Plumbing is a fundamental element of your home’s infrastructure. Except for an occasional sink clog or leaky faucet, most homeowners don’t have to think about the pipes behind the walls. But iron pipes eventually rust, copper pipes erode, lead leeches, and even plastics eventually lose their plasticity. There may come a time when you’ll have to switch out the old pipes for new ones.
So how do you know when it’s time to re-pipe your house?
You Own A Vintage Home
It goes without saying that older homes are more likely to need a home re-pipe than newer construction. Depending on the pipe materials and the hardness or acidity of the water supply, most supply pipes and drain lines have a maximum lifespan of about a century. If your house is older and hasn’t had a re-pipe in living memory, it’s a prudent idea to have your plumbing system checked even if you’re not yet experiencing any problems.
Your House Was Built During Certain Eras
Under pressure to improve plumbing systems, progress sometimes gets it wrong. For example, around the turn of the 20th century, lead piping was commonly used in home construction. Most cities, once they became aware of the toxicity problem in the 1920s, stopped using it for municipal water-supply pipes. Unfortunately, nobody went back to systemically strip out the lead pipes in private homes. If you own a house built during that era, check it for lead.
Also, if your house was built between 1978 and 1995, check your home inspection documents for the presence of polybutylene piping. Once thought to be a low-price substitute for long-lasting copper pipes, this banned piping can become brittle and burst under certain conditions. The sooner it’s replaced the better.
Your Home Is Experiencing Multiple Leaks
No matter how old your house is or what piping materials were used, a rash of pipe leaks is a likely indication that your system needs an overhaul. Every piping material has a limited lifespan that can be shortened considerably depending on water hardness, acidity, and/or pressure.
Make it a habit to take a look at the exposed pipes in areas like the basement, attic, or crawl spaces. Look for green spots on copper pipes, rust flakes or dimpling on iron ones, or cracks in plastic. Also keep an eye out for water stains in unexpected places, like wallboard or ceilings, which may indicate slow leaks behind the walls.
Your Home Is Experiencing Dirty Water And/Or Low Water Pressure
Temporary drops in water pressure can be due to multiple issues, but if you’re experiencing extended, persistent, and an increasing drop in water pressure in multiple faucets or showerheads, this may be an indication of a systemic problem.
Some piping materials, particularly galvanized steel, are prone to corrosion. Your low water pressure may be due to a build-up of rust and debris blocking flow. You may notice early indications of this problem in growing rust-rings around porcelain drains, or in water that looks flecked and cloudy.
A good time to consider a house re-pipe is during a major renovation when much of the piping will be exposed and available for access. If you have questions about this or in any subject plumbing-related, never hesitate to contact your trusted local plumber.