Plumbing in the Home/hot water pressure non existent
QUESTION: The water pressure on the hot water side of my 2nd floor bathroom was never good as compared to the cold or the shower in that same bathroom. It is a trickle at this point. I have changed the supply line and faucet cartridge. Neither has helped. The home is plaster and lathe construction so replacing the line would be a major job and expensive. Is there anything less extreme that would help? Is there anything like a thin wire snake that could be fished back down the hot water line to try and open any calcification that may be restricting the flow?
ANSWER: Hello Len,
This problem has been plaguing homeowners for many years. Given that you say you have a lath and plaster wall construction, it indicates that this home is fairly old and likely has the original galvanized steel water piping that was installed during that time period. You are correct in assuming that the water line is clogged with corrosion and mineral buildup. This is often most evident on the hot water side of the system and where the problem will manifest first.
Over the years I have seen many companies try to provide a solution for this. Up until this point, none have been successful and are no longer in business. So, unfortunately there really is no quick fix solution that works.
The only solution is to re-pipe the home with new type L copper or PEX plastic water piping (if PEX is allowed in your area). Since this does require opening walls, it is best performed as a complete solution, replacing all of the water piping, both cold and hot side at one time. Doing it piecemeal is not really cost effective or efficient and will ultimately cost you a lot more in the long run.
There are companies that specialize in this type of work and I highly recommend using one of those as opposed to just a general plumber.
Although a plumber is technically capable of doing this kind of work, the specialist had developed techniques and methods that make the job go quickly and minimizes the time that your house is without water. If done properly, your water supply remains on during the majority of the job until the changeover phase occurs. The changeover typically only takes a couple of hours.
I'm very familiar with this process having run a copper re-piping company for over 10 years myself. I have personally re-pipe hundreds of homes. Depending on the house, it can take anywhere from one day to three days to complete the pipe work. When the plumbers are done, they may also have a wall patching crew as part of their business and they will close up the walls back to a paint ready finish. Not all do this and you may need to arrange for the wall patching on your own. I had my own patching crews. It was a package deal; Re-pipe the house and patch all walls back to a paint ready finish for a set price. In my opinion, that's the best way to approach this problem and resolve it.
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QUESTION: Thanks for the quick reply. Unfortunately the cost and disruption of that solution make it impossible for me. Someone needs to come up with a non invasive means of breaking up the build up or at least locating it so that the affected section can be repaired and not the whole line. I assume that would be a huge money maker.
No doubt you are correct about being a huge moneymaker. Believe me, it's been tried many times, so far unsuccessfully.
The problem lies in the fact that galvanized steel has a finite lifespan, like pretty much anything else. Depending on a number of factors including water quality and the quality of the pipe itself, it can last anywhere from as little as 10 years or less to 50 years or more. Even under the best conditions, anything past 50 years, it is pretty much considered "used up" and should be replaced.
Years ago, someone came up with the idea of using a system of circulated hot dry air to dry out the interior of the piping and then a way to essentially force high-pressure air with an abrasive material in it through the system to "sandblast" the corrosion and mineral buildup out of the inside of the pipe.
They didn't last very long. Although it sounds like a potentially workable solution, the problem is galvanized steel pipes rust through from the inside out and in many cases that corrosion and mineral buildup was actually sealing up what would be leaks were it not there. If you clean a way all of the junk that is sealing up the leaks, you get leaks! God, who who would've thought?
Actually that's a huge DUH moment! Actually, it was one of the first questions I asked when they pitched their system to me. They tried to minimize that aspect saying that "in their testing phase, it wasn't an issue". My answer was you need to do more testing. After having re-piped literally thousands of houses, I know this is going to be a problem and I'm not going there. Way too much liability for me to feel anywhere near comfortable offering this as a service.