General Plumbing

Common Plumbing Problems in Older Homes

View from bathroom door of vintage style bathroom with pedestal sink and radiator in hallway.

Older homes have a ton of character – from the antique brass faucets, clawfoot tubs, and colorful tile to the Dutch doors, transom windows, and archways, there’s a lot to love. Unfortunately, that character often includes old plumbing that’s past its prime and isn’t fit to support modern appliances.

If you own an older home and are suspicious about strange noises (ghosts?), smells, leaks, or frequent clogs in your plumbing, it's possible that your home’s old age is to blame.

Learn more about the most common old house plumbing problems, and what can be done to fix them!

What Are the Most Common Plumbing Problems in Old Houses?

The unfortunate reality is that for most old home plumbing issues, replacement is often the only solution.

Here are some of the most common plumbing issues in old houses, and why they occur:

  • Old, corroded piping. Most older pipes are made of material that corrodes and rusts more easily. Even if over the years some of that piping was replaced with better material, the rest may be damaged or repaired with lower-quality material. Though expensive, it may be the best option to re-pipe your plumbing – especially if there’s rust or lead in your water.
  • Slow drains. This could be the result of many issues, but most likely because of “pipe bellies.” These are “sags” in your drainpipes that happen as your home settles and shifts downward over time, putting pressure on your pipes and creating negative slopes. This can restrict water from flowing correctly through them and result in slow drains.
  • Frequent clogging. As you might expect, pipe bellies can also lead to frequent clogging. Another reason for clogging could be due to buildup over time, or blockages from sediment and root growth. Scheduling a drain inspection and drain unclogging service can eliminate this issue.
  • Damaged or failing sewer lines. Old homes are more likely to have foundational shifts and tree root overgrowth. This can put a lot of pressure on and in your sewer lines, leading to damage. Another common reason for failed sewer lines is because of modern appliance upgrades. Newer appliances put more strain on sewer lines, and if your old pipes aren’t equipped to handle this, it can result in damage. If you have any wastewater backup, slow drains, or soft spots in your yard, you may need sewer line replacement.
  • Worn or outdated fixtures. Plumbing fixtures – old or new – aren’t built to last forever. Even if your fixtures seem like they’re working well, it’s best to check the wear on any internal parts. Minor wear and tear over time can lead to more costly leaks and plumbing issues. Our experts can perform a plumbing inspection for any part of your home’s plumbing.
  • Improper installations or repairs. Whether your plumbing was installed a hundred years ago, installed incorrectly, repaired incorrectly, or repaired with outdated materials, this can affect the long-term stability of your plumbing. In older homes especially, having your plumbing inspected is vital to preventing damage.

What Are Old Plumbing Pipes Made Of?

The most common types of materials used for older plumbing pipes are:

  • Galvanized steel. Most often used between the 1930s and the 1980s, this piping material was discovered later in the 1990s to be prone to rust and corrosion, releasing lead into the water, which is dangerous to consume.
  • Copper. Most homes built around the 1960s are likely to have copper piping. Unlike galvanized steel, copper is one of the most durable materials for plumbing pipes. The issue with this material is the risk of lead, which could be present in the piping itself or the solder applied to the joints and fittings.
  • PVC. This material is still used today and was often used in older homes where piping was replaced because it was easy and inexpensive to install. PVC is also very durable, lead-free, resistant to rust and corrosion, and handles high water pressure well. The downside is that hot water can make it warp.

Related Content: Slab Leaks: What Causes Them, and How to Detect Them

What Is the Cost to Replace Plumbing in an Old House?

On average, the price can range from $3,000 - $16,000. This is because it depends on many factors, including:

  • The type of new piping material used.
  • Ease of access to the home’s water lines.
  • The size of the home.
  • Additional plumbing and fixtures needing replacement.
  • Overall labor for removal and installation.

Replumbing is a major project, to say the least – but for older homes, it’s often necessary. At Benjamin Franklin Plumbing, we’ll make sure to keep your overall budget and needs in mind when estimating replumbing projects.

Related Content: 5 Questions to Ask Before Buying a Home

Do You Need to Replace the Plumbing in an Old Home?

It depends on how old your home is, how well your plumbing was maintained, and what type of plumbing renovations were made. In some cases, plumbing over 25 years old can still hold up just fine compared to newer plumbing.

The problem, however, isn’t always the plumbing lines but rather changes made to other parts of the home. For example, newer appliances and fixtures have a higher plumbing demand than older plumbing pipes are equipped to handle. So a lot of renovations can put a lot of strain on your plumbing pipes, leading to leaks or damage that may go unnoticed for a while.

The best thing to do for the plumbing in your old home is to have it inspected. A professional will determine the best option to help prevent any long-term damage that could lead to even more costly replacement.

How to Fix Plumbing Problems in Old Homes

When it comes to old homes, most plumbing issues aren’t DIY-friendly. Not only are you dealing with outdated piping, parts, and materials, but it’s likely there are also additional plumbing issues that need to be considered.

To properly fix old plumbing issues:

  1. Have your plumbing inspected. Before you begin or schedule any type of repair, schedule a plumbing inspection. An expert will be able to properly identify all the issues in your plumbing and the best solution to avoid further damage.
  2. Get your plumbing repaired or replaced as needed. Depending on the issues found with your plumbing, you may need minor repairs or larger replacements. Make sure these issues are addressed before you tackle any smaller issues.
  3. Remove any clogs or buildup. It’s likely your old pipes are clogged with debris, mineral buildup, hair, tree roots, and more. Having your drainpipes cleaned will improve overall drainage and help prevent future leaks.
  4. Replace old fixtures. Before replacing any fixtures, check with your local plumber first. Not only can new fixtures strain your old plumbing pipes, but installing them incorrectly can lead to costly damage.

Get Your Old Plumbing Up to Date with Professional Plumbing Services

Old homes are charming – old plumbing is not. Avoid costly repairs and replacements by scheduling services with the licensed plumbers at your local Benjamin Franklin Plumbing. Our experts will fully inspect your old home’s plumbing to determine what needs repair, replacement, and maintenance. Call us at 1-877-BEN-1776 or book an appointment online.

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