One of the most important parts of your home’s plumbing is your main water line, and it brings fresh water from your supply to your home. This could be from a well or from the city’s supply, and you want to know the average cost for water line replacement and installation if something were to go wrong and you needed it fixed quickly. It’s underground, and it’ll last roughly 50 years before you have to worry about water line replacement as long as you install it properly.
If it fails, you’ll end up with higher water bills and a drop in your water pressure. Unfortunately, there are several cost factors that will impact your water line replacement, including the pipe material, pipe diameter, and how far it has to travel.
Many times, the main water line has feeder lines that go to your home, and this is a private water service line. You’re not responsible for water line replacement if it’s the main one your city or municipality maintains. Instead, you’re responsible for the feeder lines. Your water line replacement costs typically start around $1,500 and go up to $3,000 on the high end. On average, you’ll pay $2,300. These price estimates are for a trenchless, short installation using PVC piping.
Per linear foot, you’ll spend between $50.00 and $250 per linear foot. The accessibility, depth, length, and material will all factor into your water line replacement cost. You’ll also need permits from the city, and your location will determine the price. Since this is a wide price range, we’re going to outline the biggest factors that you want to consider for this project to ensure you get a solid estimate so you can budget for this project.
A broken pipe can be a huge problem both inside and outside of your home. It can cause water damage that is severe enough to require you to replace parts of your home’s structure, and it can flood your yard and drown your plants and trees. Broken pipe by Horst Gutmann / CC BY-SA 2.0
Signs It’s Time for Water Line Replacement
There are signs that can indicate that it’s time for a water line replacement or repair. The first sign is a water bill that goes up very quickly. This signals that your water line is taking in more water that you’re using or that it sprung a leak. A sudden drop in water pressure is another common sign. A serious leak can also cause a water pressure drop because it means that the water isn’t reaching your home’s outlets like it did before.
Flooding in your yard where you need a sump pump to clear it out can indicate leaking or breakage. You could also have discolored water in your faucets and outlets. All of these issues could simply mean you need a repair, but it’s best to work them out as quickly as possible to negate the damage.
How Deep Your Water Line Runs
Your water line is located at least a foot underground. How deep it is will depend on the climate, soil, and how far down under the ground your water supply line is. It could go as deep as two or three feet. If you use trenchless digging the depth typically won’t factor into the cost for your water line replacement. If you do need a trench dug to lay your new line, the costs start to add up quickly for every foot you have to dig down.
Cost for Water Line Replacement by Linear Foot
One of the first things you want to do when it comes to water line replacement is figure out how many square feet you have to replace. This is commonly referred to as linear feet. All this means is that it’s 12 inches in a straight line. On average, your water line replacement cost will run between $50.00 to $150 for every linear foot. However, if your line has a difficult access point, it could easily cost up to $250 a linear foot. The material you choose will also factor in because some are much more expensive than others.
No matter if you have to replace 20 feet or 500 feet, this private pipe will connect to your home from the city line. This means that you’re responsible for maintaining and replacing it if it fails. Once you reach the property line, the city will typically take over the responsibility. You can get a permit if you need to repair the main line with your private line.
Installation Process for the Water Line Replacement Process
In many cases, water line installation is a trenchless affair. Just like when you drill a well, you start by boring a hole at the water line’s beginning and a second hole at the end. You use a cable to create a tunnel that runs between the two holes before snaking the pipe into place. In some cases, you can reuse the older pipe. You’ll insert a sleeve into the old pipe to seal any leaks and fix the cracks. You could also choose to pull out the old pipe and insert a whole new one using a similar process.
You’ll connect the two ends of the pipe with one running to the main valve and one going to the water shutoff point in your home. The main valve may be below a sidewalk. If so, you’ll have to dig it up to make the connection strong. This price will vary largely by your location, and this is why you always start the water line replacement process by an inspection. The inspector will use cameras to find out exactly where everything is underneath the surface.
If you’re not able to replace the line using this trenchless method, you’ll have to bring an excavator in to dig up your old line. You’ll dig a big trench up across your yard to help uncover your damaged line. Then, you’ll manually remove the old pipe and replace it. Finally, you’ll have to backfill the area in. You’ll need to reseed your grass and repair the sidewalk. In most cases, trenchless water line replacement projects only last a few hours. If you can’t do a trenchless installation, the project can stretch out into two days.
Water Line Replacement Cost by Material
You can choose from several materials when it comes to your water line replacement pipe. This is one cost factor you have to consider, and the types of soil you have, climate, and city regulations will all factor in. Some places have strict guidelines for the exact pipe size and material you’re allowed to use, and other areas let you make your own decisions based on your soil type and water needs. Brass, copper, galvanized piping, and PVC are the most common materials.
If you want a slightly more uncommon piping material that is very durable, consider brass. You can’t use it in high-PH soil because it won’t hold up, but it’s adequate for water line replacement in other soil conditions. You’ll pay between $10.00 to $15.00 a linear foot to buy, cut, and install it.
Many old water lines are made out of copper, and it’s considered to be the gold standard for piping material because it holds up so well. Copper also doesn’t get impacted by cold or heat, and this can help it last longer. You will have a problem if you try to use it in soils with high PH levels, but it’ll hold up in other types. It costs $20.00 a linear foot.
Galvanized Iron or Steel
This is a very long-lasting and durable option for your piping material, and it doesn’t get affected by impacts, heat, or corrosive soil conditions. You’ll usually get galvanized iron, but you can also get galvanized steel. This will increase your water line replacement cost by $10.00 a linear foot.
Anyone on a serious budget may turn to PVC for their pipe material. It’s the least expensive option out of all of the materials, and it’s made out of polyvinyl chloride. It won’t get impacted by soil conditions, and it’s durable and tough. It won’t do well in very hot climates. PVC costs around $5.00 a linear foot.
Some pipe materials are much more durable than others, and your environment will dictate which ones you can use. Some will corrode or burst under the right conditions, so it’s important to get advice before you pick out one. Broken pipe by Pulpolux !!! / CC BY-NC 2.0
Additional Cost Considerations
Along with the material and a trench or trenchless installation process, there are other cost considerations to keep in mind when you budget for this project. Doing so will help to ensure that you don’t get surprised by a nasty bill further down the line.
First up is flushing, and this is a way to clean the water in the main. It’s typically done right after a water line replacement to help flush any stray debris or mud from the pipes. You’ll have to open the water supply full blast and let the water cycle through your home until it goes from a muddy brown to clean. You can use water to water your plants without a problem, but you shouldn’t drink it. This can take several hours from start to finish, and it’ll cost between $50.00 and $100 a time.
Although there are several types of pipe materials, you may not have access to every one. Certain pipes can only survive certain temperature conditions. So, this means that even though PVC is cheaper, you could end up having to use more expensive galvanized or copper piping. You can’t use PVC in locations that have freezing temperatures.
You can’t use copper if you have specific elements in your soil. WIth copper, things like high pH levels can cause corrosion that weakens the pipes and makes it more prone to breaking down. You should talk to your local plumbers to see which type of pipe is best for your location to get the most life out of your new water line once you install it.
Shutoff Valve Replacement
If your shutoff valve is old and you want to replace it, it’s a great time to do so when you have everything open to do a full water line replacement. This will ensure that it’s stable and ready to use if you ever have an emergency and need to shut the water off to your home to prevent flooding. This replacement will cost between $150 and $200.
If your water line is over 20 years old, it’s a good idea to consider replacing and upgrading the tap. The tap is the piece of pipe that connects the city line to your water line. This is a slightly more expensive part to replace, and you should budget around $300 for it.
Water Pressure Regulator
You may have no choice but to replace your water pressure regulator when you do a water line replacement because this can help to keep your water flowing through your home at an even rate. To buy the part and install it, you’ll spend between $250 and $350.
If a pipe starts to leak water, you want to get it fixed as quickly as possible to negate the damage and save on your water bills. You should budget for this potential problem to ensure that you have the money on-hand when you need it. Broken water pipe by Kordite / CC BY-NC 2.0
How Labor Costs Factor Into Your Prices
Since you shouldn’t take on this project by yourself, it’ll be necessary for you to hire a professional. Your labor costs will depend on the type of installation you need for your water line replacement project. Labor will add 20 to 30% to your total project price. The pipe material, installation type, soil type, and distance from the street will all factor into the labor costs. If you use PVC and have a trenchless installation, you’ll pay between $450 to $675 for labor out of a complete project cost of $2,250.
Price to Connect to the City Water
You’ll need an inspection and permits to connect your water line replacement to the city water line. This can increase your total project costs from $250 up to over $1,000. The two biggest factors include:
- Inspections – You have to meet all of your code requirements, so you’ll need an inspection when it comes to your water line replacement. Some cities do offer this for free, but the typical cost range starts at $150 and goes up to $500.
- Permits – Since you’re going to hook up to the city water line, almost every municipality requires you to get the correct permits. You’ll want to check with your local building code enforcement entity before you start your project. A contractor usually includes these permits as part of their estimates. They can add up to $500 to your project price.
Replacing the Main Water Line Cost
You can expect to spend between $2,000 to $10,000 to replace the main water line. Per linear foot to replace the pipe, you’ll spend between $50.00 to $250. The main factor that will influence your water line replacement cost is having to dig out the old line and get rid of it. If your old line is from the 1980s or earlier, you could get away with adding a slip lining instead of replacing the entire thing.
Price for a Trenchless Water Line Replacement
If you take great pride in your yard and have a lot of bushes, trees, or flowers, you’ll want to get a trenchless water line replacement as this is the least damage to your yard. This type of water line replacement will cost between $50.00 and $250 per linear foot. It’s quick, and it doesn’t damage your landscape as much as a trenched line replacement does. The two common methods include:
- Bursting the Pipe – You’ll pay between $50.00 and $200 a linear foot. It uses an auger, and you go in and drill out the old pipe. This is also called bursting the pipe in place while you drag the new pipe in at the same time to replace it.
- Lining the Pipe – To line an existing pipe, it costs between $100 and $250 for every linear foot. It will push an epoxy lining into your existing pipe to fill in the cracks. It will essentially create a new pipe using the old one.
Replacing Your Water Line from Your House to the Street
As long as the pipe falls inside of your property line, and is considered to be your private main water line. It’ll cost between $600 and $2,500 to replace it. You’ll be responsible for finding out if you or your city is responsible for the portion of the pipe that goes out past your property line into the city’s supply. The city will maintain the supply line, but it’s a grey area for the small section that is outside of your property line. They may offer to cover this portion of the bill once you notify them that you’re planning a water line replacement project.
Factors That Can Increase Your Project Costs
The main factors that go into figuring out your water line replacement and installation cost usually stay consistent from one home to the next. However, there are a few factors that can make your final project price fluctuate. They include:
- Depth – The depth will play a role in your water line replacement and installation costs. The deeper you have to dig to lay the line, the longer the project will take. You may also have to hire heavy equipment, and this increases your costs.
- Material and Location – In some rare soil conditions, you can’t use some materials like copper. You also have to bury it below your frost line to prevent it from bursting and freezing. If the location is harder to get to, this will increase your costs.
- Obstructions – Obstructions like fruit trees, a patio, or a concrete walkway make it more difficult and time-consuming for your contractors to reach the pipe. In turn, this drives up the labor costs because the project will take longer to complete.
Site Cleanup Costs
Once you get your water line replacement done, you are faced with a yard that is a mess. This means that your main project costs aren’t finished totaling up. You could end up re-sodding the yard, replanting any flowers, and delivering and installing new concrete. You should budget for the following site cleanup costs when you figure out your water line replacements:
- Re-Sodding the Yard – Even if you have a trenchless installation, you will still end up with at least a line of disturbed soil in your yard. For a trenched dig, you’ll have a huge area to fix. You’ll have to install new sod or lay down new grass seed, and this can cost from $0.50 to $2.25 per square foot.
- Concrete Delivery and Installation – If you have to tear up part of the sidewalk, you’ll need to arrange for new concrete delivery and installation. Per square yard for your delivery costs, you’ll pay around $75.00. Installation can cost around $200, but it can quickly go up when you factor labor costs in. This is especially true if you have a larger area to fix.
- Repaving – If the water line runs under your driveway, you can find yourself replacing parts of it that you have to dig up to get to the water line. Your current pavers will be the biggest factor in your water line replacement cost, and these materials can cost between $3.00 to $50.00 a square foot. You also have to include labor costs.
Where You Can Find a Water Line Replacement Expert Near You
If you’re looking for a water line replacement contractor near you it’s important that you contact more than one entity. Below is one resource you can use to locate and get quotes from local specialists:
Frequently Asked Questions
Knowing which questions to ask when you’re considering water line replacement will help you understand the scope of the project. In turn, you’ll know if you’re getting a good price or not when you call around for estimates. Broken Water Pipe by Andrew Comings / CC BY 2.0
1. Is it possible to replace your water line yourself?
You could. However, you’ll have to deal with inspections and permits, and you want to ensure that the entire project goes smoothly. So, it’s a good idea to consider hiring a professional instead of taking on the project by yourself.
2. What is the cost to connect to your city’s sewage line?
If you decide you want to connect to your city’s sewage line, you can expect to pay between $500 to $20,000. How long your sewer line needs to be and your local regulations will all factor into the cost. For rural connections, this cost could be as high as $50,000.
3. Is it possible to switch from well water to city water?
Yes. You can switch from well water to city water. However, you’ll need to run a private main water line from the closest main city line. It’s a good idea to contact the city and ask where their water line is by your home and get an inspection.
4. How deep do you bury water lines?
The depth of your water line replacement pipe will depend on your location and your soil conditions. They start at one foot deep, but they can go up to three feet deep. The deeper the line goes, the more you’ll have to pay in labor costs.
For water line replacement and installation, there are a wide variety of cost factors that you’ll consider. The core components almost always cost around the same amount, and this makes it easier to get a decent estimate of your total project costs. Contact a few local plumbers in your area and get quotes for your job. This will help you create a working budget while getting your new water line.
Jen is a master gardener, interior designer and home improvement expert. She has completed many home improvement, decor and remodeling projects with her family over the past 10 years on their 4,500 sf Victorian house. She is also a passionate farmer who keeps goats, chickens, turkeys cows and pigs on her farm, and an instructor for her community’s Organic and Sustainable Farming project.