Sooner or later, every plumbing pipe and fixture in your home will fail and need to be replaced. -- including the main water line leading to your home. When the main line experiences a problem, it affects every plumbing fixture and appliance in your home. Under ideal circumstances, a main line could last decades. But again, that depends on a lot of factors. Nonetheless there could be damage.
Repairing a main line can be expensive and the potential downtime very inconvenient. You can prepare for and perhaps reduce cost and disruption by having a camera inspection of your main line every couple of years. The greatest threats to your main line occur very slowly over time and a camera inspection can you you ahead of the game.
What Can Go Wrong
Your main line faces threats from the outside and the inside. From the outside, one of the biggest threats to your line are tree roots. Over time, roots can breach the surface of the pipe and cause leaks of a collapse of the line. Obviously another threat is damaging the line while digging in the area.
From the inside, sediment buildup or rust can actually reduce the flow space of the pipe until the water pressure is choked.
What to Do
If you suspect that you are having problems with your main line, a knowledgeable plumber can help you make the decision of when it's best to repair or replace. Be prepared, however, that if your main line is made from iron or lead, a plumber will recommend replacement. Iron lines are prone to rust and and lead is highly toxic. Today’s new water lines are primarily copper or PVC.
If you experience a leak and your line is in fairly good condition, you may choose to repair rather than replace. You should consider though what kinds of disruption this repair will entail as compared to replacement. You are going to be looking at digging up your lawn and possibly disturbing other landscaping such as trees or shrubs and may even have to dig up concrete or asphalt. This is the time to consider the benefits of replacing over repairing.
Preventative maintenance is your friend. A licensed plumber can assess all your plumbing and help you prepare for potential issues.