When you buy an older home, you’re getting a piece of history. It’s part of what makes homes so charming and unique — but it does come with its drawbacks.
One big drawback is the increased likelihood of plumbing issues. As time goes on and after many repairs and renovations, pipes can become damaged and worn out.
Different types of homes and renovations can lead to different kinds of plumbing problems. To help you be aware, here are some common plumbing issues in older homes that you might encounter — and tips on how to fix them!
- Copper Pipes with Lead Solder
Although nobody uses it anymore, many older homes have copper pipes with lead solders. This arrangement can lead to serious health risks, primarily if handled without gloves.
If you find lead solder on your plumbing, the best thing to do is remove it for your safety. However, if you’re renovating these pipes, be sure to dispose of the lead solder after removal properly.
- Older Homes Have Root Problems
Roots are a significant problem in older homes. As trees grow around your home’s foundation, they can break into and clog sewer drains and water pipe openings — leading to leaks.
The best way to fix this plumbing problems is by digging out the roots and applying a chemical treatment specific to killing them.
- Leaky Tubs or Showers
Tub and shower leaks are usually due to worn-out rubber gaskets or o-rings. With time, these parts wear out and start to leak.
Replacing them is quick, simple, and inexpensive — it just requires knowing which gasket goes where! Instead of doing it yourself, call a plumber to take care of it for you; they’ll be able to do the job much faster and with much less hassle.
- Slow Drains/Low Water Pressure
A slow-running drain is a pretty easy fix: all you need is a plunger and some Plumbing Putty around the drain opening — or if you can remove it, replace the rubber flapper.
Fixing low water pressure is a bit trickier but not impossible. It’s often due to blockages in the mainline or the home’s supply line — call a plumber, and they can give you an estimate for clearing out your pipes.
- Bad Smells in the Sink
If you start to notice bad smells in your sink, it’s likely coming from either a clogged vent or bowl overflow. The vent is generally near the dishwasher; dishwasher water will back up into your sink and drain if it’s blocked.
Scrutinize both of these areas for any debris causing the problem.
The overflow slot is usually between the sink and drain; again, check for debris blocking it. Don’t wait to call experts until you get bad smells in your kitchen sink or bathtub. It is important to address the issue preferably with professional help immediately.
- Old Pipes with No Insulation
If you’re lucky, the galvanized pipes in your home will have insulation around them. But if they don’t, it’s likely due to poor building construction standards in the past. Although this is generally not a severe problem, leaking water can freeze and cause problems.
The solution is usually straightforward: insulate exposed pipes or hire a professional to do it. Don’t wait for your pipes to burst if you live in freezing climates!
- Leaky Water Heater
Leaks in a water heater are generally due to corroded tanks or broken valves. Replacing the tank is an expensive but relatively simple solution while replacing the valve requires skill and tools.
If your home has galvanized steel pipes, you will need to hire professional plumbers for this job. Not only can they handle it with ease, but your insurance also might not cover the job otherwise.
- Low Water Pressure at Bath and Shower Drains
If you start noticing low water pressure at your bath or shower, check to see if the pipe behind your nearby toilet is draining slowly — it’s more than likely that connection that’s causing problems.
There are two ways of fixing this plumbing issue: either unscrew the connection and replace it with a new one or install an air gap. If you’re not comfortable doing it yourself, you can consider calling in the experts.
- Cracks at Wall-to-Pipe Connections
Checking for cracks at wall-to-pipe connections is essential; these cracks indicate that ground movement is causing the problem and that your pipes may need repositioning.
If you find any cracks, it’s best to call experienced plumbers who will reroute the sewer line at the crack’s location. Water damage can occur when you don’t take cracks seriously.
- Pipes That “Talk” to You
Hear a hissing sound or other noises coming from the pipes when you turn on your kitchen faucet? This noise usually means that water pressure is low and that it’s probably time to replace old galvanized steel piping with copper.
If you ignore this problem, expect lower water pressure and less hot water — not to mention higher utility bills.