Contents (Click To Jump)
- 1 What Are The Most Common Plumbing Issues In Portland?
- 2 How Does The Water In Portland Affect Your Plumbing?
- 3 How Much Does Plumbing Usually Cost in Portland?
- 4 Can Better Plumbing Save You Money In Portland?
- 5 When Should You Call The Water Utility Company In Portland Vs Hire a Plumber?
- 6 When Do You Need Permits For Plumbing Service in Portland?
What Are The Most Common Plumbing Issues In Portland?
One of the best things about Portland is the neighborhoods filled with homes from the early 20th century. While these homes offer an important historic value and are incredibly charming, older homes can unfortunately have older plumbing, which is not very charming. Galvanized pipes, which were developed as an alternative to lead pipes, were generally used for plumbing systems in older houses in the area. Many homes in Portland have yet to be updated. These pipes, unfortunately, have their own set of problems.
- Rust buildup: The process of galvanizing steel pipes coats the pipes in zinc to protect the pipes. However, the zinc does not prevent rusting or corrosion, it simply provides a layer that rusts before the pipe does, and eventually, this protective layer corrodes completely exposing the steel to rust, degradation, and leaking.
- Low water pressure and leaks: These pipes are especially prone to leaks and reduced water pressure due to corrosion.
- Rust-colored water: Once enough corrosion has occurred, iron can leak into the water, which will give it a rusty-brown color.
- Lead: Even though these pipes were developed as an alternative to lead pipes, the zinc coating has been found to release lead, at up to ten times the hazardous level set by the EPA. They can also have higher levels of lead if they are connected downstream from a copper pipe. Even if the lead pipes are replaced in your home, the corrosion that occurs in galvanized pipes can trap lead particles from connected pipes and continue to release lead into the water.
Other plumbing issues are common no matter how old your house or plumbing is. Things such as leaky faucets, slow drains, and clogged pipes. Additionally, even though Portland does not have extreme winters, the temperature does drop below freezing and this can be very bad for outside faucets. It is usually fairly straightforward to protect your outdoor faucets, as we can insulate them to keep them from freezing.
How Does The Water In Portland Affect Your Plumbing?
Portland’s main water supply comes primarily from rainwater collected at the Bull Run Watershed. The second-largest source of water comes from a groundwater supply at the Columbia South Shore Well Field, which is drawn from three sources, the Blue Lake Aquifer, the Troutdale Sandstone Aquifer, and the Sand and Gravel Aquifer. According to the City of Portland, the water from Bull Run is very soft, while the water from Columbia is moderately hard. You might be wondering what the difference is between soft and hard water. Hard water has higher levels of calcium and magnesium, while soft water has higher levels of sodium. If your water is too hard, mineral deposits can form in your pipes causing low water pressure. Hard water also leaves deposits in your water heater, limiting its lifespan and making it less efficient overall.
How Much Does Plumbing Usually Cost in Portland?
Plumbing is rarely cheap and can quickly get more expensive if not done properly or as more issues crop up during the project. It is also easy to get in over your head very quickly, as repairs in the area tend to fall between $150 and $900. That is why it is important to not only fix problems as soon as you find them, but to also call our plumbers for assistance.
Cost Factor: Replacing Galvanized Pipes
As we mentioned earlier, older homes in Portland often have galvanized pipes which can lead to multiple problems. Depending on how big your home is, and what replacement pipes are used, the cost for this can range from $1,500 to more than $15,000. Using plastic pipes will reduce the costs compared to copper pipes, and our plumbers in Portland often use PEX, or cross-linked polyethylene, piping. This type of pipe has many advantages including, faster installation, no risk of corrosion, and is significantly cheaper.
Cost Factor: Current Condition of Plumbing
The condition of your plumbing can be a major factor in determining how much it is going to cost. Projects with existing plumbing that is in good condition, are generally quicker and less expensive. For projects where the existing plumbing is in poor condition, the time and cost can escalate quickly. This is usually due to a snowball effect. For example, you call our plumber to fix a leaky drain. While fixing that drain, the plumber discovers the problem is related to corroded pipes and has to extend the project to replace the corroded pipes. In the process of replacing the corroded pipes, water damage is found inside the wall along with more extensive pipe corrosion. Now the leaky drain project involves replacing corroded pipes as well as repairing water damage. Like a snowball, the repair, and the cost, gets bigger and bigger.
Cost Factor: Flat Rate vs Hourly Rate
There are two different methods of pricing a plumbing job and there are pros and cons to both. A flat rate is an agreed-upon price before the beginning of the job. The main pro to this method is knowing how much it will cost with no surprises, regardless of the time it takes or any complications that arise. An hourly rate, also known as time and material, is based on how long the job takes and how much the materials end up costing. Our plumbers will give you a reasonable estimate and update you during the project with any problems.
Can Better Plumbing Save You Money In Portland?
Absolutely! Even though plumbing projects can be expensive initially, many will save you money in the long run. Beyond saving money on future repairs by fixing problems as soon as you find them, you can also save money on your utility bill. Something as simple as a leaky faucet can cost around $20 a year. That might not seem like a lot at first, but it adds up. It also wastes more than 3,600 gallons of water a year. When you take into account the fact that only 1% of the water on the plant is suitable for human consumption, the cost of that leaky faucet becomes more significant. Plus if you put that extra $20 in a savings account, you can earn interest on it! Here are some other ways better plumbing can save you money.
- More efficient fixtures, like low-flow toilets, save money on your utility bill, and they conserve water. Additionally, you can get rebates and other incentives for installing these types of energy-saving fixtures. The EnergyTrust of Oregon has a list of incentives for homeowners in Oregon. This can include things such as:
- High-efficiency washers
- Tankless water heaters or other high-efficiency water heaters
- Increases the value of your home. Adding energy-efficient fixtures, fixing leaks and slow drains, and installing a dishwasher if you don’t already have one, all significantly increase the value of your home.
When Should You Call The Water Utility Company In Portland Vs Hire a Plumber?
In general, our plumbers can take care of most of your plumbing problems, however, there are some instances where they can’t, and you need to call your utility company. These are usually situations where it is frowned upon (i.e. against the law) for someone other than the utility company to fix:
- If your house is completely out of water, call your utility company
- If you spot a leak at your neighbor’s home, and they are not home, call your utility company and ask them to come and check it out and shut off the water, don’t shut your neighbor’s water off yourself. This is one of those frowned upon situations. Plus how mad would you be if your neighbor thought they saw a leak because you jumped out of the shower dripping wet to grab shampoo, and turned off your water while you were still in the shower?
- If there is a water leak in the street, like a broken water main, call your utility company
- If your water line breaks, and you do not know where the shut-off valve is, or it doesn’t work, call your utility company
- Anytime you need an adjustment on your bill, call your utility company. This is one of those situations where our plumbers can’t do anything. Unfortunately, we do not work for the utility company and do not have any control over your bill.
When Do You Need Permits For Plumbing Service in Portland?
Do-it-yourself plumbing can be empowering, expensive, easy, and exhausting. Something many homeowners might not think of is if they need a permit to perform DIY plumbing. If you are fixing, replacing, or maintaining an existing appliance or parts already in place, or you are replacing plumbing parts that do not require water, i.e. a toilet seat, you do not need a permit. Here are some situations where the City of Portland requires you to have a permit.
- Anything to do with the piping system, including, repair, replacement, relocation, or addition
- Installation of new plumbing fixtures such as toilets, sinks, showers, tubs, and dishwashers
- Replacement of water heaters or existing fixtures associated with the water heater
- Capping off pipes from fixtures that have been removed
- Installation of rain drains, dry wells or water lines, or backflow prevention assemblies for lawn sprinkler systems
- Anything to do with sewer lines, cesspools, and septic systems
- Replacing a metallic water service with a non-metallic water service. If you are replacing a metallic (copper or galvanized steel) system with a non-metallic system (plastic or CVPC) you may also need an electric permit, as you may need to install a new grounding electrode
A good rule of thumb to follow is that if you need to obtain a permit from the city, you should probably call our plumbers. Our experts can help obtain one if you need it.