Wednesday, November 11, 2015

How to fix that Galvanized leak under the house if you don't have the million bucks the plumber wants...

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PLUMBING - It's what nightmares are made of.

My relatives live in "Pier  & Beam" homes that are 60-90 years old.
Back then, Galvanized plumbing ruled - Basically iron pipe with a zinc coating.
Well, it doesn't last forever as I have found out this week.
My mother-in-law lost hot water pressure and called a plumber out. He opened the tiny
trap door in a closet to look under the house where 6 inches of a new lake had formed.
"You've got a leak" he said unhelpfully, followed by 10 minutes of
technical jargon ending in the only thing she could understand - $4000. Why so much?
Once a galvanized pipe system reaches the end of it's life, bad things start to happen throughout.
Fixing a single leak might give you just a week or several years before the next one. Unpredictable
Plumbers know this and try to encourage you to have them replace the whole system
with more modern copper or even the newer PEX flexible plastic pipes. You'll expect a warranty and they
cannot risk having you call them over and over again to fix new leaks. They also like the big money.

I don't have a million dollars! Can I just fix this leak with more galvanized?

Yes you can! Hardware stores still sell the stuff - It's cheap and plentiful.

DON'T USE ONE OF THESE Temporary pipe fixes BTW

They just don't work very well but might give you a
smaller leak to get you by until you can fix it properly


Reasons why you shouldn't fix it are:

1) It is quite hard GETTING THESE PIPES APART after 60 years of being in the ground - yes, they often bury it to protect the pipes
from freezing.
2) Disturbing the pipes can cause more leaks!
3) Stuff inside the pipe can be dislodged and head straight for your faucets where it clogs them up.

Reasons why you should fix it this way are:

1) It is REALLY cheap - My mother in laws repair was about $16 (plumbers "replace everything" was more than $4,000)
2) Gives you a chance to save up for the whole system repair once the leaks get frequent.
3) Your plumber already drives a Lamborghini.


You need; 2 really BIG pipe wrenches (mine are 18"), some PB Blaster or similar "rust eating" spray, and arms like tree-trunks.
Other tools such as hacksaws, thread tape beer, and a willing assistants are useful too.

Galvanized pipes are joined together using threads that taper - the more you screw them in - the tighter they get ("pipe threads")
The pipes come in several thicknesses with 1/2 inch and 3/4 inch being pretty common. The sizes seem to refer to the INSIDE diameter
though - fooled me for a while. A 1/2 pipe is about 3/4 in diameter while a 3/4 pipe is about an inch thick and so on.
Replacing a bad pipe is a bit mathematical.
Measure the pipe from one fitting to the other - then find 2 pieces (or more) at the store that equal this length MINUS about 2 inches.
The 2 inches are for the UNION - a special slip joint that allows 2 pieces of pipe to be joined together.

HACKSAW the bad bit of pipe out, leaving 6 inches or so left in the fittings.
SPRAY the join(s) with the PB Blaster or same.
WAIT Make cup of tea or drink beer.
After a week or so (just kidding - about 20 min should do it)
Put one PIPE WRENCH on the short bit of pipe near the fitting and the other, in opposition, on the fitting.

 PULL LIKE HECK - these pipe are VERY TIGHT. Be careful to NOT slip. No go? More spray, more tea, repeat.


More to follow.....

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