A charming older home in an established neighborhood, on a big lot with solid construction, is the dream of many first-time home buyers. However, older homes often have secrets in the plumbing system that homeowners uncover later. Here’s how to spot ordinary plumbing issues hiding in older houses.
The State of Old Pipes
The most common problem with older homes is the state of the plumbing. Most houses in North America were built through the mid 20th-century, so many older homes are at least 50 or more years old. That’s a lot of time to expect anything to hold up, let alone water pipes that have probably seen three or four homeowners in that time. Finding out what kind of pipes you have can help determine the state they might be in.
Galvanized Pipes. If you have a home that was built in the 1960s, there's a good chance you have galvanized piping, and that can be a problem. Galvanized pipes are made from iron and then coated with zinc. This combination erodes after years of use and become vulnerable to rust, which can end up in your water lines.
Polybutylene Pipes. Plumbing has come a long way since the lead pipes of the 1920s. But if your home was built between 1970 and 1990, you’ll want to check for polybutylene piping. This plastic piping reacts badly with the oxidants in the water and breaks faster than metal piping. Polybutylene pipes become brittle, flake off, and crack and may require that the entire plumbing system be replaced.
Other Plumbing Issues
Most newer homes are built with CPVC pipes, PEX pipes, and copper pipes. All of these can handle extreme temperatures and are resistant to corrosion. However, there are still plumbing problems you’ll want to be on the lookout for, especially if your home is at least 20 years old. These include pipe bellies, tree roots, and antique fixtures. Yes, pipe bellies are a real thing!
Buckled Pipes. Over time, the pipes under your home can shift and create low spots in your sewer lines. This slows the flow of water and causes it to pool within your sewer lines. Inside these pools, waste sediment builds up. Without intervention, these bulging or buckled pipes, or pipe bellies, can cause blockages, leaks, and potential backups into your home.
Tree Roots. Big trees are a popular feature of established neighborhoods. But some trees are notorious for invading water pipes. Willow trees, for example while beautiful, are extremely aggressive when it comes to searching out water sources. Their tree roots can grow through and crack up your pipes underground. Thankfully, regular inspections can help you avoid this pitfall.
Outdated Fixtures. Unique or antique plumbing fixtures are often a striking addition to any home and amp up that charm. However, they’re also major culprits of higher water bills and funky smells due to leaks and use over time. Parts like seals, springs, gaskets, and compression fittings can go wrong with these old fixtures, no matter how nice they may look.
Copper Pipes. Many older homes were built with high-quality copper pipes. Unfortunately, the copper piping can make them a target for theft. Copper has an attractive resale value, so double-check the piping in your home before purchasing, especially in homes being sold “as is”. Even if your home has copper pipes, be sure they aren’t soldered or braised together with lead-based solders. This can be almost as dangerous as lead pipes.
Homeownership is Possible
Older homes come with so much charm and, for many, they’re the only obtainable option for homeownership. Mr. Rooter Plumbing recommends that before you buy your dream home, give us a call. We’d be more than happy to inspect the plumbing system and offer some advice.
Mr. Rooter Plumbing can perform a whole home inspection, make recommendations and give you neighborly advice, so you have peace of mind and feel confident when purchasing your dream home. Once the home is yours, we can perform any necessary repairs so you can spend your time enjoying your new surroundings. Give us a call today!