7 Common Plumbing Issues in Older Homes

by Team eLocal
UPVC pipe burst

Many of us prefer an old home steeped in characterful features to a sleek new build. However, one less enchanting feature could be lurking under the surface: plumbing issues.

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Whether you're mulling over purchasing your dream period property, or you already own one, being aware of common plumbing problems in old homes can help you avoid expensive mishaps.

What Are the Most Common Plumbing Issues in Older Homes?

Many plumbing problems in old homes are similar to those faced in newer properties, but some are more prevalent in houses over a certain age. If you've recently bought an old house or haven't had your aging plumbing system inspected in a while, it's worth keeping an eye out for the following issues:

Bad Pipe Materials

Depending on the age of your home, the pipe materials used in your plumbing system may not comply with modern building codes and could be unsafe.

Lead pipes are the most dangerous type of old plumbing pipes. This metal was once used extensively for manufacturing water pipes because it's easy to shape and has a long lifespan. Plumbers also used it to solder joints between pipes made from other materials. However, lead can cause serious health problems, particularly in children. Drinking water from pipes containing lead can lead to lead poisoning symptoms, such as stomach pain and fatigue, so it's essential to replace them if you discover them in your home.

Other types of outdated pipe materials include galvanized and polybutylene. Neither material poses a health risk, but they're more prone to issues than modern pipes. Galvanized steel pipes with a zinc lining are vulnerable to corrosion, increasing the risk of clogs and leaks. Plastic polybutylene pipes are less common in homes and react with substances in the water supply, making them highly brittle.

Outdated Fixtures

Even if the previous owners installed high-quality fixtures, these won't be immune to the effects of age and wear and tear. Over time, fixtures can corrode and wear down, increasing the likelihood of leaks and clogs.

Sometimes, an outdated fixture can be a minor irritation that makes using your plumbing system less convenient. However, it's best to maintain older plumbing components carefully and replace them when they show signs of failure to avoid a major leak and water damage.

Corroded or Leaking Pipes

Corroded pipes are a common plumbing issue in old homes. Corrosive substances in the water supply can gradually break down the metal used to make the pipes, eventually causing leaks. Corrosion can also cause sediment to build up, increasing the chances of a clogged pipe. All these issues take time to develop, making them more likely in old house plumbing.

Drain Problems

Older home drainage systems were often installed before the arrival of appliances such as garbage disposals, so they're frequently incapable of handling modern household usage. The result could be frequent clogs or water backing up into sinks and other fixtures.

A failing sewer line is the most serious drainage issue commonly encountered in old houses. This problem is more likely if you've remodeled your home to add more fixtures, placing more pressure on a sewer line not designed for the purpose. Eventually, the line can become clogged, causing unpleasant indoor smells, poor drainage and contaminated wastewater backing up into your fixtures.

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Pipe Bellies

Pipe bellies develop when pipes buried in your home's foundation start sagging as the building settles. They create downward slopes, affecting water drainage and increasing the risk of significant blockages. You don't need to worry about pipe bellies in a pressurized main line, as the water pressure prevents the pipes from clogging, but they can cause issues in drain lines.

Root Intrusion

Root intrusion occurs when trees and other shrubs grow roots too close to your sewer line or water service line. Sometimes, the roots penetrate the pipe walls, leading to leaks and soft or wet areas in your yard.

Unfortunately, root intrusion is a more common plumbing problem in old homes. That's because older houses are more likely to have pipe bellies allowing standing water to accumulate, attracting roots to the moist conditions.

Shoddy DIY Repairs

All old houses will have undergone plumbing repairs at some point — quite possibly by previous homeowners instead of a knowledgeable professional. Many botched plumbing jobs, such as incorrectly installed sink traps, are trivial and inexpensive to repair. However, features such as boilers installed incorrectly by a homeowner or unqualified handyman could pose a hazard, so it's essential to have them professionally inspected and replaced if they're unsafe.

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