Your home's main water line probably isn't something you spend much time considering. This critical pipe carries water to your home from the municipal supply, but it should be well-buried and generally safely out of harm's way. Unfortunately, water mains can and do fail, and the results can range from contaminated water to badly flooded yards.
Like any piece of exterior plumbing, there are many unique challenges involved in dealing with a water line. Accessing the line almost always requires digging, and parts of the pipe may run under property belonging to your neighbors. These issues can make installing a new line a costly affair, so when is this a job that you should seriously consider?
Recognizing Fatal Water Line Issues
Recognizing the signs of serious trouble with your water main is the first step to determining the best long-term solution. A flooded yard is one of the most obvious signs you can experience, but failures aren't always this dramatic. If you notice an area of your lawn flooding even when the weather is dry, you should immediately contact a plumber.
If your water main has a small break or crack, then the initial problems may be more subtle. Common symptoms include a noticeable hissing from your faucets or discolored water. These issues arise because air, soil, and other contaminants can enter the water main, making their way into your plumbing. If an increase in your water bill accompanies these problems, that's a sure sign of trouble.
Can You Fix It?
Once you know you have a water main problem, you'll need a plumber to evaluate the pipe and determine the severity of the issue. Unfortunately, a significant part of the cost involved in any water main work is the labor required to excavate the existing line. Your plumber will usually need to perform at least some trenching to investigate the extent of the damage.
While you may be able to repair relatively minor damage, you'll often need to at least consider installing a new water line. Older lines may be especially susceptible to repeated failures, so repairing one problem might just lead to more in the future. In these cases, replacing the pipe will be more cost-effective than repeatedly digging up your lawn.
Likewise, older pipes may use materials that are no longer supported or safe. For example, keeping a damaged lead water pipe in place rarely makes sense from a cost or safety perspective. In these cases, installing a new water line is the best way to restore clean water to your home while avoiding the possibility of future repairs.
For more information about water line installation after your old line has failed, contact a local plumber.