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LEAD PIPE REPLACEMENT

LEAD PIPE REPLACEMENT
Lead pipes as you may know can have many negative effects on the home and the body. These pipes were used in Toronto homes up until the 1950s. But if your home was built after that, you may not be in the clear yet. Up until the 1990s, lead was used to fuse and solder pipes together. This is bad news for some homeowners. Not to worry, Toronto has introduced a program in order to help homeowners with lead pipes. Want to know if you have lead pipes, why lead pipes are so bad, more about the replacement program in Toronto, and what you can do? Keep reading to find out.

How do you know if you have lead pipes?

While some pipes are visible to the naked eye, others are not. Some home lead pipes can be identified very easily within the home, like under the sink for example. Where others you may have to look harder for, like the pipe connecting the city waterline to your home.
  1. Lead pipes are distinguishable by their colour.  A lead pipe is a dull grey on the outside  (assuming that the pipe has not been painted).  
  2. Once scraped with a coin, screwdriver or other object, a lead pipe will be a very shiny silver underneath.  
  3. Worth mentioning as well, lead pipes often have an uneven diameter.  
  4. If your pipe is brown or reddish, you most likely have copper pipes.
  5. If your pipe is silver and you can stick a magnet to it, you are working with steel.

Don’t immediately think you are lead free if you can’t see the lead, there is always a possibility that only part of your line was replaced while the service line is still lead.  To figure this out, you can contact the city to find out what kind of information they have on your pipes.  If you still want to be sure, get your water tested or have a plumber come in and survey the pipes.

If you are looking to check the solder of your pipes for lead, you can use the scraping method to visually check for any traces of lead.  Again some solders are not all lead, some are made from tin as well.  That being said, even trace amounts of lead can be harmful.

The final culprit that could be causing lead in your water is your taps.  Most taps are made of brass, an alloy that generally does not contain lead; however, some brass compounds do have up to 8% lead.  To be sure your plumbing system doesn’t have lead, the easiest thing to do is get your water tested, and have a licenced plumber confirm that you indeed do have lead in your pipes.

Risk factors for lead pipes:

The biggest risk factor that could point to lead pipes is home age.  Nearly every home built before the 1950s had lead pipes.  If you live in an older home, and haven’t had anything changed plumbing wise, it is time.  Especially seeing as pipe corrosion only gets worse over time it is definitely worth checking out.

Why are lead pipes bad?

Lead pipes come with a whole bunch of problems ranging from health to home. Choosing not to replace your home’s lead pipes can be extremely dangerous and come with various unpleasant effects.

Health vs Home

Health wise, lead in drinking water has been recognized as most likely being a carcinogen. This means if you have ample exposure, your risk for developing cancer goes up as well. That isn’t the only concern with lead pipes though. Lead has been shown to be linked with high blood pressure, reduced cognition, neurodevelopmental defects in children, and more. Perhaps most concerning is that children with high lead consumption perform worse on IQ tests than those not exposed. But your health is not the only concern with lead.

Lead pipes have been known to corrode much easier than say a non corrosive material like plastic. Over time this means the lead will weaken, begin to leak, and even break causing structural damage to the home, that could be irreversible.

The government of Canada along with the City of Toronto have recognized lead pipes as being an issue and have put programs in place accordingly.

Lead Pipe Replacement Toronto

Toronto, in recognizing that lead pipes are a problem has come up with a solution for the city.  A program that will cover some of the costs associated with lead pipe removal.  The city provides homeowners with two different options and steps to follow accordingly.  
  1. For both options, the very first step is to confirm that yes indeed your home does have lead piping.  The way the City of Toronto recommends you confirm is by calling a licensed plumber.  
  2. The second step is where you receive a choice.
    • a) Call city contractor to have them replace city pipe at the same time as your in home pipes
      b) Call an independent plumber to first fix your side of the pipes (in your home) then call a city contractor to remove the city portion of the piping.

      For both of these options, you will need to fill out an application form and mail it into the city.  The application process can take up to three weeks to complete.  If you are really worried about your pipes, the second option may be more what you lean towards, as you do not have to wait for your application to go through before you can work with a plumber to take out lead pipes in your home.
  3. Once your application is submitted, you will wait to receive a letter in the mail confirming whether or not the city portion of your pipes is lead, if it is, included in the mail will be a filter that can be used immediately until a plumber can take out the city portion.
  4. The city will cover the cost of any sod, driveway and the city pipe removal, however you will be responsible for your own personal pipes.

Costs

The costs associated with removing lead from your pipes can vary.  A job where the entire plumbing system needs to be removed and replaced is much more expensive than say a 6m section of pipe.  Many plumbing companies Rooter Team included offer free quotes when it comes to replacing piping.  Many of these quotes are far less expensive than a city plumber would be able to provide.  When deciding between a city plumber and an independent you must take into consideration time and cost.  The cost of an independent may be lower, but then you have plumbers coming at two different times, this may not be an issue for you, but it is always best to survey all your options before jumping to a conclusion.

Next Steps

Once your pipes have been replaced, you will enjoy peace of mind knowing that you, your home, and your family are safe from any of the nasty side effects that come with drinking from lead pipes. But in the meantime, and before you can get any results back, it isn’t a bad idea to take a look at investing in a water filter. In some lead pipe cases you can change the lead portions yourself with an extra part from Lowes, a little bit of handiwork, and a lot of patience.

Conclusion

The bottom line is if you think that you could have lead pipes in your home, get a plumber to have a look and have your water tested.  It is much better to be safe than sorry when it comes to your home’s plumbing.  With the number of resources provided by plumbing services along with the city, there will be a method that suits you.  Take your time and don’t be afraid to reach out and ask questions.  The knowledgeable Rooter team is here to answer any questions you may have and solve problems accordingly.

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