As a homeowner, you expect to replace certain items in your home as time goes on — the roof, the air conditioner, the flooring. What you may not expect is to need to replace your piping. But, as the saying goes: nothing lasts forever. That includes your pipes.
Over the years, daily use of your plumbing results in corrosion, rust, and decay, then eventually leaks or flooding. These problems can lead to higher water bills, mold growth, water damage, and more. So, what do you need to know about your piping to protect your home?
The Lifespan of Piping
The first thing is to understand the usual lifespan of the piping in your home. The primary variable determining the lifespan of your piping is the material the piping is made from. Supply pipes are made from one of three different materials: brass, copper, or galvanized steel. Drain lines are made from either cast iron or PVC.
When it comes to supply pipes, the shortest lifespan is for copper piping; these pipes usually last between 70 and 80 years. However, there is not much difference between the lifespan of copper pipes and those made from the other two materials. Brass and galvanized steel both last between 80 and 100 years.
Your drain lines, however, have a much larger gap between the two materials. Cast iron drain lines will last between 80 and 100 years, keeping pace with the supply pipes. PVC drain lines, on the other hand, are only expected to last between 25 and 40 years.
Still, you need to keep in mind that these are general estimates. There are other factors that can cause problems with your piping, including improper installation, damage during renovation, and DIY plumbing projects gone wrong. Because these estimates are not guarantees, you should always be checking for signs that there is a problem.
Signs of Piping Problems
- Leaks both Small and Large: It is tempting to quickly correct small leaks and then write them off. However, these small leaks often indicate that there is a larger problem with your piping, and can precede larger leaks that have the potential to cause significant damage to your home.
- Stains: Many homeowners do not realize that there are other signs of leaks they should be looking for besides drips and puddles. With small leaks, the actual water may evaporate before you are able to catch it. One sign that you have a leak, even if there is no water present, is staining on the surfaces around and below the pipes.
- Higher Water Bills: Another sign that you might have a leak you cannot see? An increase in your water bill. Any increase that cannot be explained by a change in rates is a clear sign of a problem.
- Odd Sounds: Any new noise from your pipes, such as banging and clanging, indicates that something has changed with your piping. If you have purchased an older home, it could be that the noises are normal for the type of piping used. However, it still should not be ignored.
- Surface Changes on Tubing: Corrosion of your piping may not look the way you expect. The first signs are often subtle. Staining, changes in color, flaking, dimples, and bumps are all signs that corrosion is occurring.
- Water Discoloration: This one is a clear indicator that you have a significant problem. However, because we use our water every day, it often does not sit in the pipes long enough to be discolored. The best time to check for this sign is after you come home from a trip.
Other Concerns with Piping
Even if your piping is not giving you any concerning signs, you still might need to have it replaced. If you own a home built in the early 1900’s, there is a chance that lead piping was used. These pipes can leach lead into the water, causing significant health issues.
For homes built between 1970 and 2000, polybutylene pipes may have been used. These pipes are not a health concern, but they are prone to sudden breakage, causing significant water damage to the home. If there is a chance that you have either of these types of pipes in your home, you need to have your home inspected. If these pipes are found, they must be immediately replaced.
Steps You Should Take
The first step you need to take is to have a plumbing service come out and inspect your pipes. In addition to looking for problems, you also want them to tell you what materials your pipes are made of; the materials used will help to determine when you need to start having yearly inspections — generally about a decade before the minimum estimate on the material’s lifespan.
In addition to professional inspection, you should be diligent at looking for signs of problems. It is a good idea to check for problems at the start of every season so that you can ensure regular monitoring of your pipes. If notice any of the signs listed above, call a plumbing service.
Protect your investment by being proactive. Schedule an appointment with a plumbing service to have your piping inspected. You do not want to wait until it is too late.
(BCPSI is a full-service plumbing company in Orange County. We are experts at gas and water pipe replacement. Call us if you would like to know how many years of usable life your pipes have remaining, or if you want an estimate on repiping your home.)