Repairing and Replacing the Plumbing in Your Old Home
Old houses are charming, yet they can have many problems with plumbing. If correct preventative measures are taken, you can be spared a lot of money and surprise emergencies. Here are 12 things to keep in mind with the plumbing in your old home or an old home you are considering purchasing:
- Sewer Line Problems: If you’re going to buy an old house or if you currently own an older home, get a plumber to do a full plumbing inspection on it. This will allow you to know all of the potential problems you will come across in the future. Have your plumber run a camera through the sewer line from your home into the street. Sewer line problems can be the most expensive fix in an older home, so the preventative measures are well worth it. If your sewer needs fixing, a pipe relining, pipe replacement or a thorough cleaning with a jetter are the three possible options.
- Undersized Pipes: Many older homes have undersized pipes and most of these pipes are galvanized and have debris built up inside. You may have to replace all the galvanized piping in your home and have it properly re-sized. Also, with older pipes you will have older faucets and fixtures that have older washer and seat technology. New innovations for today’s faucets have a ceramic disk that lasts 20-40 years longer than the older ones. In general, older homes tend to have to have a decent amount of plumbing fixed or redone in order to get the plumbing in the home up to code.
- Old Piping and Corrosion: Cast iron sewer pipes and galvanized piping are a problem because water has been running through them for so long that a groove forms in the bottom of the pipes making them very thin. These will eventually leak. Old plumbing drains and secondary sinks have years of collected wast and usually need to be augured out, jetted, or replaced.
- Old Water Heaters: Older water heaters usually have sediment built up in the bottom and it takes extra heat to get through that sediment to heat the water. Also, that extra sediment on the bottom will eventually rust out the bottom of the water heater and cause the water heater to leak, which is irrepairable. These water heaters may need to be replaced, not to mention that a 12+ year-old water heater is an accident waiting to happen.
- Old House Drains: Old house drains will not handle new washing machines. Newer models spin so fast and empty water so quickly that it will likely flood; old pipes that are undersized and worn down will not handle it well.
- Current Plumbing Code: Back in the day, there wasn’t a plumbing code. Consequently, many older homes have a 1/2″ main water pipe running for the whole house, causing the water flow to fluctuate when you’re in the shower. The water flow problem gets even worse if someone turns on the washing machine or flushes a toilet while you’re in the shower. Today’s main pipes are usually 1 to 1 1/4″, at least twice the size.
- Emergency Stop Valves: Check all of the emergency stop valves under the sink and toilet. You should be able to turn them off without a wrench. This will spare you many problems during an emergency situation.
- Electrolysis and Pipe Erosion: If you see rust where a galvanized pipe and cast iron fitting meet, a leak has happened and will likely spring up again in the near future. Also, many older homes have copper pipes and galvanized pipes attached to each other. This causes electrolysis and consequently, erosion. Brass is needed as a separator between copper and galvanized pipes to prevent this corrosion.
- Water Damage: Check for water damage underneath your sinks, it indicates that it was leaking at one time or is leaking.
- Toilet Wax Rings: Check the wax rings on around your toilet, they typically have a life of 5-8 years. The easiest way to check them is to see if the toilet rocks.
- Black Mold from Plumbing: Check for any black mold or moisture build-up on the drywall — this is an indication of a leak behind the wall.
- Crawl Space Safety: If you have a crawl space that gives you access to your plumbing, air it out once a year. Make sure there is no sewage puddling up in that space and check for residue on any pipes indicating leaks. Crawl spaces should be fumigated for spiders and rodents so you or your technician are not in danger when going in for repairs.
Hopefully you find these tips helpful for your older’s home plumbing. Whether you’re up against simple repairs or whole pipe replacements, an old home is irreplaceable.
If you have any questions about the plumbing in your old home, give us a call at 801-224-8118. We have technicians who have spent decades working on very old homes. They’ve seen everything and would be happy to help you out or answer any questions you have.