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Harringay, Haringey - So Good they Spelt it Twice!

Has anyone replaced a lead water pipe from mains to their house? Should I bother?

Hi

When we bought our house around 9 years ago, our survey showed up that we had a lead water pipe from the stopcock to the mains.   This was described as a "medium" concern that we should consider having replaced with non-lead piping.  Needless to say, I've done nothing about it.

We're just about to have our front garden re-tiled, and I'm wondering if I'm being a bit hasty with that work if I should really be having the lead water pipe dug up and replaced first.

We've got 3x small kids and I am (I think) being slightly paranoid that the pipe may cause lead in the drinking water which could be harmful for them.   I bought a water testing kit, which didn't seem to show any lead in the water - although I'm not sure how reliable it is. 

Has anyone else had similar issues or replaced a lead pipe coming into their house?  Even if not, any views on how risky a lead water pipe is would be appreciated.

Thanks

Ian

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Here's what Thames Water says:  https://www.thameswater.co.uk/help/water-quality/lead  . It's decently comprehensive, I think.

Two points stand out:

1) If you're worried, run the water for a while first thing each morning, to flush the supply pipe. Running a bath or the shower, flushing the toilet will do some good too.

2) If there's a lead pipe on Thames Water's side of things, they currently can't accept new applications.

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Thanks very much Gordon.   Appreciate you sending the link over - and I will be sure to run water as the link suggests.  I was broadly aware that Thames Water would only be responsible for replacing pipes outside the boundary and pipes under the garden would be my responsibility.   Based on the diagram from the Thames Water website (hopefully attached), the bit that is circled as "Your supply pipe" is lead in my property and the bit where the trees in the diagram are are is where I'm planning on putting new tiles down.

I expect I'm clutching at straws - but I was half-hoping there would be a barrage of folks telling me "don't worry, it's fine - every house on the ladder is like that and no-one has lead poisoning"!

Well!   I grew up in a house with lead piping all the way to the kitchen cold water tap, and I'm (apparently) OK in my 70s. It is only such houses in soft-water areas that had a problem - hard water (as in London) supplies naturally provide some protection. 

Spot on Gordon, I'd think the limescale will have completely coated the inside of the pipe.

Thames water advice to get round this problem  is essentially ‘waste more water’. Who would have guessed? 

Just so. They didn't make the bath/shower/toilet suggestion, that was me. They rather lamely offered 'water the garden or wash the car'.

There’s another point that might be worth considering. In the days when Thames Water was less of a rip-off organisation they conceded that the water flow to my property was poor and replaced their Victorian lead pipework from the main to my boundary (at their expense then, but these days they charge a fortune). The improvement in pressure and supply was instantaneous, as the original pipe was obviously furred-up or corroded and badly restricting the flow. I’ve since had the lead pipe from the boundary to the house (under the front path) replaced with new plastic, which didn’t produce such a noticeable change, but as the path was being re-laid it seemed a sensible move. So, apart from the lead issue, if your pipe is as old as mine was, you might find taking advantage of work you’ve already planned and replacing it improves the water pressure/flow as well as giving you peace of mind.

Thanks Don

With 100 years of hard water flowing through, limescale will long ago have kept your water away from the lead pipe. So, if that's your concern, I wouldn't worry. But if you are digging up the garden anyway, I'd replace it to improve pressure/flow - handy if you ever put a shower in a loft room etc. Doing it by drilling under a path etc (a mole) at a later date is very expensive and would not be worth it.

If you are not digging up the garden ... then i'd wait until you are!

Thanks Niall - I'm doing the opposite of digging up the garden, but putting some concrete down with tiles on top!  That said, it's a really good point about limescale.  

A friend of mine in Sheffield, where I think the lead piping is more of a problem, has had a second tap fitted in the kitchen which essentially filters the water and this is used for drinking water. I guess they have soft water?  Sorry don't know any further details but probably easy to research?

Thanks Stephanie.  From an initial look a filter tap certainly looks cheaper than digging up my garden!

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