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.

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