves with new high quality valves at the same time the other work is being done.

Service Valve Diagram

Lead pipe will be replaced with copper pipe, possibly of a larger diameter to improve water flow to the home. While plastic piping exists that is useful for many applications, in the case of water service lines the acceptable replacement is copper, as that piping also serves as the channel for electrical grounding from the home’s electrical panel.

Galvanized Steel (Iron) Piping

Many older homes also had galvanized pipe installed internally. This galvanized plumbing, as it ages, presents risks of leakage (especially at the typical threaded connections), and flow constriction (as the inside diameter of galvanized steel pipe narrows with corrosion and calcification growing on the inside over time).

Galvanized piping in the home is the homeowner’s responsibility to replace, but the decision to do so is a good one, as the older galvanized pipe, aside from potentially leaking and reducing water pressure, can also stain sinks, tubs, and clothing with rust stains. Suitable replacements for galvanized steel pipe are either copper plumbing or plastic pipe, depending on the application. Addressing the fact that corrosion in the threaded joints of galvanized pipe are a particular weakness is handled either by threaded plastic joints or soldered copper connections.

Planning the Work

Preparing to replace obsolete piping is a job requiring assessing weaknesses and problems (poor piping, leaks, ineffective valves, and so forth) and then coordinating with a licensed plumber and the City of Toronto to manage the work with minimal disruption. Because the work can require pipe material assessment, excavation, opening walls and floors, and interruptions in water supply, planning and swift execution are essential. [Master Drain][] are your best choice for this work.


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