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Without seeing the pipe, even professional plumbers may find it difficult to identify it. This is because of the different scenarios that these pipes may come from. The most typical pipes found are an abandoned well pipe, old underground fuel oil tanks, LP-gas tanks, and an electrical conduit pipe.
An unusual finding is a random pipe stuck in the ground for no reason.
A lot of houses have had previous occupants at one time or the other. Each occupant adds their touch within the house and to the surrounding property. Regardless of the fresh additions, the original framework often remains the same.
If you live in a house that has most of its original design preserved, there is a possibility that you will find the remnants of old structures. The metal pipes in your yard are examples of such structures.
Previous occupants may have partially renovated or completely abandoned the structures because of the cost and stress involved in managing them.
When you’re used to seeing pipes hidden away, it can be startling to see them protruding in areas where they shouldn’t. Most of these metal pipes point to a structure that was once in that space.
Although it’s tricky to identify the type of pipes you may be seeing in your backyard, it is possible to figure them out. Here are some possibilities to consider:
- Electrical conduit pipe: This metal or gray plastic pipe with a diameter of 1 inch or smaller has cut wires in it. The pipe was most likely part of the electrical service for a backyard pool or shed. The receptacle outlet box it led to, like the pool or shed, is most likely gone.
- Fuel oil tank: If you find two galvanized steel pipes, you can be sure that your house was built in the 1970s. Fuel oil powered the furnaces of many homes during this time, and they came with an underground fuel oil tank. The pipes are often within a few feet of each other.
If they are still intact, the vent pipe will have a mushroom-shaped top, and the pipe with the hinged flap is the fill pipe. The top pieces might be absent; you will only find a pair of old pipes with threaded ends.
The presence of the pipes may indicate that the fuel oil tank is still underground. If they are separated from each other, the fuel oil tank is buried in the yard, and if they are next to each other, the fuel oil tank is somewhere within the house (most likely the basement.)
- LP gas tank: Any curved copper pipe having a threaded female fitting at its end belongs to an LP-gas tank. The gas tank was probably above ground at that location. When handling it, be cautious because there’s a good probability the area of the pipe will have a larger casing.
- Abandoned well: A deep pipe of about 2-6 inches in diameter and a threaded end is a typical well pipe. You can see a reflection of water at the end of the pipe if you shine a light down it.
- The base of an older satellite dish: You may also find buried coax cables that run toward the house. Any water you see in them has simply accumulated rainwater.
- A pipe used for a laundry drying rack or a clothesline pipe: These pipes could have concrete at the bottom, stabilizing them.
- A basketball pole in the backyard: Such pipes would have no playing surface, just to hold a basket for shooting hoops.
- A property line marker: You might find a mention of this pipe in your deed of ownership.
Whether it’s for safety purposes or to rescue your backyard from such off-putting objects, it is best to do something about the old metal pipes as soon as possible.
Some ways to handle them include:
- Capping and Sealing: Fill the pipe with a recommended substance or close the end with a cap.
- Paint it: This is an easy way to disguise a pipe that you cannot remove. Paint it the same color as the grass or with a different color to remind people that there is a pipe there.
- Place ornaments around the pipe: Hollow statues or fake rocks are used. They should be at least 3 inches taller than the pipe and set far away from it so they don’t rust over time.
- The landscape around it: You can put some plants or shrubs around it. Use the species that can grow tall enough to cover it or intertwine to form hedges around it. Examples of such plants are the Japanese pittosporum. Leave an opening for access when you need to do maintenance or repair the pipe.
- Seal off any opening in an old well pipe to avoid contamination of the aquifer below.
- Remove the buried fuel oil tanks, whether they still have oil in them or are empty. Ask your local residential building inspector’s office for help with removing the tank.
Metal pipes are not the only strange pipes that can be found sticking out of the ground in your backyard. Some plastic pipes that you may see are:
- Multiple pipes from an old sprinkler system: They are usually small in diameter and can be found at many locations around your yard.
- Broken backflow pipes: This mostly happens when you use a lawnmower on your lawn.
- Underground water shut-off valve.
Steel drain pipes were popular installations in houses built before 1960. They were galvanized (dipped in zinc coating) to prevent rust and corrosion. Today, these pipes are not the best option for residential drain pipes for the following reasons:
- They corrode and rust on the inside after years of exposure to water.
- They pose health concerns because of traces of lead in the pure zinc used to galvanize them.
- The deposits produced by corrosion may accumulate and block water flow. Effects of flow obstruction include rust-looking water, low water pressure, and leaks.
When it is time to change an old steel drain pipe, the ideal thing to do is to call a professional plumber.
However, it is good to know how your plumber will remove the old pipe. Outlined below are the steps to cut the damaged pipe:
- Block the drain, so nothing flows through it as you work.
- Use a reciprocating saw that has a metal-cutting blade and cut straight through, near the center of the pipe.
- Make a second cut an inch away from the first one to remove a 1-inch section.
- Use a pipe wrench to unscrew each end of the pipe from the fitting.
- With a spray lubricant, loosen the threads to turn the pipe. Use a plumber’s candle to lubricate the threads if the spray lubricant does not work. After this, the pipe should turn easily.
Take out the old pipes and replace with a more convenient drain pipe options like PVC.