If you have just purchased an older home, you may be wondering if the plumbing system needs work. Pipes, in particular, can be a problem in an old home. While it is an investment to replace the pipes, it will also save you money because you won't have to deal with more extensive damage from leaking water in the walls. Also, old pipes can pose a health danger for your family.
The Pipe Material
There are four main materials used for modern plumbing pipes. They are PVC ("plastic"), copper, brass, and galvanized steel. These materials are typically long-lasting and your plumbing pipes likely don't need to be replaced if they are made of one of these materials. Then, there are three other types that are predominantly found in old homes. These are cast iron, lead, and polybutylene. Cast iron and polybutylene can corrode and even break over time, which leads to leaks. The main pipe material to worry about is lead, which is typically only found in homes that were built around the turn of the 20th century. Lead pipes pose a major health danger and must be replaced immediately. Cast iron pipes must be inspected regularly for corrosion and replaced as needed. Polybutylene is very fragile, so it's a good idea to replace these immediately to avoid leaks.
Signs Of Impending Trouble
There are signs that will tell you it's time to replace the pipes. The following are the main ones to watch for.
- Discoloration, mold or mildew, or flaking metal on exposed pipes in basements, crawlspaces, or beneath the sinks.
- Damp wallboard or bubbling paint indicating a leak, typically found where pipes pass behind the wall.
- Poor water pressure that can't be explained by a faulty valve or pressure regulator.
- Brown, rusty orange, yellow, or otherwise dirty water that isn't a result of the well or municipal water source.
If the pipes aren't made from an unsafe material like lead, you can choose to replace them as they fail if your budget doesn't allow a full replacement. Another option for pipes that are beginning to decline is to first replace the exposed pipes and wait to do those behind walls. Replacement pipes should be made from PVC for a sturdy budget option, or copper if you plan to spend a bit more. You can also save money and work by having PEX installed. PEX is a type of polyvinyl, like PVC, but it is flexible. The plumber can disconnect the old pipes and leave them in the wall, then attach PEX to the valves and feed the tube through small holes in the wall that can be easily patched later. This cuts down on the amount of needed demolition, which lowers the cost, mess, and time needed for the job.
If it's time to repair or replace the pipes in your home, don't hesitate to contact your local plumbing contractors.