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If you own an older home or are in the market to buy one, then you know they have a lot of unique charm. From crown molding to hardwood floors and unique built-ins, there are so many reasons to fall in love with them. However, it’s important to get curious about the condition of the home behind the walls.

When it comes to your plumbing, there are a few potential issues you should be aware of in older homes. Each one has a fix but could be a cause for concern if not addressed right away. Here’s what you need to know.

The Material of Your Pipes

Lead Pipes

Homes built before the 1950s may still have original lead pipes, and homes built before 1986 may also have lead present as it was often used to solder copper pipes together. Too much lead in your water can make it unsafe to drink, so you may want to consider double-checking the material of your pipes. We recommend replacing them and installing a filtration system to minimize any lead contamination.

Galvanized Pipes

Galvanized pipes are steel pipes that have been dipped in a protective zinc coating to prevent corrosion. They were commonly used in homes that were built before the 1960s as an alternative material to lead, but they were often attached to lead service lines. The zinc coating can contain impurities, and when it erodes, both trapped lead and impurities can leak into your water supply over time. The best fix is to replace any galvanized pipe and lead service lines with materials used today.

Cast Iron Pipes

Another material used in older homes is cast iron piping. Cast iron materials were often used because of their durability, but if your home was built in the early 20th century they may be getting to the end of their 80-100 year lifespan and this can cause issues such as leaks and discoloration. Another barrier you’ll run into with this kind of piping is attaching them to new age materials like PVC. The reason for this is that cast iron pipes are a different size than newer products, which makes it challenging to configure. This can become an issue if you are looking to remodel your home or make a quick fix. So, knowledge is power and it’s definitely worth asking what material your pipes are made of.  

Your Home’s Foundation

Pipe Belly

It’s natural for homes to “settle” and shift slightly on their foundation. But what you might not know is that this and extreme weather can have a direct impact on sewage lines that live below your home, causing something called a pipe belly which can bow the pipe and interfere with the regular flow of waste through your pipes. This can cause sediments to collect within that section of the pipe and result in backups. The best solution here is to consult with an expert to properly diagnose the problem and come up with a case-specific solution. 

Tree Roots

Did you know, older trees have roots that can spread 2-3 times the diameter of their canopy? When surface water is harder to come by, they will send their roots down further into the ground and could come into contact with your sewage system. Tree issues are more common in older homes because PVC and plastic pipes are less susceptible to damage. Some telltale signs could be foul smells coming from a sewage backup as well as slow drains and clogs. Keeping an eye on your landscaping and your yard can go a long way towards helping you catch them before they cause too much damage, but if you’re concerned, we recommend calling in a plumber to take a look.

The material of your pipes and the lot the home sits on can all have a significant impact on the quality of an older home’s plumbing. But it’s also important to remember that after decades of use and the presence of soap, sewage, and food waste, your pipes can begin to clog from residue build-up, even with regular routine maintenance. So if you live in an older home or you’re in the process of buying a new one, we recommend calling in a plumber to inspect the current state of your plumbing so you can be proactive and limit any damage down the line. 

We’re here to help! If you’d like an inspection of your home, contact us here.