Interior hoses, plumbing pipes and water supply lines: What you need to know

You probably don’t pay much attention to the hoses, pipes and supply lines that connect your home's appliances, sinks and toilets. But perhaps you should. These supply lines can burst and cause extensive water damage throughout your home. When water pressure breaks through a washing machine hose, for example, it can enter your home at six gallons per minute.1 If no one is available to turn off the main supply line, the water damage could be significant.

Fortunately, there are things you can do to help prevent a burst from happening, beginning with inspecting and replacing the hoses, pipes and supply lines on a regular basis. Manufacturers recommend replacing washing machine hoses and other water lines every five years.2 Anytime you replace an appliance, you should replace the hoses as well. In the meantime, regularly inspect your hoses and supply lines for signs of wear and tear, including cracking, corrosion, discoloration or the early signs of a leak.

Types and uses

Everything from poor water quality and incorrect installation to ordinary wear and tear could lead to a leak or burst. Another factor is the type of material used. When it comes to hoses that burst, washing machines and dishwashers are some of the biggest culprits. They typically use two types of hoses:

Rubber: This is the most inexpensive option and maybe the most common as well. But unless these hoses are reinforced with polyester mesh or braided rayon, they are probably not strong enough to tolerate even normal wear and tear. Regular rubber hoses lose their strength and flexibility, resulting in cracks and leaks.3

Braided stainless steel: These hoses are more expensive, but they are more durable and last longer. Built with a flexible plastic hose encased in stainless steel wire mesh, they are designed to take on more stress. Some stainless steel hoses are even equipped with an auto shutoff feature that can detect an increase in water pressure. If a burst occurs, the connector at the end of the hose prevents water from escaping through the valve.4

But these aren’t the only supply lines in your home. Sinks and toilets require similar connectors, although the materials may vary. Here are some of the other material types you may encounter:

Polybutylene: This plastic material was installed as piping between 1978 and 1995, mainly because it was inexpensive and easy to install. The material was also flexible and resistant to freezing. But production was halted in 1996 after claims that polybutylene pipes were rupturing and causing extensive property damage. Today, many plumbers recommend replacing this piping with other materials. According to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors (InterNACHI), it is less expensive to replace the polybutylene piping than it is to pay for the water damage that can occur if a pipe bursts.5

PEX: Cross-linked polyethylene (PEX) is becoming increasingly popular for use in water supply lines. This colorful plastic tubing has been used extensively for water supply systems in Europe, and it’s finally catching on in the U.S., where it is now used in more than 60% of new construction residential water supply systems. Although more costly, PEX requires very little maintenance and resists leaking better than its copper counterpart. Many do-it-yourselfers find that PEX makes it easier to replace their own leaky water lines.6

Copper: Copper pipes are typically used for water supply lines and refrigerant lines in heating, ventilation and air conditioning (HVAC) systems. This traditional solution is popular because it’s highly durable, reliable and resistant to corrosion.7

Galvanized: Galvanized pipes came about in response to concern over lead-based pipes in municipal drinking water systems. Steel pipes are galvanized by dipping them into molten zinc, which helps prevent rust, but many times, the zinc also contains lead. Unfortunately, corrosion and rust can still build up inside the pipes, releasing lead into the water system.8

Maintenance and inspection

Ongoing maintenance and inspection can help keep your hoses and water supply lines in good working order. Be sure to:

  • Inspect hoses frequently to make sure they aren’t twisted, bent or corroding
  • Look for signs of a potential water burst, such as cracks, blisters, bubbles, kinks and discoloration
  • Allow for about three or four inches of space between the machine and the wall behind it
  • Look for any signs of a leak, such as moisture at the connections, rust or discoloration9


Installation

When it’s time to replace a hose or water supply line, you could contact a professional plumber, or you might decide to install it yourself. Either way, keep these things in mind:

  • Turn off the main water supply valves; if you’re working with an appliance, cut the power
  • Refer to the manufacturer’s instruction manual regarding installation
  • Make sure you are using the right product and materials for the job
  • Use an old bucket and towels to drain excess water from the line and clean up any spills
  • Attach the hoses securely, but be sure not to overtighten them
  • Make sure there are no leaks after the water supply is turned back on10


1 “Preventing Washing Machine Hoses from Bursting,” TLC Plumbing, tlcplumbing.com/blog/preventing-washing-machine-hoses-bursting (Feb. 20, 2017).
2 “When to Replace Your Hoses and Connectors: An In-Depth Guide,” Certified Appliance Accessories, certifiedaccessories.com/blogs/news/when-to-replace-hoses-and-connectors (accessed Sept. 16, 2021).
3 “Types of Washer Hoses,” Think Tank Home, thinktankhome.com/washer-hoses (accessed Sept. 16, 2021).
4 “The Best Washing Machine Hoses for Your Laundry Room,” Bob Vila, bobvila.com/articles/best-washing-machine-hoses (accessed Sept. 16, 2021).
5 “Polybutylene for Inspectors, Nick Gromicko and Kenton Shepard, International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, nachi.org/pb.htm (accessed Sept. 17, 2021).
6 “All You Need to Know About PEX Pipe,” Bob Vila, https://www.bobvila.com/articles/pex-pipe (Aug. 8, 2021).
7 “The Most Common Types of Copper Piping,” Juan Rodriguez, The Spruce, thespruce.com/types-of-copper-piping-844852 (August 13, 2021).
8 “Galvanized Plumbing: What is It, and Why Should I Care?” Ryan Downer, ABC Blog, abchomeandcommercial.com/blog/galvanized-plumbing (Dec. 6, 2017).
9 “Preventing Washing Machine Hoses from Bursting,” TLC, tlcplumbing.com/blog/preventing-washing-machine-hoses-bursting (Feb. 20, 2017).
10 “Ultimate Guide to Washing Machine Hoses,” This Old House, thisoldhouse.com/plumbing/21303100/washing-machine-hoses (accessed Sept. 16, 2021).


The information used to create this article was obtained from sources believed to be reliable to help users address their own risk management and insurance needs. It does not and is not intended to provide legal advice. Nationwide, its affiliates and employees do not guarantee improved results based upon the information contained herein and assume no liability in connection with the information or the provided suggestions. The recommendations provided are general in nature; unique circumstances may not warrant or require implementation of some or all of the suggestions. Nationwide, the Nationwide N and Eagle and Nationwide Private Client are service marks of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company.

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