From the Forum – Replacing galvanized pipes and a Basement Dig Out

Replacing galvanized pipes:

“It seems that one of the galvanized pipe in my house has rust buildup or some other issue. There is hardly any water pressure. The rest of the pipes seem fine and the water pressure is okay. Has this happened in your home? Did you have the pipes replaced with copper or pex pipes? How much did it cost? Would you recommend this company?”

Looking for basement digout contractor:

“I just bought property in DC and want to digout the basement to make a nice (permitted and legit) rental unit. I’d be happy for any contractor recommendations to get the work bid out.

I’m also 100% interested in any success, failure, hilarious, or horror stories on the subject of basement work, rental permits, etc.”

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17 Comment

  • Regarding pipes, has anyone installed a whole-house water filter to filter out hard water?

  • gotryit

    It cost me about $7-8k to replace the existing awfulness (galvanized / copper / duct tape) with a pretty neat PEX system including a second master bath manifold. This was as part of a gut of ~2,000 sq ft including a kitchen, two full baths, and one half bath. Their work didn’t include any demolition (other than a little bit of pipe to hook into the drain pipes where they were still good).
    I went with Aspen Hill plumbing, 301-933-0801 and highly recommend them.
    Are you going to take down walls where you have the pipes? Don’t forget to line up a good drywall contractor to come in afterwards.

    • do you have a good drywall contractor to recommend? we’ve done it once and it was a thankless and dusty job that i’d prefer not to do again.

      • gotryit

        The team I used was fast and inexpensive, but they were disrespectful of the house (won’t go into detail) and I’m getting “screw pop”, so have to go back and repair those spots. So I don’t really recommend them.

        • “Screw pop” = the screws are popping out?
          (As opposed to “Screw PoP! I’ve had enough of that blogger”? 😉 )

          • gotryit

            Right – see? Capitalization is very important. I’ve seen “nail pop” before, and that makes sense to me that sometimes the nails back out, which causes the bulge. But in this case, I think they just didn’t tighten the screws appropriately, and now I have a little rework.

  • Galvanized pipe was used extensively in the 1920s probaby through the 1950s in lieu of copper pipe and thought to be a new, wonderful and cheaper alternative. And it was — with one exception. It has a life line of about 50 years or so — after that it begins to break down and corrode. Thus, anyone with galvanized will have to replace that pipe over time. I say this from experience growing up in a house that was built in the 1920s and now being a home owner with a house built in 1927. So, bottom line, while you may be able to get by with fixing this one pipe now, in the future others will need to be replaced as well, so you may want to consider biting the bullet now and just deal with as much as you can.

    • I totally agree with you on this. I still have some iron in my house (circa 1937). I opened it up at one of the unions to replace a copper-iron mating and was amazed at how much rust/calcification was blocking the pipe. A 3/4″ pipe is about 2/3 blocked. I can’t wait to replace the iron (soon!) to see how much the flow increases and end the rust stains in the bathtub.

  • I’ve not had good water pressure since I’ve lived in my house, I’ve also had two small leaks in one pipe a few years back (and I just replaced that pipe). But because I’m doing some work in my bathroom (and the floor was up), I decided to replace the galvanized pipes with copper. The 78 year old pipes were about 50% blocked so putting in copper is making a big difference.

  • Call Otto Seidel 202 397 7000. The man is a plumbing savant with a no BS attitude. Will save you thousands over Magnolia, John Flood, etc. He is a living dinosaur but knows his stuff inside and out.

  • Beware flooding from groundwater when you dig out the basement. Water that used to go under the house may now seep in through the cracks. This is not a reason not to do it, but you should bring in a waterproofing expert before you build down the foundation. If you’re at risk of flooding, it might be easier to waterproof before building the foundation down, depending on the method, eg poured concrete slabs, brick, etc. if flooding becomes an issue, a sump pump is the most effective and affordable fix for ground water. If the water is coming from the outside area around your house and seeping in from your gutters, etc. you might be able to fix the problem by replanting the concrete around your house to slope away and drain water away from your house.

  • I highly recommend Anchor Construction to replace the pipes. I had this done when I bought my 1924 Bungalow. They are fast and professional, plus they do a lot of pipe replacement for the city.

  • If you use copper to replace galvanized you have to replace it all at one time. There’s some kind of electrical field science-y thing where once you combine new copper with old galvanized, it accelerates the deterioration of the galvanized. Either do copper all at once, or use the latest plastic stuff.

    • You’re referring to galvanic corrosion, it usually won’t touch the copper except in rare cases, but you’ll see your galvanized pipe disappear. If you can’t replace all your old pipe at once, use a dielectric coupler when you join copper to galvanized and you won’t have a corrosion problem.

  • Two things:

    1) rusting galvanized pipe is a major cause of lead poisoning. The pipes are not lead, but over the years they can absorb lead in the rusted sections and then “release” the lead for many years as they rust, even long after the lead service line to your house was replaced. If you do not want to replace all of your plumbing this time around then you should definitely test your water for lead. DC Water provides this service for free.

    2) probably the biggest risk with a basement is that the original house design cannot accommodate the depth. If you dig below the foundation walls of a Victorian, for example, you could invite flooding or even cause structural problems. You will likely need to install underground drainage. If you hire some guy who thinks it’s a simple matter of breaking concrete and removing soil then you could be in for years of wet basement headaches. Ask them about other houses they’ve done and quiz them about how they plan to handle drainage, ask them to point out the foundation elements to you and how they plan to protect them, etc.

    Good luck – have fun 😉

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