Stack Pipes: Repairing and Replacing These Important Pipes

There are a lot of perks about living in Toronto: the thriving, busy city centre, the abundance of entertainment and cultural activities, and the surrounding nature, to name just a few. But being a homeowner in Toronto can sometimes be a headache. Not only is the market hard to get into, but often the houses that are available don’t have the finest plumbing. In fact, there are many houses in Toronto that still have their original drain and plumbing.

Why is that so bad, you might ask? Well, back when a lot of these houses were being made, other materials were used for pipes and fittings, materials that we have since discovered do not age so gracefully. As examples, underground building drains and sewers were made of vitrified clay, above ground drains were either cast iron or lead, and water lines were either galvanized steel or lead. Each of these is problematic by today’s standards, and can cause big plumbing problems for your home.

Luckily, with the invention of plastic, a lot of positive changes occurred. For one, plumbers were no longer beholden to using these natural metals and clays, which can crack easily, or leach harmful substances into your drinking water. Plastics offered an inexpensive, easy-to-work-with and safe workaround to the alternatives.

Plastics now account for most to all of the new pipes you’ll find in Toronto. The most popular pipes, approved by Ontario building codes, are PEX (for water distribution), ABS (for drains), and PVC (for the underground main drain of the sewer). The outlier here is copper, which as you obviously know is not a plastic, but is nevertheless still used for main water service, because, compared to iron, steel and lead, it is soft, light, non-toxic and easy for plumbers to work with.

Old Stack Pipes

Like everything, when metal pipes get older, certain age-related issues begin to arise. In past articles, we have discussed lead pipes and underground clay drain piping – both undesirable plumbing features that homeowners really should replace. If you have lead pipes or clay drain piping, get in touch with us right away to upgrade. In this article, however, we will be focusing specifically on vertical cast iron drainpipes – or, what we plumbers call a “stack”. It is a pretty strong pipe, and as far as metals go it really isn’t too bad; it even has certain advantages compared to plastic, namely its quietness when water flows through it.

Despite that, the corrosion process over time can cause a build-up inside these pipes, causing the diameter of the pipe to become smaller and smaller. Eventually, the stack pipe cannot serve the proper amount of sewage, and a blockage is formed.

Another problem that old cast iron pipes can create is leaking, because the metal is susceptible to hairline cracks. There is a helpful question and answer thread on Houzz that breaks down the reasons for cast iron pipes cracking. To summarize, cast iron can become brittle over time, and the forces of leverage and weight can cause it to form cracks due to its rigidity.

Often, when you look at all portions of a cast iron pipe (including the vent stack that is terminated above the roof), the worst is the bottom of the pipe, located in the basement. And of that, the most vulnerable spot is a short piece of cast iron with a 90-degree elbow underground, right before the pipe connects to clay. All the pipe’s rusty particles fall down and are collected in the horizontal section of the drain, causing problems.

These are just a few issues homeowners might come up against if they have cast iron stack pipes. But what can they do about it?

Fixing the Issues

Now that you understand the potential problems that can arise from having an old cast iron stack pipe, let’s discuss briefly how you can remedy the problem. Even if you haven’t seen any problems yet, like blockages or leaking, if you live in an older Toronto home, it is wise to have Mister Plumber come check it out. You can liken it to taking preventative medical precautions – you want to take healthy measures before you get sick.

In the picture below, you can see an old cast iron pipe that has been upgraded; its underground portion has been upgraded with PVC and its above ground portion with ABS. At Mister Plumber, we recommend this plastic replacement for a more efficient, problem-free stack pipe. Plastics are relatively inexpensive, and our expert plumbing services in Toronto are competitively priced, so the entire process won’t be very hard on your wallet. It is a good move to make if you want to avoid potentially damaging leaks, as well as unhealthy, unsightly backups and blockages.

The Mister Plumber Difference

With tons of experience serving the GTA, we know Toronto plumbing. Living and breathing Toronto plumbing, we are particularly adept at spotting problems and then efficiently, inexpensively solving them, using top-of-the-line gadgetry, equipment and materials. But don’t take our word for it – visit our homepage and scroll down to read the many glowing customer testimonials. You don’t earn a five star Google rating with customers by slacking off – we take this job, and your happiness, very seriously.

With that in mind, if you live in an older home, give us a ring. It is better to nip these things in the bud then wait for a plumbing emergency to occur. To summarize, here is message to Torontonians: if you have old cast iron main stack, do not wait for sewage backup (that always seem to happen for some reasons on weekends or holidays!). Call Mister Plumber and get the job done right. Cast iron might be good for frying up a steak, but it shouldn’t be trusted with waste drainage, not when there are plastics like ABS and PVC that do the job much better.