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The two main problems caused by old plumbing are galvanized pipes and sewer lines, which tend to be seen in houses with plumbing from the 1960’s or earlier. Most houses from that era have likely experienced extensive re-plumbing. However, if you live in an older home that has not received plumbing fixes before, here are some tips for what to look for and when things need to be replaced when it comes to galvanized pipes and sewer lines:
In order to run a quick test on an old home, simply turn on the hot water and let it run for a minute or two. If you see the water pressure is low, it is likely the house has galvanized pipes that have tarnished and plugged up over time. In this scenario, the hot water pipes should be the first thing to get rid of.
It’s important to note that if you see no problems or concerns with the water pressure, that doesn’t mean everything is necessarily fine. It is possible that the house could have good pressure in the hot-water lines, but still have hidden problems caused by galvanized pipes. Some old houses may have had all of the bad pipes replaced, but still have many old galvanized pipes that will soon be in need of replacement.
Although some experts may tell you to replace the entire piping system once galvanized piping starts to create problems, many homeowners cannot afford such an expense. Unfortunately they end up only fixing the pipe causing the immediate problem. What’s even worse, replacements may have been done using more galvanized pipe instead of plastic or copper pipe, which only extends the problem instead of solving it.
Obviously since most plumbing systems are behind walls, it can be difficult to determine the full scope of old plumbing problems. Often times new piping and plumbing can be easier to spot because new pipes are usually run through the floor under the sink. Therefore, looking under the sink can help to determine if indeed the house has any new plumbing.
If copper piping has been attached to galvanized pipes, corrosion will occur because of the two different metals touching. A process known as dielectric coupling is required to stop this corrosion from taking place. A professional plumber would know how to do this procedure correctly. If the re-plumbing was done by a non-professional, the dielectric coupling may not have been included.
It’s important to remember that plumbing is not just confined to a house; it starts and ends at the street.
The meter is what divides the homeowner’s piping and the water district’s piping. Everything on the side of the house belongs to the homeowner. Everything on the side of the street belongs to the water district. All meters should have a dial that shows minute water flow. You can easily determine if there is a leak in the piping by turning off all the water in your house and watching the dial. If the dial continues to move after the water has been shut off, there is a leak somewhere in the piping system. If the dial stops moving, then you do not have any leaks in your piping system.
If a house is on a sewer line this can be troublesome, especially for those with old houses. The homeowner owns the sewer line from the house to the street.
Sewer lines can either be crushed or root-bound. If you want to check the sewer line yourself, you can look into renting a sewer camera. This costs approximately $150 for half of a day. But, it is best to get an expert with a skilled eye. They will be able to recognize and understand exactly what it is you’re looking at.
Sewer lines can be made from plastic, clay, or cast iron. Old cast iron pipes are known for corroding. Additionally, clay is especially vulnerable to root invasion. Although plastic is known for its durability, it can be crushed. All types of piping are susceptible to an impassable plug from diapers, grease, or tennis balls. If your sewer lines are made from Orangeburg (a Word War II-era product made of tarpaper), there is no question they need to be replaced.
Old houses are infamous for age-related problems. When faced with plumbing issues, it is safe to assume galvanized pipes and/or bad sewer lines are the cause.