5 Things to Know About Plumbing in an Older Home

Older homes, though beautiful and romantic, can also have a variety of maintenance problems. Plumbing leaks and other plumbing-related problems are common in older homes.

If you’ve just bought an older home, you should be aware of the type of plumbing problems you’re likely to face in your new house. Knowing which plumbing problems are the most common and how to identify those problems can help you take care of your property and also your family.

1. Many Older Homes Have Galvanized Plumbing

Galvanized plumbing is plumbing that is made out of steel that has been coated in zinc. Decades ago, galvanized plumbing was believed to be good for residential plumbing. Today, we know that galvanized plumbing has a service life of about 40 years.

As it ages, corrosion builds up inside galvanized pipes. If you were to slice a pipe open, you would probably see this corrosion for yourself. Looking inside, you would notice that the walls of the pipe have begun to thicken. This thickening reduces your water pressure. If the thickening happens over a long enough period of time, water pressure may suffer all over the house.

Galvanized pipes that are decades old are often brittle and hard to repair. Leaks are common in older galvanized pipes.

2. Plumbing Leaks Can Cause a Variety of Problems

You should take plumbing leaks very seriously, or you could find yourself making hundreds or thousands of dollars in repairs to your house. Some of the consequences of plumbing problems include:

  • Mold
  • Mildew
  • Dry rot
  • Structural damage
  • Pest infestations

In addition, plumbing leaks can lead to money wasted on water that’s not being used. Some homes waste up to 90 gallons of water per day on their plumbing leaks!

3. Some Plumbing Leaks Can Be Hard to Detect

Plumbing leaks may be common in older homes, but they’re not always easy to find. Many homeowners struggle to determine whether or not their home

even has a plumbing leak. Some of the signs of plumbing leaks include:

  • Inexplicably high humidity
  • Mold or stains on the walls
  • Water damage in cabinets under sinks
  • The sound of dripping or running water in the walls

Even if you see nothing in your home that indicates that your plumbing has a leak, you can find out for sure by monitoring your water meter. Stop all water usage in the home and check your water meter. Half an hour later, check the water meter again. If the water meter has changed over the course of the half an hour when water wasn’t being used, this means you have a leak.

The leak could be in a toilet bowl or in the walls. Contact a plumber to have the problem investigated.

4. Older Homes May Have Lead Pipes

Lead was used almost ubiquitously in plumbing through the 1920s. In the following decades, the use of lead waned. In 1986, lead was banned from the solder that joined pipes. As late as 2014, brass faucets could contain up to 8% lead. New legislation has limited the amount of lead in brass faucets to about 0.25%.

If your home was built in the early part of the 20th century, your plumbing likely contains lead, though maybe in small amounts. If your plumbing is pre-1986, the solder that holds your pipes together may contain lead. The municipal service line that feeds water into your house may be a lead pipe.

There is a bright side. Many communities use minerals as corrosion control to prevent lead from leaching into drinking water. This corrosion control prevents much of the lead in pipes from entering the drinking water.

The best way to determine whether or not your drinking water at home has lead in it is to have it tested. If lead is detected, installing a water filter should remove lead from your drinking water. Talk to a plumber to find out more.

5. Water Heaters Last About 8 to 12 Years

Water heaters have a service life, and if your water heater is older, it could be in danger of failure. When water heaters fail, they sometimes do so with catastrophic results and may leak tens of gallons of water into the home in a fairly short span of time. If you happen to not be home when your water heater breaks, you may find yourself strapped with serious water damage.

Have a plumber inspect your water heater. If the water heater is nearing the end of its service life, this is the time to think about replacement. It may be much less expensive to replace a water heater before it starts to leak than after.

For more information about how you can protect your home from water damage and other problems associated with older plumbing, contact a plumbing expert in your community. At Ragan Mechanical, we’re happy to answer your questions about older plumbing and what can be done to fix the problem. Give us a call today.

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