5 Signs You Need to Replace Your Plumbing

15 Mar

A smooth running, flawless plumbing system is a joy. It means that you have access to clean and sufficient water when you need it, and the waste water exits your home unobstructed with no clogs or blockages. This is how it should be, considering that this system accounts for an estimated 15 percent of your home’s value!

With regular scheduled maintenance by professional plumbers, you can maximize the efficiency and longevity of your plumbing system for the best possible return on investment. These pipes can last for decades, but the accumulated rust, corrosion, and decay will ultimately wear them off to a point where they need replacement. Fortunately, there are a few warning signs of severely worn out pipes, so you don’t have to wait until you have had several leaks, a flood of water, or even raw sewage spewing into your home for you to take action.

A plumbing disaster can be very costly because it would force you to not only replace the plumbing system, but also repair or replace the damaged property at the same time. That said, replacing old pipes is itself a costly endeavour that will set you back between $4,000 and $10,000 for a two-bathroom house covering 1,500 square feet. So, you also don’t want to do it too early when your plumbing system is still functional for a few more years.

Type and Age of Your Plumbing System

Well-maintained plumbing systems can last for decades, with some continuing to function for up to 100 years. However, the durability of your plumbing will largely depend on the materials used. As such, it’s important to examine the home inspection report when purchasing a house to determine the type of pipes in place, or simply contact professional plumbers for an inspection of the plumbing system. This will help you make an informed estimate of how much longer the plumbing system can last before requiring an expensive replacement.

Most supply pipes are made from copper, brass, or galvanized steel, which have a typical lifespan of 80 years. These lines are under constant pressure, which increases the risk of major water damage in the event of a leak. That said, pipes made from brass and galvanized steel have an estimated lifespan of 80 to 100 years, while copper pipes may last for 70-80 years. Drain pipes made of cast iron can also last a very long time (80-100 years), compared to PVC (polyvinyl chloride) lines that only last 25 to 40 years.

However, this is only a guide, and it doesn’t mean that you have to replace your pipes after 25-40 or 80-100 years. In fact, well-maintained pipes can last longer, while those that are neglected or installed in areas with hard water (having a high mineral content) will likely need replacing sooner.

Here are a few signs to help you determine the best time to replace your plumbing:

1. Lead and polybutylene pipes

If an inspection of your plumbing system reveals that you have lead or polybutylene pipes, then it’s important that you get them replaced immediately regardless of their condition. Lead pipes were used in the early 20th century because of their incredible durability of about 100 years. Unfortunately, recent research has found that they can leach lead into your clean water and result in serious health problems. Polybutylene pipes are not deadly, but are still too fragile for your peace of mind. Polybutylene pipes were mostly used in the late 20th century.

2. Corroded pipes

If your house or building is 60 years old and above, you should start checking for telltale signs of plumbing issues more regularly. Examine exposed pipes in the utility rooms, basements, or crawl spaces for signs of corrosion such as stains, discolouration, flaking, pimples, or dimpling. If you find any irregularities, contact your professional plumber for a thorough inspection.

3. Low water pressure

Corrosion or the build-up of minerals on the inside walls of your pipes can cause them to clog and force the water to work harder to push through, resulting in reduced water pressure at the outlets. This is a clear warning sign of issues with your plumbing system, though it doesn’t necessarily mean that the pipes need replacing. First, you should check other possible causes of low water pressure, such as the malfunction of your water heater or a leaky pipe.

4. Leaks

As the clogs get bigger and restrict the usually high water pressure in the pipes, the situation may cause the pipes to rupture, tear, or even burst to relieve the pressure. Unfortunately, it can be difficult to spot leaky pipes in the earlier stages because the pipes are usually hidden. That said, you may notice signs of moisture on the floor, walls, or ceilings where the pipes pass, or even reduced water pressure if there’s a big leak.

During your inspection, make sure to note down all leaks, including porous taps and dripping gaskets for replacement and tightening, respectively. Although these problems seem quite easy to fix, old taps and bolts may break at weakened areas and cause water to suddenly gush out. So it’s important that you let professional plumbers fix any leaks in your home, especially those associated with an old plumbing system.

5. Discoloured water

As the water forces its way past corroded internal walls, it will occasionally appear discoloured at the tap and other outlets. Discoloured drinking water should be a cause for concern, as it may compromise the health of your loved ones. Fortunately, most professional plumbers can use their years of experience to determine the possible cause of discolouration based on the colour of the water.

For instance, yellow, orange, or red water indicates that it contains rust. Old pipes that have accumulated rust on the internal walls are particularly prone to this problem, as bits of rust begin to break off and get carried away by the water. If the problem continues, the rust and corrosion will eventually cause holes in the pipes.

The water may also have blue or green discolouration, which suggests copper or brass in the system. Green water may also be caused by algae along the supply line. If your water turns black, this could indicate some kind of growth in the pipes that may be toxic. It’s also not uncommon to have your water turn pinkish, which indicates that there’s an organism in your line, though this is not considered harmful.

Final Note

Ultimately, the type of pipes and their age is not necessarily a good indicator of when to replace your plumbing system, unless they’re made of lead. It’s more reliable to ask professional plumbers to inspect them once you notice the signs of failure discussed above. They will then recommend the appropriate cause of action, whether it’s repairing, replacing, or upgrading the old/damaged components to restore the convenience of your plumbing system, and enjoy the merits of new plumbing technologies, including aesthetics and water efficiency.

For more information, please contact Brothers Plumbing.

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