There’s nothing like the charm of an old house. Original crown molding, stained-glass windows, built-ins, herringbone-patterned wood floors, and 100-year-old trees in the front yard—are all features that make people fall in love.
What isn’t charming about old houses is they usually come with old pipes.
While those beautiful stained-glass windows were designed to stand the test of time, the plumbing system was not. So, what can you do with old plumbing?
This guide offers some practical help when facing the issues caused by aging plumbing systems. When you finish reading it, you’ll know your options and decide which solution best suits your needs.
Why Old Pipes Are a Problem
Something often said about holder homes is that they were built better than homes today. There is some truth to that statement, but it doesn’t pertain to things like electrical and plumbing systems.
Plumbers before the 1960s used galvanized steel pipes. Coated with zinc, galvanized steel supposedly extended the plumbing system’s life.
In theory, it was a good plan, but the galvanized steel developed rust and corrosion over time. The pipes also leached lead into the water.
Most old houses still have a few galvanized steel pipes unless the previous owner re-piped the entire plumbing system.
Problems caused by rusted, corroded steel pipes include:
- Low water pressure
- Hard water
- Dense clogs
Dense clogs can cause pipe bursts.
Low water pressure can result in clothes and dishes not getting clean enough, but it also affects showering and bathing. At its worst, low water pressure can cause leaky pipes.
Hard water often leaves rusty stains on sinks and tubs, but it also discolors your drinking water, the water you bathe in and wash clothes and dishes in. It’s often the culprit when the anode rod in a water heater fails.
You Can’t Ignore Old Sewer Lines
Another worry caused by old plumbing is the sewer line. Homes built from 1945 to around 1970 often had Orangeburg pipes.
Orangeburg is also known as no-corrode piping, made with wood pulp fibers and hot tar. You’ll find Orangeburg pipes mainly in sewer lines.
The problem with this pipe material is it absorbs moisture and becomes distorted under pressure. Layers of the material can bubble, closing off the pipe.
If you have Orangeburg piping in your older home, the pipes will inevitably fail sooner rather than later, and you’ll end up replacing them.
Other Pipe Materials Used in Old Sewer Lines
It’s not only Orangeburg piping that causes plumbing system disasters. Older homes may still have cast iron, clay, or plastic sewer lines.
Cast iron pipes deteriorate and develop small cracks. The cracks grow more prominent until the pipe is full of holes. Eventually, your plumber won’t be able to patch a corroded pipe.
Clay pipes are strong under pressure but don’t fare well if the ground shifts or tree roots invade through small gaps. These pipes can crack or shatter, resulting in leaks or a severe pipe burst.
Between 1975 and 1995, the country experienced a building boom. It was a scramble to find cost-effective, easy-to-install plumbing materials. Polybutylene (PB) plumbing made its debut.
While longevity was an enticing feature of PB pipes, the plastic reacts to disinfectants (like chlorine) and oxidants in the water supply. PB pipes develop tiny fractures and will eventually burst.
TLC for Old Plumbing
Living in a home with old pipes doesn’t mean it’s time to ditch your entire plumbing system.
You can take steps to get a few more years from aging pipes. The following actions will help:
- Avoid using chemical drain cleaners
- Clean rust from the outside of galvanized pipes
- Seal holes and cracks
Instead of chemical drain cleaners, try clearing clogs with a plunger or baking soda and vinegar.
Use steel wool and vinegar to remove small areas of rust. You’ll need to call a plumber for heavy rust or corrosion inside galvanized steel pipes.
Use plumber’s putty or pipe repair tape to seal small holes and cracks.
These are all short-term, temporary fixes. While not ideal, they can buy some time so that you can prepare for a more permanent solution.
Getting Rid of Old Pipes by Re-Piping
Age and poor maintenance play a significant role in whether or not it’s time to consider replacing pipes. Your plumbing system will also give you clues that it’s ready for repair or a total pipe replacement.
If you notice any of the following, you’ll want a plumber to inspect your plumbing system:
- Rusty Water
- Leaky pipes
- Slow drain
- Frequent clogs
- Sewer gas odor
- Unusually healthy grass
Re-piping means refitting your entire plumbing system with new pipes.
How Does Re-Piping Work?
After inspecting your plumbing system, the plumber will review their findings and discuss your options. Usually, you’ll have a choice between PVC and PEX pipes. If you’re replacing water lines, your plumber may recommend copper tubing.
The process of re-piping includes:
- Cutting small holes around fixtures to access pipes
- Disconnecting and pulling out old pipes
- Installing new pipes
- Repairing and retexturing holes
At the end of the day, you’ll have a brand new plumbing system, which, with proper maintenance, should last for as long as you live in your home.
While you might feel tempted to try replacing pipes on your own, it’s always better to call a plumber for pipe repairs or replacements.
Ready for a Pipe Replacement?
Regardless of the type of pipes you have in your current plumbing system, if you and your plumber determine replacing old plumping is the best solution, you may have the option of replacing just one section.
If possible, consider a complete re-piping. If you have all the pipes replaced simultaneously, you’ll save time and may save money.
The experts at Millwood Plumbing can repair or replace plumbing pipes. They can also tackle any other plumbing issues in your home.
Contact us today to schedule a service.