The piping on your old house might be good for an entire lifespan. But, if you’re buying or moved into an old house, you might find that your pipes are over 100 years old.
In fact, while modern polyvinyl chloride pipes are likely to last indefinitely – brass, copper, cast iron and steel pipes have to be replaced every 20-100 years. And, for many UK residents, their pipes are much older.
That could lead to contaminated water, dirty water and even low water pressure. That makes sense if your old metal pipes are starting to degrade. But it also means paying for an expensive repiping of your home.
The average cost of repiping a house in the UK is £15,000. That could be as low as £6,000 if your home is a shell (without interior walls or flooring). And, you could pay up to £25,000 if you have a large home or pipes have to be drilled out.
Most of these costs are labour. However, you’ll pay for new pipes, equipment, new boilers and radiators as well.
Why Replumb A House?
If you live in an old home, you could be having problems with waterflow and water distribution. Sometimes, that’s because of the water connection.
More often, it means your pipes are old and decaying. Modern PVC pipes didn’t become a standard until the 1960s. If your home is older, then your water and drainage pipes are made of brass, copper, cast iron, steel or even lead.
Unlike polyvinyl chloride (PVC), those pipes have a defined lifespan and have to be replaced.
- Brass – 40–70-year lifespan
- Cast Iron – 75–100-year lifespan
- Steel – 20–50-year lifespan
- Copper – 50–100-year lifespan
In addition, lead pipes weren’t banned until 1969. This means that if your home was built before 1970, you could have original lead pipes.
Most communities actually have a lead pipe replacement scheme as well –which means you can get assistance updating your pipework if the pipes are lead.
- Improve water pressure
- Enable water flow in case of collapsed pipes
- Stop leaks
- Reduce contamination in water
- Prevent health problems from metal contamination in water
- Stop oder in water
- Stop discoloration in water
- Improve drainage
Old pipes can cause a significant number of problems and replacing them can resolve those issues.
House Repiping Cost Estimates*
Replumbing a house is a big job. Here, you’ll either have to strip the home back to a shell (e.g. if you’re renovating). In this case, you’ll pay the same rates for “normal” plumbing for a new home.
If you’re replumbing an old home and have to lift floors, core walls and remove drywall – it will cost much more.
|Flat in a Block||£13,000-£27,000|
*Please note, these cost estimates are based on quotes at the time of writing in May 2023. Actual rates are subject to change and may be different depending on the time of reading.
Home Replumbing Cost Factors Involved
Replumbing a house can cost thousands of pounds and take several weeks.
Often, the largest cost factor involved is how much work is required to access the pipes in the first place.
Cost of Labour
Most repiping jobs take at least 2 weeks with some taking up to 6 weeks. When you consider that you need at least two people to feed pipes through a home – you are looking at a lot of labour costs.
A plumber’s hourly rate is £40-£60 per hour or an average of £50. If you have a replumbing job, you’ll typically pay for one plumber and one or more apprentices, which will save you costs.
Still, you’re looking at an average of £375 per day for the plumber and £150-£200 per day per apprentice.
That means for a 2-week project, you’re looking at a minimum of about £6,000 in labour costs. If you work out that you’re paying roughly £3,000 per week in labour, you can average out costs based on how long your plumber thinks the work will take.
At the same time, not all plumbers will do work like replumbing a house at an hourly rate. Instead, they’ll offer you a project rate. This may be cheaper or more expensive depending on the plumber.
Therefore, it’s important to ask around to get an idea of what local rates look like. For example, your plumber may quote you a flat rate of £25,000 for a 5,000 square foot home – including materials.
Some homeowners prefer this kind of flat rate pricing, because it means you won’t face unexpected surprises in the form of higher rates than expected.
Moving Flooring and Walls
If you’re currently living in the home, it’s unlikely you want to strip the floors back to the subfloor to give the plumber access to the pipes.
This could mean that they will have to lift the floors and even the walls to get access to the pipes. That can add a significant amount of time to the job.
In other cases, a lot of pipework will be accessible via the crawlspace or the loft. In this case, costs will be much lower.
You’ll typically have to choose between replacing your pipes with copper or PVC. Here, both have advantages.
For example, copper pipes typically last 50 years or longer before you have to replace them again. On the other hand, they’re vulnerable to corrosion and may degrade quickly if you have untreated and acidic water.
PVC pipes are standard in many homes. However, their lifespan typically depends on stress factors and exposure to UV light.
Theoretically, PVC lasts for roughly 100 years. It’s also not vulnerable to acidic water. And, with prices that are significantly lower than copper, it’s superior in almost every way.
However, you might be recommended to go with copper pipes if your pipe is exposed to light, if it risks freezing or if it’s exposed to a lot of stress.
In addition, older PVC pipes may only be rated for about 20 years. That’s because the technology that goes into making them has changed. And, other kinds of pipe, like flexible pipe, are often rated for under 40 years. Classic rigid PVC is the cheapest and most durable option – so it’s usually the way to go.
In addition, you’ll typically want copper piping for hot water – as it’s less vulnerable to heat.
- Copper pipe 15 mm – £4.00+ per metre
- Copper pipe 22 mm – £7.50 per metre
- Copper pipe 30mm (Drains) – £9.50+ per metre
- PVC pipe 15mm – £1.98-£3.90 per metre
- PVC pipe 22mm – £2.28-£4.98 per metre
- PVC pipe 30mm – £2.40-£5.40 per metre
There are also plenty of other materials you can choose from. For example, flexible piping can save you a lot of labour costs, but may have to be replaced more quickly.
If you have an old system with old pipework, chances are, the boiler is also old. That may mean replacing the boiler and central heating system.
In this case, you can expect to pay somewhere between £4,000 and £19,000 for a boiler, new radiators and new copper piping for the central heating system.
Replacing a boiler may also mean a significant amount of extra work if you have an old back boiler or similar. If that’s the case, discuss the work with your plumber to decide how much extra it will cost.
Repiping your home is the perfect opportunity to do remodelling work you’ve had in mind.
For example, if you want a second bathroom, want to move the sink or want a bath instead of a shower, having the drains moved during replumbing will save you a lot on having the work done at any other point.
In this case, you’ll largely just have to choose a new location and create channels – which will mean a few extra hours of work.
However, if you have concrete walls, you’re likely to spend extra on coring those walls – because you’ll have to drill channels for the pipes. Therefore, it may not be worthwhile to move the pipework.
In other cases, you’ll be forced to move it. For example, it may be impossible to get old lead pipes out of a cement pour foundation without breaking up the foundation. For this, you’re better off moving the pipework and leaving the old pipes in place.
Type of Home
It’s important to keep in mind that the cost of labour will very much depend on what kind of home you live in.
If you have a flat in a block, getting the piping out could involve significant work and going into your neighbour’s homes. If you live in a bungalow, most of the piping is probably in the loft – so rates will be much lower.
On the other hand, if you live in a very old home, you may find that much of the pipework was laid before the foundation was poured. That could mean coring out the piping and running it again. Or, it could mean leaving it and creating new channels in the subfloor and in the walls.
If you’re replacing the drainage, you’ll have to apply for planning permission with your local planning authority. This applies if you’re replacing the vents or the soil pipe.
Otherwise, you shouldn’t have to apply for planning permission to replumb your house. Planning permission typically requires about £250 in administrative fees, including an initial £60 application fee.
On the other hand, you’ll always have to notify building control. This costs £170-£690 depending on your location.
In addition, your Competent Person Scheme plumber can handle these notifications for you. If you don’t have a plumber in the Competent Person’s Register, you’ll have to pay for a safety inspection by local building control (£100+, before the flooring and drywall are put back in place) and handle notifications yourself.
In some areas, you’ll also need permission from your local water supplier.
In addition, all plumbing work must comply with the UK Water Supply (Water Fittings) Regulations. Any WaterSafe registered plumber will be able to install plumbing to these standards.
All drainage work must follow the Part H of Schedule 1 to the Building Regulations of 2010 – 2015 edition. This includes specifications for foul water drainage, wastewater treatment, rainwater drainage, solid waste storage and separate systems of drainage. Any plumber in the APHC Competent Person’s Scheme for Plumbers will be able to self-inspect for Part H compliance.
6 Signs Your House May Require Repiping
The more frequently you have problems with the plumbing, the more likely it is that repiping the home will fix the issue. Those problems extend from discoloured water to low flow and drainage rates.
However, you can always have an inspection, such as a CCTV inspection of your drains and pipes before making a decision.
1. Age of Pipes
Most pipes have a lifespan. In addition, if your house was plumbed before 1970, you might have dangerous lead pipes.
- Metal pipes are over 50 years old and show signs of corrosion
- Pipes are made of lead
- PVC pipes are older than 40 years and frequently have issues
Simple age isn’t enough reason to replace pipes. If your pipework is functioning well, it doesn’t matter how old it is. However, if you’re having frequent issues like burst pipes and leaks, it could be about the age of the plumbing.
2. Odour or Discoloured Water
Old copper, brass, iron and steel pipes eventually start to corrode. That’s especially true if you live in an area with high PH water.
You might start to see sediment in the water that isn’t lime or scale.
You might also start having problems with brown, green or other discoloration in the water. For example, if your water is reddish it means that you have rust or another form of oxidation in the pipes. If the water is green, it means your copper pipes are oxidising.
If your water smells, it’s also a sign that the pipes are going bad.
However, if you have a large amount of white contamination in the water supply, you might be able to fix the issue without replacing the pipes. This is normally calcium carbonate, which can be removed with chemical treatment.
3. Frequent Leaks or Burst Pipes
If your pipes are bursting every winter, it’s often a sign that your pipes are old. However, if you’re not having issues anywhere but at the seams, you might simply be able to re-solder the joints to restore your pipework.
For example, the solder on copper pipes typically lasts about 70-100 years – after which it starts to degrade. So, if your central heating pipes are bursting at the joints but not anywhere else, the most cost-effective solution would be to ask a plumber to assess if you can get away with resoldering the joints.
However, if your pipes are bursting everywhere, it’s usually a sign that they are weakening. That’s also true with PVC, as it starts to degrade after a certain amount of stress.
Over time, expanding and shrinking water create micro cracks in the plastic or metal, increasing the risk of a rupture every time it gets cold. Replacing the pipes will be the only way to prevent this kind of recurring issue.
4. Slow Drainage
If your pipes are draining slowly, it’s usually a good idea to ask a plumber for an inspection.
In most cases, you can get a full CCTV inspection of the pipes and drains for about £100-£250. This will give you a good insight into whether the pipes actually have to be replaced or not.
For example, in some cases, you may be able to get away with lining the pipes. In others, the pipes will be too corroded and you’re better off replacing them.
In addition, slow drainage may be caused by a wide variety of fixable issues like clogs, fat deposits or even a single collapsed pipe or joint.
5. Poor Water Pressure
Poor water pressure may be an issue that the council or your water supplier has to fix. However, it might also be that your pipes are very old.
Here, corrosion builds up causing clogs and preventing good flow rates. However, water pressure issues can also be an issue with poor venting, blocked or corroded vents and even with calcium carbonate buildup.
In some of these cases, you can fix the issue without replacing the pipes – so you will want an inspection before settling on repiping.
6. Contaminated Water
If your water contains traces of lead, bacteria, mould or zinc, it can cause health complications. These contaminants are almost always the result of old and corroding pipes.
Unfortunately, many people don’t realise they are there until they start experiencing problems or a water test informs them. In some cases, you can avoid water contamination by lining the pipes. In others, you’ll have to opt to replumb the house.
What Does Replumbing Involve?
Replumbing normally means taking the time to remove all of the old pipework in your home. You can then reinsert the pipework into the old channels or create new channels for the pipework.
Often, replumbing means:
- Replacing freshwater pipes from the point of the water mains
- Updating the central heating system and piping
- Replacing the vents
- Updating drainage and soil pipes
That’s normally broken into several stages. The first is always inspecting the system and deciding what has to be replaced. From there, you’ll have to handle access.
For example, accessing the pipework is the first step. Most pipework is concealed either in the wall or in a box – that will mean taking apart the wall or the box to access it. In other cases, you’ll have to lift the floor to access pipework on the floors. If you live in a flat, you may have to do that on every floor.
On the other hand, if you live in a home with a crawlspace, you may be able to access the pipework from the crawlspace as well. After accessing the old pipes, you rip them out.
And, normally, you replace them as you go, meaning you don’t have to make the full house inaccessible all at once. Instead, you replace pipes on a room-by-room or lie-by-line basis.
Plumber Hiring Checklist
Hiring a plumber should mean looking for relevant qualifications, comparing quotes on the work and ensuring your plumber is equipped to do the job.
You’ll want to look for:
- WaterSafe Mark / WaterMark Accreditation
- APHC Association of Plumbing and Heating Contractors
- Competent Person’s Register
You’ll also want to ask about:
- Are you charging per hour, per day or per project? Why?
- Who owns and disposes of waste?
- Do you have liability insurance?
- What about workmanship guarantees?
- Worker’s compensation?
- How detailed is the quote?
- What materials are you using and why?
In addition, you’ll want to look for a supplier with good reviews and references.
Repiping a full house is a big job – you’ll spend several weeks of your life around the people doing the work. It’s important that you trust they’ll do the job well and that you get along with them.
How To Save Money (Tips)
Replumbing a house is always going to be expensive. However, you can try to save money. The following tips will help.
- Request detailed quotes and compare at least three options
- Opt for PVC piping wherever possible – unless your plumber thinks you need copper
- Have all of the work done at once, you’ll usually get a better deal on materials and labour
- Have work done in the summer, before plumbers start dealing with burst pipes and other issues
- Make sure your plumber is on the competent persons’ register so they can self-inspect
- Ensure the plumber handles disposal of the old pipes
- Check for pipe replacement schemes you can leverage to get help from council
Replacing the pipes in your home is always going to be expensive. For the average homeowner, that’s £15,000. However, actual rates can vary from as little as £4,000 to over £27,000 depending on your home, what kind of pipes you use and how much work it is to access them. On average, you can calculate about £3,000 per week in labour, plus materials, which are usually £5 per metre for water and drainage pipes and £8-£14 per metre for central heating pipes.
If you’re ready to get started replacing the pipes in your home, comparing quotes is the best way to go. Request quotes from your local plumbers using the form above.