Your guide to water line repair and replacement

Water service repair and replacement for Baltimore area homes

A troubled water line needing repair or replacement creates frustrating problems in any home. Living with persistent leaks and low water pressure is not enjoyable. But you don't have to suffer from irritating plumbing problems.

C.A. Taciak & Sons has serviced water lines in Baltimore, Towson, and the surrounding Maryland areas since 1940, and this guide comes from our three generations of underground utility expertise. We hope it educates you on your home's plumbing and helps you choose the best options for your property.  

We understand that your house is your investment. If you are ready to begin your water service repair or replacement, call us. Please use this article as a resource to find out if a C.A. Taciak & Sons water line repair or replacement is right for you. In this thorough guide, you will find a lot of information. If you would prefer to jump to a specific topic, use the links below:

Water Lines and Materials | Causes of Damage | Repair vs. Replacement | Symptoms of Damage | Costs | Schedule a Consultation | FAQ

What is a water line?

A water line – or water service – is a pipe that carries water from the municipal water supply at the edge of your property into your home. These pipes work by harnessing pressure differences and, in residential homes, are typically 3/4″ to 1″ in diameter. Because a water line is under pressure, it can take almost any path from your municipal water service into your home. However, most water services run relatively straight from where it enters your property into your home.

Common components - water meters, valves, and shut offs

Water lines consist of more components than just pipes. Water meters, water meter vaults, exterior shut-offs, interior shut-offs, backflow devices, and pressure-reducing valves are also frequently part of the system. A combination of these different fittings is present in every home. The exact mix depends on the age of your house and its location, so we will go over each component to provide an overview of what everything does.

Water meters and shut offs

All municipalities use some sort of water meter to gauge how much water your household uses each month. Around Baltimore City and Baltimore County, the water meter is in an underground vault. In other areas, such as Harford County, the water meter may be inside your home.

This exterior "meter vault" contains a "meter yoke," which consists of an exterior shut-off valve and your water meter. This exterior shut-off valve cuts off the water supply from the street to your water line and, in turn, your home. Exterior shut-off valves often require special keys only available to plumbers and municipalities to turn them off.

On the other hand, the interior shut-off valve inside your home is usable by anyone. This smaller valve usually looks like a fitting with a straight handle or small wheel. By turning the handle or wheel in the proper direction, homeowners can shut off the water flowing inside their homes. Shutting off all the water inside your home can prevent more severe damage from leaking pipes or flooding during plumbing emergencies or while you are away.

Backflow prevention devices

Most modern water lines also contain a backflow prevention device and pressure-reducing or regulating valve. A backflow prevention device is a valve that only allows water to flow into your home. This one-way valve keeps your neighborhood's water supply safe by ensuring that anyone doing something improper with chemicals, etc., does not accidentally pollute the area's water supply. A pressure-reducing valve stabilizes the water pressure coming into your home. Sometimes the municipal water supply experiences strong spikes in pressure that can damage your home's plumbing. A pressure-reducing valve is built to handle high pressures and stops these surges in their tracks.

Technical drawing of a water line, water meter, and water meter vault running underground

What causes damage to water lines?

Water services suffer the same problems that most plumbing systems face. Issues commonly come from old age, material defects, and improper installation. Below is a brief guide to some common water line problems. Please know that this is not an exhaustive list, but it covers the most common issues homeowners face.

Old age

Water lines are often original to your home. That means water lines around the Baltimore area can be over 100 years old. As any pipe ages, problems begin to crop up. These kinds of issues frequently develop as pinholes. These small holes can appear anywhere on a water line but are usually common around joints. Water leaks from these pinholes and reduces your water pressure. Leaking water services can result in a damp yard. Another common old age problem occurs in galvanized piping. In these pipes, mineral deposits and corrosion choke down the diameter of the pipe, and with little room left for water to flow through, poor water pressure results.

Material defects

Water service pipes work hard. The materials they consist of need to withstand high pressure, millions of gallons of flow over their lifetime, changes in temperature, and shifting geological conditions. It is no wonder they develop problems after years and years of use. Below is a brief overview of some material-specific issues you may encounter in your home.

Copper water lines

Copper lines are the most durable, long-lasting pipes and have been a preferred installation material for over 100 years. It is not uncommon for Baltimore copper water lines from the early 1900s to still be in working condition. We often find these lines in older city areas like Roland Park or Federal Hill. The longevity of copper has made it C.A. Taciak & Sons installation material of choice for over three generations. Copper pipes sometimes develop pinholes from local conditions.

Galvanized steel water lines

Galvanized steel water lines are also ubiquitous in older homes. If you have a home built before 1940, chances are this is what you have inside your walls and in your basement. These pipes are threaded together and frequently suffer problems at their joints and bends. Galvanized pipes are also susceptible to mineral deposit formations and deterioration as they age. Any of these issues can become severe enough to require replacement.

Plastic water lines

Water lines also come in two plastic varieties. They can either be polyethylene "Black Poly" or polybutylene "Blue Poly." One of these pipes is very durable, and the other isn't.

Black poly is a thick and durable pipe with a good reputation and history of reliability. It is often used as an alternative to copper when a home requires a long or large diameter pipe. In the rare event that a problem develops, black poly piping is repairable and can be put right back into service. 

Blue poly, on the other hand, is an undesirable water line used from the late 1970s to the early 1990s that is a thin-walled cheap pipe. Of all water line materials, "Blue Poly" lines are the most problematic. Angry homeowners even brought a class action lawsuit against Blue Poly manufacturers because it was a defective building material. Blue poly water lines are prone to leaking, resulting in low water pressure and lawn problems. Blue poly develops issues because it tends to corrode, become brittle, and develops cracks and pinholes. Because of this condition, it is best not to repair Blue poly water lines. Replacement is the only option.

Installation issues

Sometimes material and fittings go bad sooner than anticipated. Fittings can leave the factory broken. Your previous plumber might have had a bad day and forgot to turn the joint an extra quarter turn. Things happen. What's important is getting you back in service as quickly as possible in a way that's a good fit for you and your home.

Choosing between water line repair and replacement

Often it makes the most sense to replace a water line instead of repairing portions of it. Unlike sewer lines, once a water line develops a problem in one area, it usually continues to deteriorate elsewhere. Leaks and pinholes rarely occur in just one spot. A crack in one part of the pipe may be a byproduct of corrosion further down the line. Either of these issues could be significantly decreasing your water pressure. If your home's water line is having problems, it is likely nearing the end of its service life.

However, it isn't always impossible or unreasonable to repair part of a water line. A repair may be the best solution if your home has a long water service or consists of large diameter piping. The possibility for just a repair depends mostly on which material makes up your water line. For instance, copper, galvanized steel, and black polyethylene water lines are repairable. Blue polybutylene, on the other hand, should always be replaced. If you are unsure about your water line options, call us. We're happy to help get you back in service.

Does your water line need to be fixed or replaced?

Determining if your water line needs repair or replacement can seem daunting because it is an integral part of your home and supplies water to everything from your tap to your toilet. However, there are a few key symptoms to look for when gauging the health of your home's water line.

  • Low water pressure and weak water streams from your faucets and shower heads
  • Low water volume when one or more sink, tub, toilet, etc. runs at once
  • Unusually high water bills
  • Strange wet spots in your yard
  • Mysterious water leaks

Experiencing any of these problems indicates that your water line needs attention. Many homeowners live with water line problems, but that doesn't mean you have to. A water line replacement/repair by C.A. Taciak & Sons generally takes one day and is minimally invasive. We offer traditional open-cut trenching and trenchless water line replacement. If you think your home may benefit from a trenchless water line service, read our trenchless guide here.

What does a water line repair or replacement cost?

If you are considering a water line repair or replacement for your home, no doubt the cost is on your mind. Large-scale plumbing renovations are intimidating. Not only can it be nerve-racking to find a trustworthy contractor, but many wonder why it's so expensive.  

As advisors to Baltimore homeowners, we are happy to explain the intricacies of pricing. Our water line replacements typically begin around $5,000 for simple projects, and the price increases depending on the nature of the job, the piping length, and the current water line condition. We bring hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of equipment to every job site. We also carry many professional licenses and up-to-date insurances to give our customers peace of mind. Above all else, our customers receive our labor and expertise. Choosing C.A. Taciak & Sons for your water line repair or replacement means working with Sam or Frank Taciak through every step of the repair process. When you work with us, a random technician or plumber never takes over from Sam or Frank.

Consult with us

Your home and your family's health are your best investments, and a water line replacement affects both. Our goal is to fulfill our homeowners' plumbing needs as efficiently and cost-effectively as possible. If your home is suffering from the symptoms of a broken water line, we are here to help. C.A. Taciak & Son's three generations of expert water line utility installers are only a phone call away. Please get in touch!

Frequently asked questions about Baltimore water services

Isn't Baltimore City or Baltimore County responsible for maintaining my water service?

Unfortunately, your municipality's responsibility stops at the edge of your property. The city or county will fix municipal water line problems off your property, but that is the extent of their involvement. An experienced plumber can help you determine your responsibility for the problem affecting your home. Have you received a high water bill? It is crucial to call a plumber as soon as possible to start the water line repair process. Your municipality will reduce the penalties and charges if you provide proof that you are having the water line issue fixed. However, they will only reduce your bill up to one billing cycle after problems start.

My water line runs under a tree/patio/driveway. Will you have to break or dig that up?

The beauty of a water line is that it does not have to take a direct path to your home. We can often reroute your water line to protect existing structures, hardscaping, and landscaping. There are many possible courses of action to avoid obstacles on your property. We can work with your needs and budget to create a plan. We can also employ trenchless methods to bore under obstacles. Boring is even possible inside your basement if obstacles are close to your home's foundation.

Will the new water line be made from materials that are safe to drink?

All modern potable water line pipes and fittings must be safe for drinkable water and lead-free. The pipes you drank from in the past, or may drink from now, were not required to follow these regulations. The age of the pipe also affects health concerns. Old galvanized piping in areas like Roland Park, Guilford, and Homeland can fill with mineral deposits affecting the taste and quality of your water. Old soldered copper joints can contain higher levels of lead in the solder used to join the pipes.

It is important for your health to understand what kind of water line your home has and if it needs updating. We encourage you to look at the applicable sections of the Lead-Free Act of 2014, the Clean Water Act of 1972, and the Safe Water Drinking Act of 1978.  We are happy to help if you have any questions or are curious about the quality of your water line.

How quickly can you repair my water line?

Most water line replacements only take one day. C.A. Taciak & Sons can usually look over your problem and give you a bid within 24 hours of your phone call. We are then able to schedule most projects within one business week. It is possible to hook up a temporary water service to your home so that you are not without water while you wait. There are several options available for temporary water usage. Water line repairs are important and need attention as soon as possible. However, most water line problems are not true emergencies, and they often do not require immediate and expensive action. Do not let a plumber tell you otherwise or force you into a more expensive solution than you need. You have options available that may fit your budget and schedule better than the first bid you receive.