Common Older-home Plumbing Problems

There are a number of potential plumbing issues that are common in older homes. Certain materials and techniques that used to be par for the course in plumbing are no longer up to code, general wear and tear needs to be checked on, and past repair jobs may not have been as effective as you would hope. Here are a few of the most commonly occurring older-home plumbing problems that you may need to be aware of in your house if it is more than 30 years old or so.


Polybutelene Pipes

Polybutelene was used to make pipes from the late ‘70s up until the early ‘90s, so a lot of homes still have them. Unfortunately, the material wears down after prolonged exposure to oxidants such as chlorine that are present in most public water supplies, so these pipes are now breaking down and causing problems in the homes they are installed in.

If you have Polybutelene pipes, you should get them all replaced before they leak and cause serious water damage to your home and belongings. If you don’t know what material your pipes are made of but your home was built between the 1970s and 1990s, you should have a professional inspect your pipes and let you know what they are composed of.


Galvanized Pipes

Galvanized pipes are made of iron and covered in a layer of zinc. Galvanized pipes are prone to corrosion and the iron in the pipes can cause water discolouration. Replacing galvanized pipes before they become too corroded and cause leaks and water damaged is a good idea, and if your drinking water has been coming out a funny colour it could be a sign that you have galvanized pipes that need replacing.


Cast Iron Pipes

Cast iron pipes underneath your home’s foundation tend to crack and leak over time. This is just normal wear and tear that happens eventually, so make sure to have your cast iron pipes checked by a professional if they are older. Because of their tendency to crack, cast iron pipes are especially susceptible to tree-root intrusion as well, which can cause other issues (see below).


Tree Roots in Sewer Lines

The moisture from sewer lines makes tree roots want to grow into them. Depending on the material and age of your sewer lines, tree roots may be able to make their way inside small cracks in the pipes and then grow inside them and create a clog. If you get your sewer lines checked regularly, you can have the tree-root intrusion dealt with before it completely takes over the pipes, which will save time and money in the big picture.


Inefficient Fixtures

As plumbing technology evolves, it is becoming more and more efficient in water usage, so it follows that, generally speaking, the older the fixture, the less efficient it is. Not to mention, years of wear and tear will have taken their toll on the fixtures in your older home. Have a professional inspect old fixtures regularly and when it’s time to replace them opt for new, more efficient models.


Inherited DIY Fixes

You don’t know what was done to the plumbing in your home before you moved in—or who was doing it. Past homeowners may have done DIY plumbing fixes that are not going to hold up like professional repairs. It’s not too unlikely that somewhere in your home there is duct tape holding back a leak or something equally ineffectual. It’s always a good idea to get a professional in to inspect all of the plumbing in an older home that you’ve recently moved into. A plumber can check everything out and let you know if anything needs to be replaced or repaired, so you don’t have any unpleasant surprises (like sudden plumbing emergencies) later.

Never Wash These 12 Things Down Your Drain

It’s so easy to just rinse whatever you please down the drain, but there are some things that will damage your pipes and bungle up your plumbing. Refrain from sending these 12 things down your drain or disposal and your pipes will thank you.


Sink Drain

Coffee grounds are an extremely common cause of clogged kitchen pipes. We know, we know, you’re groggy in the morning, but get in the habit of throwing those coffee grounds in the compost, not the sink, and you’ll avoid bigger problems in the future.

Oils and fats. After cooking with fat or oil, it can be tempting to just pour the liquid down the sink. Don’t! They won’t stay liquid once they cool and will really mess up your pipes. Instead, transfer oils and fats into an empty jar or can, allow it to cool and solidify, then toss the whole container into the trash.

Paint won’t damage your pipes, but toxins from paint poured down household drains can make their way into public water supplies and pose health risks, so make sure you dispose of it elsewhere.

Flour might not seem like a big deal to wash down your drain, but remember what happens when you add liquid to flour in a recipe. You get a sticky, gloppy substance that you definitely don’t want forming in your drain.


Garbage Disposal

Eggshells can dull disposal blades. Instead, opt to toss them in the compost.

Bones of any kind. Even small chicken or fish bones will just damage your disposal and cause plugged-up drains.

Corn husks are very tough and fibrous, which can dull blades. The corn silks also shouldn’t go down the disposal since they are so thin and will tangle around the mechanisms.

Fibrous vegetables like celery and pumpkin will just plug up your disposal and trap other debris in there.

Pasta swells up bigger and bigger with water exposure, so it can cause blockages in your disposal and drain.

Oatmeal will pass right through the disposal and then expand in your pipes, which can easily clog things up.

Nuts. Before you throw any nuts into the garbage disposal, stop for a moment and think: what happens when you grind up a bunch of peanuts? You get peanut butter. Which is not something you want to create in your disposal and then send down your pipes. Do yourself a favour and toss any nuts into the compost instead.

Potato peels are usually skinny enough to slip right through the disposal unscathed, so they will clog things up and catch other bits of debris.


Is Your Hot Water Tank Temperature Safe?

Many people are unsure of the correct temperature to set their hot water tank at and do not realize that the temperature of your hot water is an important factor in household safety.

There are a few things to keep in mind when thinking about hot water temperature in the home, particularly if your home’s occupants include young children, the elderly, or those with suppressed immune systems. It is important to take the appropriate safety precautions to ensure that your hot water system prevents disease and injury, so you can rest easy knowing that your home is safe for you and your family.


Water Temperature and Safety Risks

Household hot water needs to be stored at a high enough temperature to kill potentially disease-causing bacteria, particularly Legionella, which causes Legionnaires’ Disease. Legionnaires’ Disease is a respiratory infection that leads to pneumonia and can be harmful and even fatal in some instances.

60 degrees C is often the default factory setting on hot water tanks. 60 degrees C (140 degrees F) is hot enough to ensure that dangerous bacteria like Legionella cannot survive. However, this temperature can scald you and cause serious damage to the skin, particularly for young children and the elderly.

Some people recommend setting your tank to 49 degrees C (120 degrees F) to prevent scalding. 49 degrees C is hot enough to kill most harmful bacteria, but it does not guarantee getting rid of all of it.


How to Keep Your Hot Water Safe

Both injury from scalding and disease from bacteria are legitimate safety concerns, so it can be difficult to determine the best course of action when it comes to your hot water tank temperature. You can protect yourself from both harmful bacteria and scalding hot water with a system that stores water in the tank at a high enough temperature to eradicate bacteria while giving you cooler water at the tap to prevent scalding. There are a couple of different ways that you can do this.

One option is to install a hot water tank booster. This is a device that keeps the water in the tank at 60 degrees C, then mixes it with cold water as it leaves the hot water tank so that the water coming out of your taps will be about 49 degrees C—hot enough for all your household needs but not enough to scald.

The other option is to have anti-scald devices installed right at each tap. Anti-scald devices monitor the temperature of the water and ensure that water comes out of the tap at a comfortable 49 degrees C. Anti-scald devices also account for changes in water pressure, so even if you are showering while someone else in the household is using cold water elsewhere, the anti-scald device will change the hot water pressure accordingly so that you don’t have a sudden burst of very hot water pouring onto you unexpectedly. Some faucets and showerheads have anti-scald devices built right in.

3 Signs You Need Heating Repair

It’s starting to get really cold in Vancouver—is your heater up to the test? Unfortunately, you’re not going to be able to make it through every single winter without a little heating work. You shouldn’t shy away from the problems you’re facing in your home. If you need Vanmach Plumbing and Heating, you can schedule an appointment with the professionals on our team.

You can trust our team! We’ve been able to grow steadily throughout our decades in business because of our dedication to the comfort of our customers. We’re a family-run and locally-owned business. You’ll know that you’re getting the best work possible when you come to the members of our team.

Come to Us When…

It’s time to come to our professionals when you notice any of the following:

1.      You Can’t Get Warm

Now we know that Boston winters aren’t a walk in the park, but you should always be able to remain warm in your home no matter what the temperatures are outdoors. Your heater in your home should be able to handle any heating and cooling imbalances and it should be able to bring your home to your desired temperature and keep it there for your desired amount of time. If this isn’t the case, it’s time for you to schedule an appointment with our team.

2.      You’re Shelling Out Cash

Are you paying way too much for your home’s heating services? The price of your energy bills this winter should always reflect the way that you run your home’s heater. If you’re running your home’s heater at a moderate temperature for a reasonable amount of time, you shouldn’t be paying heating bills than drain your wallet. If this is the case in your home, it’s time for you to schedule an appointment with our service technicians. We’ll optimize your heater’s efficiency levels and ensure that you get the best service available to you.

3.      You Have Low Indoor Air Quality

Do you have low indoor air quality in your home? Low indoor air quality might manifest as lots of coughing and sneezing when you’re at home, a difficulty getting warm, lots of dust and debris floating around your home, and dryness of your eyes, nose, throat, and skin. You don’t have to brush these issues to the side just because they seem like something you can deal with. You shouldn’t have to “deal with” anything in your home—you should have the best comfort available to you.

Professional Service Counts

You’re going to need professional service when you want heating repair. We know that it’s tempting to want to talk to an amateur or turn to the Internet to try to DIY your problems away. It’s time for you to schedule an appointment with our professionals. We have the right licensure, experience, and expertise to get your home warm for winter.