Outdoor Pipe Insulation Protects Underground Water Service Lines

Water Main Service
October 16, 2017

by David Balkan

underground water line

Outdoor pipe insulation is generally used to prevent your underground water lines from freezing. However outdoor pipe insulation can be used to address other issues besides frozen water pipes.  As all underground installations get buried, it is possible for water lines to get installed without the proper protection, and the property owner would never be aware of the condition.

Therefore in many cases the proper utilization of insulating material is left up to the professionalism and knowledge of your water main contractor. This becomes yet another case where you, the homeowner or property owner, should take the time to hire an experienced water main contractor.

Pipe insulation prevents shallow water lines from freezing

outdoor pipe insulation
Insulation and wrap prevent frozen underground water lines

The most common use of underground pipe insulation is to prevent shallow water lines from freezing. The frost level in different areas of the country, but in NYC it is considered 3′ deep. With that in mind, and water line less than 3′ deep is required by code to be insulated. Shallow water lines in the roadway are also required to have steel plating placed over them to protect against damage from vibration, or other subsurface utility work.

Proper insulation, water proofing, and plating is frequently a required part of the DEP inspection process in NYC. However, many domestic water service lines do not mandate a required DEP inspection. When a required DEP inspection is not required, proper insulation is left up to the integrity of your water main contractor.

Outdoor pipe insulation prevents damage to buried water lines

underground water line
New copper water line being installed
outdoor pipe insulation
Proper protection by using PVC tubing

Insulating underground water lines from physical damage is a good idea in many cases. PVC or other like materials can protect relatively thin walled K copper from damage in many instances. These instances can include:

  • Direct contact with unlike metals that would cause an electrolytic action. Examples would be direct contact with a cast iron sewer line or gas line.
  • Direct contact with concrete, which can cause corrosion of the copper.
  • Sleeving the copper line through plastic tubing through a foundation wall when outside ground settlement is a potential issue.
  • Sleeving the copper service line through PVC when it is being installed through unstable ground, such as through a sink hole or a sewer trench.

Outdoor pipe insulation protects underground lines from electrolysis

electrolytic corrosion
Electrolysis can destroy bare copper lines in months

When an electrolysis condition exists, a bare K copper water line can be destroyed in a matter of months. That is how devastating stray DC electric current is to copper tubing. In these cases it is important to install the K copper water line through an insulating material such as PVC tubing. PVC or other plastic tubing (such as irrigation tubing) can protect the copper from stray electric current.

In many cases an electrolysis condition is not readily visible. In particular when a lead water line is being replaced with copper. That is because lead is not affected by electrolysis. Electrolysis is another case where you should choose your water main contractor most carefully.

Damage from electrolysis is typically excluded from the terms of most guarantees. Also note that protecting water lines from electrolysis is not mandated in any way. Therefore, it is another case where your relying on the knowledge, professionalism, and integrity of your water main contractor. Click here to learn more about copper pipe electrolysis and its affect on copper water lines.

Balkan is your underground water service line expert

When your primary objectives are hiring a knowledgeable and trustworthy water main contractor, think of Balkan first. Our expertise and integrity are unmatched in the NYC sewer and water main industry. Trust Balkan when specialty conditions arise such as shallow underground installations, electrolysis, or unstable ground conditions. Our team will keep you informed and educated of any specialty situation. We will ensure the proper installation practices are followed each and every time.

Our ten year guarantees on service line replacements, and over 65 years of experience, are your assurance of a job done right the first time. Site visits, and no obligation written estimates and available 7 days a week. Our expert staff is also available for you after hours. Contact Balkan Sewer And Water Main Service today for any water main or sewer issue you may have.

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David Balkan

David Balkan is the CEO of Balkan Sewer And Water Main, the largest and most trusted service in New York City. David is extremely active in various NYC plumber organizations being the Chairman of the Subsurface Committee in the Master Plumbers Council, and Vice President of the Subsurface Plumbers Association. In addition David’s expertise is respected by officials of New York City agencies such as the NYC DEP, NYC DOB, and the NYC DOT. He frequently provides valuable input on a variety of industry related matters.

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