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DIY: How to Replace Lead Drain Pipes

Many older homes used lead pipes for drainage throughout the structure. While lead was sufficient to do the job at the time, as the pipes age they tend to experience cracks, causing leakage. Replacing the pipes with new PVC can avoid these problems. Most replacement is done on a emergency basis though, so when you only require a length of the pipe replaced, a flexible rubber coupling can provide the connection you need between the older lead system and the new PVC.

Things You'll Need

  • Construction pencil
  • Safety goggles
  • Reciprocal saw with metal cutting blade
  • Utility knife
  • Tape measure
  • PVC pipe
  • Hacksaw
  • Flexible rubber coupling
  • Cloth
  • Screwdriver
  • PVC couplings
  • PVC primer
  • PVC cement
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    • 1

      Mark the pipe with the construction pencil where you wish to make your cuts for removal. To remove only a portion of the pipe, place the mark at the edges of that portion. To remove the entire pipe, then place your marks on the adjacent pipes, positioned as close to the lead pipe end as possible without crossing any welded areas.

    • 2

      Cut through the pipe at the marked locations using a reciprocating saw with a metal cutting blade. For long heavy lengths of pipe, place a brace beneath the pipe to support it in place as you make your cut to keep it from falling and possibly causing injuries. Cut the bottom mark along vertical pipes before cutting the top one. Set the cut pipe aside for disposal.

    • 3

      Run the edge of a utility knife blade over the inside and outside edges of the remaining pipe ends to remove any burrs from the openings.

    • 4

      Measure the gap between pipe ends with a tape measure. Cut a length of PVC pipe to fit the measured length with a hacksaw. Remove any burrs from the ends of the PVC pipe using the same process used for the lead pipes.

    • 5

      Dampen a cloth with water, and then wipe the edges of the lead pipe with the cloth to make the surface slightly wet. Place a flexible rubber coupling over the edge of the lead pipe, pushing it onto the end of the pipe until it’s covered with half of the coupling’s length. Wet one end of the PVC pipe with the water and then slide the end into the other side of the flexible coupling until it touches the end of the other pipe inside.

    • 6

      Tighten the clamps on both ends of the coupling using a screwdriver to hold the pipes inside securely in place.

    • 7

      Repeat the connection process to link the other end of the PVC pipe to the other adjacent pipe edge. Bend the PVC pipe slightly to get the end into the coupling if needed.

    • 8

      Attach multiple lengths of PVC pipe for longer drainpipe runs. Connect the pipes together using PVC straight 180-degree couplings between pipes along the run. Apply PVC primer inside the coupling, and outside the pipe ends that fit within the couplings. Wait two or three minutes, then cover the primer with PVC cement before placing the pipe ends within the couplings.