Plumbing Issues in Older Homes and How to Fix Them

When you picture your ideal home, you have a particular style in mind. Layout, paint color, the number of rooms – these are the common aspects you are envisioning. Often, when buying a house, you may have to go for an older or pre-owned home; thus, the mechanics of older or pre-owned houses should be taken into consideration.

When buying a new home, you may need to go for a pre-owned one, and it may come with its own plumbing issues.

Older homes, no matter how much charm and character they have, come with a fair share of problems. From toilet repair needs to roof leaks to foundation or structural issues – you need to be mindful of hidden plumbing problems in old homes.

In today’s post, we are going to focus on common plumbing issues found in older homes. These problems seem to originate from two sources: multiple owners and original equipment. These common issues are:

  • Galvanized pipe
  • Sewer lines
  • Drains
  • Pipe bellies
  • Polybutylene pipe
  • Original fixtures

Keep in mind that these issues do not coincide with each other; when you fix one problem, another could still manifest without warning. Let’s look at each problem:

Galvanized Pipes

Typically common in older homes built before the 60’s, galvanized pipes are steel pipes that were dipped in zinc coating to avoid rust and corrosion. Nowadays, galvanized pipes are a frequent source of potential plumbing problems. The zinc coating covering the pipe can last a while, but not perpetually. As time goes by, the zinc corrodes, causing the iron to rust. This can result in failing pipes; manifesting their failures through discolored, rusty water coming out of the faucets.

The galvanized pipes in older homes can be brought into the modern day by incorporating today’s plumbing innovations. Installing copper or PEX can be quick service. It ensures steady water pressure, no leaks, and no unsightly color to your water.

Sewer Lines

Sewer lines transport your house’s gray and black water from drains to the main sewer, where it goes on to a municipal treatment plant. These sewer lines are always in contact with water, so they draw tree roots. Old houses often suffer from sewers and sewer lines issues. Cast iron pipes, in particular, are vulnerable to tree roots intrusion, which can clog sewer lines.

Plumbers can see your property’s sewer pipes by sending a camera to inspect them. Doing so can also help plumbers check for any tree roots intrusion.

Drains

A house that is 50 to 60 years old comes with a rich history. However, that also means 50 to 60 years of draining water, sewage, and other scum, which can take a toll on an older home’s drains. Kitchen, toilet, and bathroom sink drains are commonly prone to clogging. Children tend to put toy cars or small action figures down the toilet; these small items can initiate a slow-building clogging. And you won’t see a backed-up toilet until it strikes.

Kitchen sink drains are also prone to taking in things that shouldn’t go down the drain. Bits of food, kitchen fats and scum, and other items. You can always keep waste out of the sink using a garbage disposal. However, most older homes don’t come with one, and you won’t know what previous homeowners have put down the kitchen sink before you.

Pipe Bellies

The pipes leading into your house will rise and fall with the soil surrounding it. When the pipes bow or buckle, they form what is called a pipe belly. This happens when a low hanging spot attracts sewage and settles it in. While the wastewater settles, poor drainage, toilets that are slow to flush or won’t flush at all, and clogged sewer lines are the result.

Pipe channeling is along the same vein as pipe bellies. It happens when hard water makes its path at the bottom of sewer pipes, causing the pipes to weaken.

Polybutylene Pipes

Homes built in the late 70’s through the early 90’s were most likely installed with polybutylene pipes (PB). These pipes were then regarded as a premium water pipe option due to its easy installation and low cost. However, it was eventually known to break down with continued exposure to water and its dissolved solids, so homes are not built with them anymore. Unfortunately, houses with polybutylene pipes continue to experience more pipe issues.

If you have acquired a home that has been piped in PB, then you will need an experienced local plumber to fix the issues, before they escalate. Every elbow and tee, every run, and every connection throughout your house must be replaced – or else a leak could destroy your belongings and valuables.

Original fixtures

There are original fixtures that are notably more durable and of better quality than their modern counterparts. However, there are also older ones that inevitably wear out with time. Valves and washers degrade. Stems and handles get damaged. If your older home has its original faucets, handles, spigots, and valves, you may not immediately notice the small leaks that lead to unpleasant odors and increased water bills.

A concern for any household is the toilet’s shut-off valve. This valve connects where the rigid pipes go out the wall and down the tank. The metal and plastic tube links the water supply and the tank. This shut-off valve tends to get stuck in its normally open position, and attempting to close it may result in a leak. An experienced plumber can expertly resolve this issue by replacing the flexible tube and the stuck shut-off valve. You don’t have to worry about shutting the water to the toilet when you have a clogged toilet.

I’m a home theater designer and installer in Atlanta, GA. I do professional photography shootings on the side. Blessed to be married to my sweet Margret. We adore our four sons. A book called “Fair Game” by Valerie Plame Wilson influenced me greatly when I read it years ago. I became a big fan of her books. When I saw that this domain name was available, I grabbed it! When I set out to do a blog on home theater I decided to use it rather than letting it go to waste.