Contents (Click To Jump)
- 1 What Are the Most Common Plumbing Issues in Pittsburgh?
- 2 How Does the Water in Pittsburgh Affect Your Plumbing?
- 3 How Much Does Plumbing Usually Cost in Pittsburgh?
- 4 Can Better Plumbing Save You Money in Pittsburgh?
- 5 When Should You Call the Water Utility Company in Pittsburgh Vs Hire a Plumber?
- 6 When Do You Need Permits for Plumbing Service in Pittsburgh?
What Are the Most Common Plumbing Issues in Pittsburgh?
Unfortunately, Pittsburgh has its fair share of plumbing issues. A network of aging and poorly repaired plumbing systems is to blame for most of the plumbing issues in the area. While some issues are common in many cities, Pittsburgh residents have long been victim to lead contamination in the water. While lead can cause unsightly stains and smelly or discolored water, the most important factor is the toxicity of the chemicals in drinking water. While the city is working on repairing the issues and lead levels are lower than they have been in 20 years, aging lead pipes still have an effect on residential plumbing. Unlike many water issues, boiling water has no effect on lead contamination. Filters can be used to eliminate contamination and make water safe for consumption.
Pittsburgh Water and Sewer Authority (PSWA) is working to replace all lead water service lines by 2026. Work has been completed in the areas of California-Kirkbride, Fairview, Brighton Heights, and partially completed in Southside Slopes. Status updates for in-progress mainline replacements can be located on the PSWA website by expanding the information on your location. While these replacements are an essential part of supplying safe drinking water to Pittsburgh residents, it’s important to note that repairs do not extend to aging systems on private property. Many aging residential plumbing systems are composed of lead pipes which could carry additional concerns of lead contamination and the plumbing issues that go along with these aging pipes.
Harsh winter weather and regular wear and tear are responsible for additional plumbing issues in Pittsburgh. Here are some of the most common plumbing issues residents and business owners in Pittsburgh face.
Slow draining water or stopped-up sinks and bathtubs are a common plumbing issue faced by many households. If you experience the problem in only one area of your home, a locally clogged drain may be to blame. Hair clogs in bathtub and shower drains are common, as well as clogs due to food particles and grease in kitchen sinks. If you’re experiencing slow draining water in all your drains, a damaged sewer pipe may be to blame. Aging sewer pipes can become corroded or compressed, causing a blockage that won’t allow water to drain. This can eventually lead to sewer line leaks and should be evaluated by our professional plumbers right away.
Sewer Line Backups
After suffering from two out of the top three wettest years in recorded history, Pittsburgh residents are becoming accustomed to sewer line backups. When the main sewer system gets overwhelmed by excess stormwater, backups send debris into your home or building sewer system. This can result in clogs or backups that occur more frequently or sooner than normal.
Corrosion, pinholes, cracks, and broken pipes lead to water lost underground, down the drain, and inside your home. Old plumbing systems like the ones in Pittsburgh deteriorate over time, leading to leaky pipes. For some, small leaks don’t seem like a big deal. However, for residents suffering from the costs of repairs due to pinholes in copper plumbing systems, it’s a very big deal. Leaky pipes can increase your water bill, cause irrigation issues when located underground, and severely damage your home.
The most common signs of leaky pipes include:
- Increasing water bills
- Mold or mildew on walls and ceilings
- Stained or wet ceilings, walls, and floors
- Foundation cracks
- Musty smelling rooms
It’s often more than a nuisance when your pipes freeze. Frozen pipes can mean no running water for days. Even worse, when ice expands in your plumbing system, pipes can burst and flood your home with water. Frozen pipes are a pretty common problem in Pittsburgh homes and businesses. Adding to the problem is the fact that many plumbing systems in the city use rigid copper piping or older metal pipes, which are more likely to rupture when water freezes.
How Does the Water in Pittsburgh Affect Your Plumbing?
Pittsburgh water comes from the Allegheny River and is then treated at various facilities. It is treated with chemicals used in nearly all water treatment facilities, to make it safe for drinking. Currently, the water in Pittsburgh is also treated with orthophosphate, to form a protective barrier between lead pipes and water. While there are many serious plumbing issues in Pittsburgh, the bulk of these problems don’t stem from the water itself. Instead, issues are related to aging pipes and harsh weather.
How Much Does Plumbing Usually Cost in Pittsburgh?
The average cost of plumbing in Pittsburgh is $466. However, costs can vary widely for a variety of reasons. For instance, an older system may require parts for repairs that are difficult to get and therefore more expensive. Some plumbing services require a permit which often includes extra fees. The average hourly labor costs for our plumbing services in the area are about $67.14. These cost factors can greatly influence the cost of plumbing in Pittsburgh.
Type of Service
The type of service you have completed will impact every portion of your plumbing bill. For instance, repiping an entire home with PEX will cost around $4,000 to $4,500, while clearing a clogged drain might be $115. Costs of toilet, sink, or bathtub installation are somewhere in the middle.
Many older plumbing systems in Pittsburgh use copper piping, which is one of the most expensive materials for plumbing systems at around $2 to $5 per foot. Newer materials cost 20% to 40% less. If you’re required to replace a significant amount of pipe, your materials are going to change your overall cost quite a bit.
Unfortunately, not every plumbing repair goes smoothly. There are several reasons this can occur. Similar plumbing issues are caused by a variety of reasons. As you may have discovered, all clogs aren’t created equal. As our plumbers do need to be paid for their time, a job that takes six hours is going to cost substantially more than a job that’s completed in a half hour.
Can Better Plumbing Save You Money in Pittsburgh?
Yes. Many of the plumbing issues faced by residents in Pittsburgh can be improved with newer plumbing, added maintenance, or upgraded features that can be added to your existing system. Replacing aging plumbing lines and fixtures is an essential part of keeping a healthy plumbing system, and maintenance can help you avoid expensive repairs.
Avoid Leaks, Poor Water Quality, and Lead Toxicity with New Pipes
The main reason to update your aging water system is to eliminate the possibility of lead toxicity in your drinking water. However, updating your plumbing system can solve a variety of reoccurring plumbing issues as well. Aging plumbing systems are more likely to leak, clog, and produce water with odor and taste issues. The biggest reason to consider replacing your plumbing system in Pittsburgh is to eliminate the possibility of lead toxicity from remaining lead pipes or copper pipes joined with lead solder. While Pittsburgh lead levels currently meet federal guidelines, EPA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) agree that there is no known safe level of lead in a child’s blood.
Reduce Sewer Backup Occurrences with Maintenance and New Features
Rain in Pittsburgh is increasing with no end in sight. While expected rains might not be an issue, the sewer systems in Pittsburgh were designed for a drier climate. The effects of increased rain on the main sewer system are passed on to the systems in homes and businesses. Luckily, there are ways to help avoid this icky issue. Routine sewer maintenance by our professionals like sewer cleaning will eliminate debris from your system that leads to clogs. The installation of backwater valves into your sewer line will prevent mainline sewer backups from getting into your basement.
Insulation and Newer Pipes Help Prevent Frozen Pipes
The cost of avoiding frozen pipes is considerably cheaper than dealing with the damage that occurs when pipes burst. According to FEMA, a one-inch flood can cause $25,000 of damage to your home. Replacing aging copper or lead pipes will help avoid bursting pipes if your water does freeze. Proper insulation of your pipes by our master plumbers is the best way to avoid frozen pipes.
When Should You Call the Water Utility Company in Pittsburgh Vs Hire a Plumber?
PSWA defines when you should contact a plumber with the term “line ownership.” Simply put, anything past the curb box (including the meter) is your responsibility. Since the sewer system is connected directly to the mainline, the entire sewer lateral is your responsibility.
While the information supplied by the PSWA provides a clear picture for homeowners who know exactly where the problem is located, it can make things difficult when you suspect a leak. Luckily, with some investigation, you can usually determine whether a water leak is your responsibility. If you discovered the leak because your water bill has skyrocketed, you should call our plumbers. When the meter records water use, the leak is on your side. If the presence of unexplained puddling alerted you to a leak, and the water meter isn’t recording more water use, it’s time to call the utility company.
When Do You Need Permits for Plumbing Service in Pittsburgh?
Allegheny County provides specific permit requirements and other regulations for plumbers. Generally, repairs that don’t require major replacements are allowed to be completed without a permit. The following plumbing services require a permit in Pittsburgh:
- Any part of a plumbing system becomes defective and requires a complete replacement
- The addition of systems that require connection with water or waste systems when no previous connection existed
- Installation of public facilities
There are many plumbing issues in Pittsburgh, but the system is improving, with complete replacement targeted for 2026. Residents and business owners can eliminate some of the most common issues by contacting our experts for proper maintenance and replacement of older plumbing systems. Whether you own a home or business in Pittsburgh, it’s essential to understand the dangers of lead toxicity and ensure the water is safe for drinking and cooking use.