Common Plumbing Problems in Older Homes

Old homes are often charming with the character of something unique to its time and devoid of the monotony of modern house design. No matter how aesthetically beautiful older homes are on the outside, they often come with their fair share of problems, namely faulty plumbing, heating, and air conditioning systems. It is crucial to inspect the most important elements of the house, and plumbing should be a high priority.
If you live in an older home or are considering buying one, understand that you will have to get used to dealing with a lot of issues. Although valves wear out, hoses break, and appliances fail, the underlying network of pipes should last as long as the house itself if maintained properly.

Various Types of Pipes
Understanding the type of plumbing materials in an older home can make the repair decisions more straightforward. It also enables plumbers to provide you with a more detailed assessment before work begins.
A plumbing system is usually a mix of different types of pipe, which are utilized for various purposes, such as:
Galvanized
Galvanized pipes are steel pipes that have been coated with zinc in an attempt to prevent rust and corrosion. Unfortunately galvanized pipes corrode and rust on the inside after years of exposure to water, which is bad news for your plumbing considering how frequently water runs through it.
Concrete
Precast Concrete pipe is the strongest pipe available and can be designed and tested to meet any loading condition. Unlike flexible pipe, concrete pipe has the majority of the required strength built into the pipe, and is much less dependent upon the installation of the pipe. Concrete doesn’t deteriorate, but it does shift and move under the foundation of the home. The result is cracks and leaks.
Cast Iron
Back in the 20th century, cast iron pipes were widely used in the plumbing infrastructures of American homes. Cast iron is a very durable material and pipes made from it are designed to last a long time, anywhere from 80 to 100 years. However, the actual lifespan depends upon a variety of factors and it’s possible that, in some cases, cast iron pipes will start to fail long before that.

Here are some of the common plumbing problems hiding in old houses:

Outdated Fixtures
It is true that older fixtures are often made of more solid and overall better materials than their modern counterparts. However, they will eventually erode with time and inevitably start causing problems. Handles break, washers and valves deteriorate, causing leaks and nasty smells. If you have all original valves, spigots, faucets, and handles in your home, you may way to consider getting them replaced before anything bad happens.

Bad Repairs Over the Years
If you or your family are not the original owner of the house, there is almost no way to ensure that any plumbing repairs that have been performed on the home over the years have actually been done by someone who knows what they were doing. It is probably a good idea to have a good, experienced plumber come in when you buy an old house to diagnose any poor repairs that may have occurred.

Galvanized Piping
Many older homes were built using galvanized piping. A galvanized pipe is a steel pipe that has been covered with a layer of zinc to better protect it. Over time, however, the zinc can erode causing these pipes to deteriorate from the inside. This can lead to slow water pressure, stopped up faucets and toilets, discolored water, and even plumbing leaks. If you live in an older home and you find yourself having to constantly repair faucets and toilets over and over again, your home might have galvanized pipes that are causing the problem. In addition to this particular piping type, some older homes also have pipes made from concrete or cast iron, both of which are problematic. Concrete will deteriorate, but it can shift and move under your home’s foundation, while cast iron will actually deteriorate and completely disappear over time.

Corrosion
Metals corrode over time, even galvanized steel. When their protective zinc coating erodes, the exposed iron of galvanized pipes becomes susceptible to rust. When left unchecked, the water could turn orange and become unsafe to use.

Stolen Copper Piping
Many homeowners are surprised to learn that the copper pipes in an older home are prone to theft. Copper piping is common in many 20th-century homes. Copper pipes may not be ideal for plumbing, but they have a high resale value, making them a target for thieves. Your home is more likely to have copper piping if it was built before lead was banned.

Leaking Pipes
In addition to rusting, the pipes in older homes might leak. This is especially true if your home contains polybutylene pipes. Polybutylene pipes were traditionally viewed as great pipes for transporting water because of their cost efficiency and easy installation. However, over time, polybutylene pipes were discovered to be prone to failure due to frequent water exposure. Polybutylene pipes are typically found in homes that were constructed between the late 1970s and early 1990s.

Clogs
Even with routine maintenance, any experienced plumber would say it’s hard to keep the pipework blockage-free for about half a century. Decades of sewage and soap scum might take a toll on your old home’s drains, filling and clogging them with gunk.

Bellied Lines
As your home shifts and settles over time, the pipes underneath your house may start to slope, or “belly,” restricting water flow and causing blockages and leaks. In the case of your drain and sewer lines, this can result in toxic wastewater seeping into your home or yard, causing a huge mess and posing a major hazard. Bellies can also result in slab leaks, in which water seeps through your home’s foundation, leading to extreme property damage. Make sure to watch out for signs of pipe bellies, such as slow drains, frequent back-ups, nasty smells, and lush, green patches around your yards.

Tree Roots
Your sewer lines may be out of sight, but they should never be out of mind. In addition to bellying, your sewer system will likely face many more challenges the older your home gets. This may include sediment build-up and clogs in your lines, as well as tree root intrusion. Root intrusion occurs when the trees in your yard use the moisture from your sewer lines as a kind of natural fertilizer, growing around and even into the lines. This can result in severe clogs and sewer water leaks, making root intrusion a serious problem. Watch out for the same signs to detect root intrusion and other sewer line problems.

Call the BEST Plumber for Drain Cleaning
Older homes are subject to specific plumbing problems. Whether you have already noticed an issue or just purchased an older home and want a professional to inspect the plumbing system, we are here to help. Call Best Plumbing Services at 951-788-1321.
Located in Riverside, California we are family owned and operated with over 10 years of experience. We take pride in our service and expect each job to be completed as if it were our own home or business. Our Licensed Plumbers and Technicians will be professional, clean and polite.