Old lead services still exist today. It's not that it is unsafe in any way, just that it is not mainstream anymore and suppliers don't keep repair parts in stock on a normal basis. The repairs that need to be done on lead can be done in a few ways. My favourite was is to ream the pipe out and put in a copper insert and solder it. Without the ability to replace the lines, lack of interest or lack of funding, sometimes this is the best way. Compression fittings are on the market, but Draincom plumbers do not trust them as lead is a very soft and malleable material, and with a slight movement they can blow apart and cause a lot of damage.
br/>Draincom received a call to have a look at a leak on a lead service pipe. Here is the full story spoken by our professional:
I arrived at the house and introduced myself and asked to look at the problem. I went to the basement and to my surprise a previous attempt to repair the piping was attempted.
There was a product wrapped around the piping, called power wrap, that was an epoxy based wrap. As water leaked into it, it activated and sealed the previous leak. This makes it almost impossible to repair as the bare lead is not accessible. I of course knew that the way that I like to repair lead was the only way to go. I went outside and shut off the water to the house, using the key stop in the driveway, to start the repair. The line was 1/2", so therefore I chose 1/2" copper for the repair. The line was approximately 1" above the concrete to the power wrap so therefore I cut the line 1/2" from the floor. This gave me licence to take and drive the piping into the concrete and have enough room to solder the copper pipe. I took a short section, 4" of copper pipe, and used my hammer to gently tap the pipe down into the old lead. The copper piping was thoroughly cleaned, pasted and prepared prior to insertion. There was no need to ream the piping as the Inner diameter was slightly bigger than the Outer diameter of the copper piping and therefore was fairly easy to insert. I normally use a turbo torch, which burns very hot compared to a regular soft flame. In this case a "Cooler" burning torch is best because lead has a very low melting point. I decided to use my propane torch with a pencil tip. Propane is a slow way to solder anything, so in this instance the best choice in my book. I started to heat up the copper piping as this is the best way to have heat transfer down to melt the lead, and as I heated the copper the lead melted slowly and perfectly. I was flicking the copper slowly over and over to build up a nice bead to seal the piping.
After about 15 mins of melting and babying the process, I was satisfied with the joint that I had created, nice and thick ... bulletproof really.
I let the joint cool, then I wrapped it with a wet cloth. This is a way to keep the heat transfer from the lead when I was soldering up the new valve. I cleaned the upper portion of the copper, the valve, and pasted it thoroughly in preparation for the copper joint. I soldered the new stop and waste, and was ready for a pressure test. When putting a new joint under pressure, I like to take my time and go slow. I went outside and opened the stop slowly, then rushed inside to check the new joint.
The piping was fully under pressure, 60 psi, and I allowed a test of 30 mins. After the test was completed, I opened the service to the house, then allowed a test of 20 mins under house pressure as well as head pressure. After the test was completed at full pressure, I opened the main valve 100% and completed the job.
I find that plumbers all have their own way to repair old lead piping, mostly replacement. I find that there is more than one way to have a repair done, even when replacement is an option. What makes us professionals is that we can think outside the box and come up with viable solutions for interesting situations.