Excavation: Replacing the Water Supply Line

Author: Touré Foster

Posted in: Excavation

Excavation: Replacing the Water Supply Line

The water supply line to your building is a vital part of your infrastructure. But what if it stops working?

Today we look at the problems that cause the need for replacing the water supply line. We focus particularly on the excavation process and the costs that can turn a basic open cut trench into an expensive process requiring heavy machinery.

Troubleshooting the Issue

Replacing the pipe might be due to several issues. There may be increased water needs after an addition or new water-hungry appliances or a sudden disaster in your front lawn.

Here are the three major reasons:

  • Low Pressure:  A small diameter main water line and meter or clogged pipe can cause problems throughout the home. Replacing the meter and line will fix most pressure issues.
  • Loss of Pressure: If you’re suddenly having a loss of pressure, but your water meter (and bill) show a constant flow or increased use of water, there is likely a leak in the main pipe. Depending on the size of the leak, it can also result in flooding.
  • Flooding: While the cause might be different (corroded fitting, root damage, pipe freezing), once a water pipe is breached it will start leaking. Where this leak is located (street, yard, basement) not only helps you find the origin, but also the cost.

Water Supply Line Excavation Process

The process for a water line excavation is identical to a sewer line excavation which we talked about in The Process of a Sewer Line Excavation. An open cut trench is the most common type of evacuation for lateral sewer connections.

This type of excavation cuts directly down over each pipe (or location for new pipe), allowing it to be exposed for inspection and replacement or repair. Depending on the area to be excavated, this can be as simple as backfilling and covering it with sod. In more challenging projects, you may need to cut concrete and then refilled with compacted stone or sand to avoid settling.

Cost Factors for Excavation

While a basic open cut trench is fairly inexpensive, there are several things that may complicate the excavation. This leads to additional man hours and required equipment, which will also increase costs. On the other hand, if the issue lives on city property, you may find less out-of-pocket expenses occur.

Water Service Lateral

The water service lateral is the connection from the city’s main water supply to the water lines on your property. Your city and county may have their own rules for ownership. In most cases, any defect or damage in the water lines off your property is the responsibility of the city. If this is the case, they would have to foot the bill for that part of the replacement.

Hardscape and Foundation

Earth is fairly easy to move when the trench is being dug. However, large structural barriers such as sidewalks, foundation slabs, walkways, and other obstacles will need to be moved or cut away and repaired to get access to the pipe and replace it.

Trees and Other Natural Obstacles

Many of these pipes have been in the ground for decades. This means nature has had a lot of time to move in. Tree roots can be a source of a pierced water main. They are also an obstacle to removing the damaged line as well. Any other installations, from gardens to ponds, will also have to be removed.

Replacing the water supply line requires the cooperation between plumbing and excavation contractors like New England Enterprises. Serving Central and Eastern Massachusetts, we work with plumbing, electrical, construction, and general contractors as well as directly with businesses and homeowners for projects from foundation and utility excavation to patios and landscaping. If you’re looking for experts in excavation and landscaping, with the tools and experience to handle projects of any size, contact New England Enterprises.