If your house is more than about 60 years old, make it an annual ritual to look at any exposed pipe—in basements, crawlspaces, and utility rooms—for telltale signs of trouble. Check the water line under sinks in your kitchen and bathrooms.
- Look for stains on walls and on surfaces underneath plumbing pipes that indicate leaks. Even if drips aren’t apparent, stains indicate a past leak that signals future trouble.
- Check the tubing for discoloration, stains, dimpling, pimples, or flaking, which are all indications of corrosion. If you find irregularities, call a plumber to do an inspection.
- Watch for leaks. Even small ones that are easily repaired may be indicators that the time for replacing plumbing for your whole house is approaching. It’s likely that the original pipes in your home are the same vintage, made of the same material, and they’ve been subjected to the same water supply and usage patterns.
- Look at the color of bathtub water when you fill it—especially after a vacation when water has been sitting in the pipes for a while. If the water looks brown or yellow, what you’re seeing is rust, a sign of decay inside the pipes. Consider replacing plumbing soon.
Nothing lasts forever, and that includes the plumbing pipes in your home. Fortunately, the majority of pipe materials perform well for decades. However, when that lifespan is reached, pipes may start to leak.
To prevent leaks, use the chart below to determine if your home’s plumbing lifespan is adequate or if water pipes are bursting for attention.
To prevent health hazards, check for lead pipes.
Know your pipes
Review the home inspection report you got when you bought your home to see what kind of pipes you have—or call a licensed plumber to do an inspection of your plumbing system.
Your plumbing lifespan
Supply pipes (under constant pressure and therefore most likely to cause water damage when they leak): Brass 40-70+ years, Copper 50+ years, and Galvanized steel 20-50 years.
Drain lines: Cast iron 75-100 years and Polyvinyl chloride (known as PVC) Indefinitely.
If your pipes are older than these guidelines from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development Residential Rehabilitation Inspection Guide, it doesn’t necessarily mean they need to be replaced. Well-maintained pipes may last longer, and poorly maintained ones or those in areas with hard water (meaning it has high mineral content), may fail sooner.
Check for polybutylene
Polybutylene piping—a gray, plastic plumbing material used from the 1970s through the 1990s—is extremely prone to breakage. It’s commonly found in homes in the Sun Belt, the Mid-Atlantic states, and the Pacific Northwest.
If you suspect your home has polybutylene pipes, have a plumber inspect the system immediately. You can’t assess their condition with a simple visual check, as the exterior of the pipes may appear fine. Chlorinated water causes these pipes to flake from the inside out, which ultimately results in the pipes failing without warning.
Getting the lead out
Lead pipe water line, used in the early 1900s, have a life expectancy of 100 years, but they can leach lead into your drinking water, a potential health hazard. Lead pipes are typically dull gray and the surface of the pipe can be easily scratched with a knife or key.
If you suspect that your home has lead water pipes, have the water tested. If results show the lead content at 15 parts per billion (15 ppb) or more, call a professional plumber to replace your home’s lead pipes.
Article provided by houselogic.com, home advice on plumbing, water pipes and types.