Water supply pipes have checkered history

Water supply pipes have checkered history

Plumbing contractors have tried all sorts of materials to make reliable water supply lines over the centuries. One of the most notorious was lead. It was the most common type of water pipe for a very long time because it was easy to work with. The word "plumbing" actually is derived from the Latin word for lead, "plumbum." A plumber in Boston told me the city is full of lead pipes. But I don't have to tell you the dangers of lead in water. If you have lead pipes, you should seriously consider changing to safer materials and at the very least, always run the tap for two or three minutes after it feels cold before drinking such water or cooking with it.

Galvanized steel pipes have also fallen out of favor in new construction. After years of use, minerals from water react with the galvanizing material to cause scale build up inside the pipe. The scale will eventually narrow the diameter of the pipe like the body's arteries do from years on a high-fat diet. Scale buildup eventually results in lower water pressure and reduced volume. Companies that offer plumbing services hate the stuff but are happy to replace it with a better material.

Copper is ideal for 1/2 inch and 1 inch water supply lines leading from the main water supply pipe to kitchen plumbing, sinks and toilets. Copper is popular with plumbing contractors because it is clean, doesn't rust or corrode and is very reliable. Copper will freeze and burst if left exposed to the elements but this is only a problem if the pipes run through the outer walls of your home. Always be sure those pipes are well insulated. In addition, PVC is making a comeback as a water supply pipe material and the newer flexible PEX (cross-linked polyethylene) material, long relied upon in Europe is becoming more and more accepted as a reliable, low cost alternative for residential plumbing.

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