Older home in Toronto are wonderful for a number of reasons. They have a rich heritage, a ton of character and good bones to them. But for all the wonderful aspects of older Toronto homes, there are a few nagging details that make ownership a bit of a hassle. One such detail is the plumbing. In the old days, they didn’t have the same access to technology we do today, nor did they have the same sort of sophisticated materials. They used what they had on hand, and what they had on hand most of the time was clay.

Clay pipes were widely used as drain pipes and sewer lines for residential houses in Toronto, and while they did a satisfactory job, they also became susceptible to problems. One such problem, that we have talked about on this very blog, is that they are vulnerable to tree roots, and when roots get in, they fill the clay pipes and crack them, causing spillage and further plumbing issues. They can lead to sewage backup, which can potentially expose you and your family to harmful bacteria. The multiple joints on clay pipes create more risk to shifts, roots penetration and breaking due to soil settlement.

But you can prevent these plumbing emergencies with some proactive effort. Homeowners can choose to do partial replacement of their underground clay drainpipe. As your local plumber in Toronto we have worked countless jobs replacing underground clay piping and have the experience and know-how to not only recommend the best materials and procedures, but get the job done in a timely and accurate fashion. In short: we are the best darn clay pipe replacers in the GTA!

This article will walk you through the materials we use to replace the clay, as well as the reasons we use those materials; we will also discuss different ways of tackling pipe replacement, and, finally, the process involved. This should give you a good primer on pipe replacement, at which point you can give us a call and we can get the ball rolling.

What Do You Replace The Clay With?

Let’s start by discussing materials. Nowadays, plumbers use 4” PVC pipes to replace clay drain pipes, because they are easier to work with, lighter, less expensive and – because of their glued joints – more reliable. The first PVC water distribution pipes were laid in the US in 1955, and by 1996 PVC commanded the market share for drainpipes, with over 50%. If you want want to read up on a timeline history of PVC pipes (who knows, you might be into it!) then check out this page. Suffice it to say, since PVC’s introduction into the plumbing world, it has been a great success.

Full Or Partial Replacement?

Now, let’s discuss your options. If you have clay pipes, you can either opt to do a full or partial replacement, depending on budget and inclination. Because a full replacement of old clay pipes inside the basement and outside on the property line is not necessarily a cheap project, some homeowners choose to do spot repairs, with partial replacement, using new PVC pipes. Some spot replacements can be done by just one plumber, if it’s in the basement and the depth of the pipe is within 2 feet, which is standard.

You can even work your way towards a total replacement over time, replacing parts of the piping every once in a while. Talk to us here at Mister Plumber – we can set up a time to get your clay drains inspected and work out a game plan that works for your property and your budget.

What Is The Process Involved?

The first important step is to figure out the location of the pipe. Here at Mister Plumber, we do this by using a camera that sends signals out in the ground, which are then caught by a locator. Doing it this way allows us to avoid unnecessary floor damage, which would eventually need repairing. It is a non-disruptive way of understanding the pipe’s location.

Next, during digging, the plumber has to pay attention to a possible water line that could have been originally installed in the same trench. The water line can be easily damaged by a shovel or jack-hammer, so it is of the utmost importance that the plumber is careful. No better case can be made for hiring a professional, experienced plumber for the job; we understand the problems that can arise in the replacement process, and understand how to avoid those problems.

Once the clay pipe is exposed, the plumber uses a diamond saw to cut the vitrified clay. The cut has to be even, as the new pipe must come tight to the old one. Again, this is a process that takes skill and a sure hand, which is why experience is so key. Next, to connect the two different pipes, a special Fernco coupling is used to provide an air- and water-tight seal. This acts as a fail-safe way of preventing leaks, either from the outside in or vice versa.

In the above picture, you can see Mister Plumber performing a partial replacement of clay pipes, with the installation of a sewer cleanout – an access line installed in case blockages need to be removed – since the pipe is near the front foundation wall in the basement, and according to Ontario plumbing codes requires access to the drain. The picture sort of gives you an idea of what you can expect.

Finally, after the replacement, the plumber backfills the trench and re-cements it. Everything is closed up, and you no longer have to worry about sewage backups or tree root damage to your pipes, at least not for a very, very long time.

In conclusion, if you have an older house here in Toronto, first of all, you are lucky, but second of all, you need to ensure that your plumbing is up-to-date. Talk to Mister Plumber today. You can call us for a free estimate – we will come and inspect your drainpipes, and if needed perform a full or partial replacement to avoid further plumbing mishaps.

It might start with a leaky faucet, a chip in the tiling or a spot of mould on the ceiling. Before you know it, you are in full-blown renovation mode, looking to update everything about your bathroom, from the fixtures to the tiles, and even the piping that resides behind your bathroom walls. Bathroom renovation is a huge task – one that’s near impossible for a homeowner to do alone – and it can therefore be a bit costly. But it is worth it to have a better functioning bathroom, as well as the subsequent uptick in home value.

A lot of homeowners, however, make the mistake of prioritizing looks over functionality. They go for the shining faucets, the sparkling tub, but neglect the actual plumbing infrastructure that makes the washroom work. This isn’t the way you want to renovate. Sure, go for that new tub and sink, and make everything look beautiful, but while you are at it, budget for a true plumbing renovation, complete with drain repair and water pipe replacement.

Plumbing is such an important part of bathroom renovation – what good are new fixtures if the plumbing on which they rely are not in working order? A professional plumber, as we’ll see in this article, can update your drain and pipes while they are accessible. Renovation is the perfect time to tackle the foundational issues in your plumbing, since walls are already being torn and the bathroom is already out of use. Let’s look at the few ways you can renovate your bathroom’s plumbing, as well as the benefits of installing new pipes.

Drain Inspection

The first thing you want to do is find reliable plumbing services in Toronto to inspect your drain and pipes – not necessarily come in guns blazing, ready to replace everything right away, but take a look at your drain and pipes and assess whether action needs to be taken. At Mister Plumber, we use state of the art CCTV camera technology to look into your drains, and then offer a professional diagnosis as well as recommendation. Depending on what we find, we might make suggestions about replacing your drain and water pipes.

ABS Drain Alterations

For drain alterations, there is usually one kind of pipe we use for residential projects, which is ABS (black plastic pipe and fittings). ABS is sturdy, long lasting and resistant to shock, and although they are thought by some to be louder than PVC, the difference is so minimal. They are also easy to install, making them a great choice for homeowners who want us to quickly improve their drains. Or, if you are content with your current drains, but they aren’t flowing properly, we can check your backed up drains for you.

Copper Pipes

For water pipes, there are couple options – namely copper and PEX. Copper piping is a traditional material for water distribution systems, but it can be quite an expensive one in both material costs and labour. Just imagine: every change of direction on copper (and in a bathroom, there can be quite a few!) has to be done by using elbows that needs to be cleaned with a brush and then soldered. All of that cleaning and soldering adds up, and it takes much more time for plumbers to install cold and hot supply lines. Nevertheless, copper pipes carry a few notable benefits. They are environmentally friendly, won’t crack even after many years of use, and can withstand even the most extreme conditions.

PEX Pipes

These days, more and more, we are starting to use newer pipes that are made from what is called PEX. This wonderful material, known also by its more formal name, cross-linked polyethylene, is flexible, easy to work with and affordable. Here are some of the advantages to using PEX pipes in your bathroom renovations.

First of all, it is more affordable to homeowners. For those people looking to manage and reduce the cost of their bathroom renovations, PEX is probably the way to go. It is quite a bit cheaper than copper, and the time it takes a plumber to install is far less. But just because it’s the economical choice, that doesn’t mean it is “cheap”; they are quite sturdy.

Secondly, it is easier for plumbers to do a PEX renovation project, since there is a limited amount of wall access required, and therefore the damage to your drywall can be reduced. Since copper needs a lot of elbow fittings, there needs to be more damage done to the wall (which is obviously patched up afterwards, but can still be costly).

Another advantage is they make PEX pipes in two different colours, so it is impossible to mix cold and hot water lines. You can colour code your water lines. This may sound like a small consideration, but it can be important somewhere down the line when you need to reliably identify the different pipes.

And for those who are curious how safe PEX pipes are, we have to say, in our ample experience, they are absolutely safe. They are made for potable water in the same way all tubes in fridges are used for drinking water and filtration systems. If you are still unsure, just take a look at this scientific study, which concluded that there are no health risks associated with drinking water from PEX pipes. And if it’s good enough to drink, it’s definitely good enough for your washroom. If you want more info on PEX pipes, you contact us to learn more by calling or emailing.

Pressure Test

After the relocation or installation of water pipes, we do a pressure test, which is the same for copper as it is for PEX. They have to be able to withstand almost two times the air pressure as that of regular water pressure that comes from the municipal water main. In this way, they are sure to withstand any amount of bathroom pressure.

Mister Plumber has a lot of experience with renovation projects, and we work with many general contractors who have a great reputation in the Toronto market. Next time you consider renovating your bathroom, consider renovating the plumbing as well. Call Mister Plumber to inspect your drains, and if needed, replace or relocate your water pipes.

Plumbing is the lifeblood of a home, feeding it the necessary water it needs, removing the unwanted waste and – at its best – protecting the home from structural damage. And if we follow this “lifeblood” analogy a little further, the main artery of your home would be the water pipes, running from your home to the main city waterline. To that end, you want to make sure that these pipes are working well, up to code and supplying the home ample pressure by hiring a plumber with experience in Toronto to come take a look.

Unfortunately, that’s not always the case here in Toronto. There are a lot of older houses in Toronto that have a half-inch main water pipe running from the road to the basement, rather than the new standard 3/4” water pipe, and the material used may be lead, which can be a health concern. Water service is split into two categories – City and Private. Homeowners are responsible for their part (the private part) of the water service, and you can then apply to have the city match your replacement on their end.

So what are the various reasons for replacing your main water pipe? Let’s take a look at the top four reasons why it’s beneficial for all homeowners residing in an older home to have Mister Plumber come in and take a look at the main water pipe.

Replacing Lead Pipes

As mentioned, some older pipes are made out of lead, since lead was widely used by plumbers in the past (in fact, the word “plumb” comes from the Latin word for lead!). The City of Toronto estimates that over 31,000 homes are still affected by lead pipes here, especially water service pipes that predate the mid-1950s and pipes soldered before the 90s.

The main issue with lead pipes doesn’t really concern their efficacy so much as their potential influence on health. Lead is considered harmful and cannot be used for potable water systems, especially for pregnant women and young children (which many homes consist of). If you live in an older home, the pipes may have started corroding and releasing lead into your drinking water, so be on the safe side – let Mister Plumber come in to check your main water pipe for lead and, if need be, replace old lead pipes with copper pipes.

Staying Up-To-Code

Plumbing codes change over time and the new code states that one family dwelling must have a minimum 3/4” ID (inside diameter) water pipe from the water main. Another code states that the pipe from the water meter in the house that supplies the cold water inlet on your hot water tank must not be less than 3/4”. Boilers do not produce their own pressure and use cold water pressure from a source pipe, so old pipes have a negative effect on your water pressure (more on that below).

Mister Plumber uses modern equipment to upgrade a water service with a 3/4” or even a 1” pipe. Our method – called torpedo drilling – minimizes landscape disturbances because it only requires two points of access: in the basement near the existing main pipe and outside near property line. It’s a far less intrusive way of making your home up-to-code and we’ve have a number of positive reviews mentioning this.

For underground pipe installation, we always use type “K” copper, which is a soft temper copper and is specially designed to be used underground. The City of Toronto uses the same type of copper tubing, which is sold in long rolls and allows us to install the private section of your water supply without using any joints. Also, copper pipes are used by electricians for grounding, which is why using plastic pipe underground is not practical.

Improving Water Pressure

Whatever the material – whether it’s lead or copper – 1/2” pipes cannot supply sufficient water pressure to a home. Especially houses that have multiple washrooms, a washing machine, dishwasher, sprinklers, etc… they demand proper pressure from both the private and city pipes, and that can only be achieved with 3/4” or 1” pipes.

After you’ve successfully finished your water main service upgrades in Toronto you as a homeowner have right to get a bigger water meter from city – any meter has to be either the same size as pipe or smaller for accurate calculations. Our experience shows that, in some cases, it is enough to upgrade just the private portion of your water service to achieve better water pressure in your house, especially when multiple fixtures are in use.

Protecting Your Basement

Aside from improving your water pressure, removing any harmful lead presence in your water pipes and staying up-to-code to help the resale value of your home, there is one more benefit to replacing your main water pipe: you can protect your basement from flooding. A new pipe is much stronger than an old one and can withstand higher pressure, as well as any fluctuations that occur from time to time.

Burst pipes are no fun to deal with, and can have deleterious effects on your basement, so here it’s best to be proactive and have us come look at your pipes to determine their age and strength. It’s always a good idea to do this before the winter hits, since that’s when old pipes are uniquely susceptible to bursting.

In Conclusion

The responsibility for the private part of your water system falls on you as a homeowner, and improving your main water pipe can remove health hazards, improve water pressure, improve your home’s resale value and help avoid costly damage to your basement. Call Mister Plumber today to inspect your water service and determine whether your pipes need replacing. It’s a relatively inexpensive endeavour and can end up saving you a big headache in the long run. You want the lifeblood of your house to be working in excellent condition, so give us a call today.

Homeowners often look to capitalize on the summer months for their renovation and remodelling projects, since the outside weather is amenable and the project will (hopefully) be done before winter stalls everything. At Mister Plumber, we definitely see our fair share of plumbing projects that happen in tandem with a larger, summer remodelling project – and it makes total sense. Your bathroom, for instance, is already ripped up and the walls are often opened during renovation, so why not use this opportunity to make sure your plumbing is in tip-top shape.

It can be easy for homeowners to fall into the trap of simply remodelling for aesthetics, or to fix only glaringly obvious structural problems, but plumbing issues – subtle though they may be – need your attention as well. Often, your pipes will give little warning until it’s too late, and then you are in a “need to fix” situation. You can avoid those emergency plumbing jobs if you proactively hire a local Toronto plumber to inspect your plumbing during your renovation.

In this article, we’ll focus primarily on washroom renovation, since that seems to be the most popular form of renovation you see (along with the kitchen). If you are renovating your bathroom and tearing up walls, after demolition, all drain and water pipes have to be inspected by licensed plumber. Oftentimes, these old Toronto homes have pipes that absolutely have to go, and putting that off can be a costly oversight.

According to our statistics in Toronto, a lot of houses still have their old original pipes, despite multiple renovations having been done in the past. Many people, when they opt to do renovations, perhaps don’t properly budget for the inspection of their old pipes, and potential installation of new pipes. This leads to trouble down the road, in the form of back ups, leaky water and wastewater. You might say to yourself, well, that’s no big deal – it probably won’t happen in my house anyways. Well, let’s take the example of old cast iron pipes, which are quite common in Toronto houses.

If your bathroom’s main soil stack – that is, the vertical drain pipe that carries waste from sanitary units like the toilet – is made of cast iron, it could cause problems. The main soil stack starts from the basement and is terminated above the roof as a vent. While the top portion of pipe that serves as a vent might be in satisfactory condition, because only air is being circulated there, the bottom portion of stack that serves as a drain is heavily affected by corrosion. As a result, such pipes get hairline cracks, causing wastewater leakage. Imagine putting all that money into renovations to make your bathroom look good, only to have leaking wastewater!

Another problem with cast iron pipes is corrosion, which creates build up and reduces the inside diameter of the pipe significantly. See, what happens with cast iron is that hydrogen sulphide gas in the wastewater oxidizes, forming corrosive sulphuric acid; when that sulphuric acid starts to rust the pipe, the rust flakes chip off and form in a single section of the pipe (along with other common clogging culprits). This causes back ups, as well as slow drainage. Again, not things you want happening over top of a beautiful new renovation.

If you’re doing bathroom renovations, allow Mister Plumber to come in for a drain inspection and, if need be, replace your old cast iron pipes with something a little more modern, like lightweight ABS. Short for Acrylonitrile-Butadiene-Styrene (which is quite a mouthful!), ABS is a smooth, thermoplastic resin that doesn’t rot, corrode or catch unwanted waste, making it perfect for a well-flowing bathroom. They’re also lightweight and easy to install, so having us come in will be very easy.

There is only one small disadvantage of these plastic pipes, and that is that they’re noisier when compared to cast iron. You can often hear the rushing water in them. But this can be easily fixed by having Mister Plumber’s plumbing services in Toronto install soundproofing insulation around the pipe and inside the wall. With insulation in place, the pipes will be quiet as a whisper.

Old water pipes can also be upgraded with crosslinked Polyethylene pipes, or PEX for short. This non-rigid material is perfect for bathroom installation, because its flexibility allows it to snake around 90 degree corners, and it needs fewer fittings. For renovation projects, these pipes are ideal because less damage is required to the wall and floor to install them. Like ABS, they don’t corrode when faced with acidic water, so they’ll last you for a long time, but unlike ABS they are relatively quiet.

Of course, before you can settle on a new type of pipes, call Mister Plumber for a thorough drain inspection. We’ll use CCTV drain cameras to give you a quick and efficient diagnosis of your drains, and record it so that together we can make an informed decision based on the content. Are the pipes corroding or cracking? Are they leaking or building up with unwanted debris? Depending on what we find, we’ll work with you to brainstorm options, and give you the best possible plumbing experience.

To conclude, Mister Plumber has message to homeowners: if you are renovating your bathroom, and are already going through the process of ripping up drywall, you have the perfect opportunity to make sure that your plumbing and drains are up-to-date and in good working order. You’re about to go through all this trouble to install new appliances, or new tiling, and it would be incredibly frustrating if some of your pipes started to leak after the installation. Get your bathroom started on the right foot by getting a free plumbing estimate anywhere in Toronto from Mister Plumber.

It doesn’t necessarily have to be a summer project, but your renovation plans should always include plumbing inspection. Whether you replace your old cast iron pipes with durable, non-corroding ABS or flexible, quiet PEX, you’ll have the peace of mind knowing that your bathroom looks good and runs smoothly.

Summer is here, which means the sun is shining and the sky graces the city with the occasional heavy rainfall. This is wonderful for us, because it means we can enjoy the sunshine, while still getting the occasional reprieve from the heat when the rain cools everything down. And it’s wonderful for the flowers, plants and trees that mark our yards. What it isn’t good for, however, is clay piping.

You see, when the rain starts getting into the ground, tree roots start moving towards the source of the water, branching out in a complicated network. The roots fortify and can eventually choke your clay pipes, breaking through them and causing serious damage. This can lead to expensive sewer repair, which is not only a financial drain (no pun intended) but a real headache to deal with.

You can see what happens in the picture above: the roots grow into the sanitary drain, which is made of vitrified clay, and cause it to split apart. The image quality isn’t fantastic here, but it should give you a good idea of the process. It’s a nasty thing to have happen to your sewer system, and any plumber in Toronto will tell you that if you have old clay pipes, your home is susceptible to the problem. So, if this is such a problem with clay pipes, why was the material used in the first place, and why did people continue to use it when constructing homes?

To answer that, we have to go back 6,000 years to the ancient state of Babylonia, where piping materials made of clay have been found at archaeological sites. It was used in Turkey as well, and Rome too, prized for the abundance of its material, as well as its ability to withstand acidic wastewater. It’s a heavy material, which is why it wasn’t always used throughout history, but by the time North America was colonized and railroads were built, transport became much easier, so its use became ubiquitous. Fast forward to present day, and that’s why you’ll find clay piping in a lot of older homes here in Toronto.

Here’s the problem, though. Old clay pipes were short pieces because they were heavy and hard to work with – manufacturers made the pieces 3-4 feet long so one guy could carry it, without having to resort to machinery. This wouldn’t normally be so bad, but having short pieces meant that a lot of joints also needed to be installed. The more joints there are, the more opportunities roots have to start growing through hairline cracks; then, the more the roots grow, the bigger crack they make, eventually resulting in complete blockage or pipe collapse.

It is very good environment for roots inside the pipe. As a result, the pipes are stuffed and you get sewage backup, which can cause all sorts of damage. Filthy water might start rising up to the floor drain, carrying with it a whole bevy of bacteria and germs. These can, in turn, cause a number of health problems for family members living in the house – if you’ve come into contact with the affected water, you might experience nausea, vomiting, abdominal pain or fever. Don’t hesitate to call Mister Plumber when you see your floor drain flooding – we’ll get to the root of the problem (this time the pun was intended!)

For all these reasons, plumbers from the mid-1980s started using PVC pipes, and that’s what we recommend you replace your old pipes with. Just like how we offer lead pipe replacement services in Toronto we also offer clay pipe replacement. But what is PVC? Well, PVC stands for polyvinyl chloride – the lightweight, ultra-hard synthetic polymer that these pipes are made of. Instead of the short, stubby clay pipes, new PVC pipes are 10 feet long, and since the material is so lightweight, one plumber can easily carry them. Also rather than simply fitting the joints, all joints are glued, so there is no chance for roots to make their way in.

This is why approximately 10 years ago the City of Toronto started a “root rebate “ of $2000 if old pipes that have been damaged by roots are replaced with new PVC. The problem was widespread enough that the city had to intervene. You might think this would mean that every house is now fitted with new PVC piping, but that is sadly not the case. A lot of people neglected to take the city up on its offer, either because they didn’t know about the offer, or were unaware their home had clay pipes.

What this means is that even new homeowners now who buy an older house might still find that they have old clay piping. When you buy a house, the home inspector doesn’t check the underground drain because it requires using expensive equipment, as well as skills and experience that just aren’t available. You could be sitting on old clay piping and not even realize it.

If you ever experience filthy water in your ground drain, contact us today without delay and we will figure out what the issue is. But even if you can’t see any tangible problem like filthy water, it’s still best to be proactive and have us check out your piping, just in case you’re one of the unlucky homeowners still saddled with the burden of clay pipes.

In conclusion, you want to enjoy the summer, and all the weather that it brings. You don’t want to have to worry about all that rain pushing roots into your piping, and you certainly don’t want to worry about your family coming into contact with filthy water. Before the summer is out, call us up and let us come take a look at your piping to determine whether your old clay pipes need to be replaced by new PVC. As homeowners here in Toronto as well, we have your peace of mind in mind!