Monthly Archives: April 2016

How Deep Are Your Pipes?

(Sung to the tune of “How Deep is Your Love”)

If you live in one of the Triad’s older neighborhoods, you’ve probably seen people having their water and sewer lines replaced. This involves having a backhoe come and dig down to the original lines, take them out, and then replace them with new PVC piping. It makes a big mess for a few days, but it could be much worse in a colder climate.How far down should your pipes be?

In the Triad (as in most of North Carolina), water and sewer lines only need to be buried 12 inches deep. This is to accommodate the frost depth of the region, which rarely goes below nine inches. In the mountains, careful plumbers will install pipes closer to 18 to 24 inches, even though code only calls for 12. A 12-inch pipe depth makes it easier for plumbers to access (or replace) pipes, which could make your life easier.

However, having pipes buried only 12 inches deep can also mean that your tap water (and shower) is prey to the changing seasons. In the heat of summer, for instance, you might not be able to get a cold glass of water from the sink. And in the winter, the hot water for your shower won’t last as long.

Building codes on pipe depth can vary from state to state and even from municipality to municipality. In Syracuse, NY, for instance, pipes have to be buried 48 inches deep. In Bismark, ND, it’s 72 inches. And in parts of Alaska, it’s 10 feet! That’s a big hole to dig in your front yard! At least the water temperature in these states probably remains consistent.