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.