Exploring New Home Construction

Plumbing Like It's 1899: How Old Plumbing Can Go Wrong

Buying an older house usually means buying a lot of character. Old woodwork, high ceilings, and mature trees can really go a long way in making a house feel like a home for some people. Unfortunately, older homes sometimes also come with seriously outdated plumbing. There is a lot of outdated equipment that can make the plumbing in an old house wreak havoc. Below is a list of two of them, and what you can do to reduce your chances of dealing with an old plumbing party pooper.

Old Pipes

Years ago, most residential plumbing pipes were made of galvanized steel or galvanized lead. The point of galvanizing a pipe was to prevent corrosion. When water is passing through a pipe, it creates a perfect opportunity for rust and pitting to set in, but by galvanizing a pipe, that process is slowed significantly. 

Metals, including plumbing pipes, were (and, for some purposes, continue to be) dipped in hot vats of zinc. Zinc is a also a metal, but is efficient at preventing corrosion for a time. The problem with galvanized pipes is that as the zinc wears away, the pipes are exposed to the corrosion process. They become weak, leaky, and can even leech toxic chemicals like lead into your water.

Because much of a house's plumbing is hidden behind walls, many homeowners don't know they have a problem until they have a big problem. One way to tell if your galvanized steel pipes are on their last legs is to check your water pressure, especially the hot water pressure. The heat erodes the zinc faster, so the hot water lines are usually the first to go. If you're losing water pressure, it's time to discover more on and get your plumbing inspected, and switch out galvanized pipes for copper or PVC.

Old Sewer Line Materials

All the used water in your home runs into the same pipe; the sewer line. It carries all the waste water from your home into the sewer system, which takes the water to the waste treatment plant. In general, most homeowners are responsible for the maintenance of the line from the home up to the street, and that means you can have a lot of vulnerable pipe leading away from your house if you purchased an older property.

Today, most sewer pipes are strong, durable plastic. Many homes built in the past have sewer lines that are made of clay, cast iron, or a tar paper product called Orangeburg. Clay pipes are susceptible to root intrusion, cast iron corrodes quickly, and Orangeburg is fragile and can be easily crushed. 

The best way to prevent a serious problem with your sewer line is to promptly address any problems that arise. Symptoms of a failing sewer line include frequently clogged drains, depressions in your yard around the sewer pipe, and multiple drains backing up simultaneously. These problems need to be addressed by a professional who can inspect the sewer line from the inside with a camera to determine its condition. Once that's done, the line can either be cleared of an obstruction or replaced according to necessity. 

Plumbing has come a long way from the days of outhouses and sewer lines made of industrial waste. If your old home hasn't had a plumbing update, it might be time to consider investing in a more modern system. A qualified plumber can help you identify any existing or impending problems and rectify the situation before you end up with a damaging flood or subfloors rotted by years of small leaks. Don't wait until you have a major disaster on your hands, get in touch with a plumber you trust today.


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