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Buying an Older House? 6 Common Plumbing Problems to Watch For

When you picture your dream home, do you see a house that’s full of character, with a big yard and mature trees? Moving into an older home in an established neighbourhood may be the perfect fit for your family. But when you’re house-hunting, you should be on the lookout for some potential problem areas — particularly when it comes to plumbing.  

1. Outdated Pipes 

Older homes are full of charm, but there’s nothing charming about outdated pipes. The materials they were made with can cause major problems for today’s homeowners. In some cases, they can even pose a serious risk to your health. 

Lead pipes are one of the biggest safety concerns. Exposure to lead through drinking water can cause a range of health issues in adults, like hypertension and kidney problems. It’s particularly dangerous for children. Construction with lead pipes wasn’t banned in Canada until 1975, so it’s important to have this on your radar when you’re looking at older homes. 

Galvanized pipes are steel pipes that have a protective inner coating of zinc. They became common in the 1940s and 50s, and any still in use today may be nearing the end of their lifespan. Over time, galvanized pipes become clogged with rust on the inside. This can cause low water pressure, discoloured water, and leaks or ruptures. 

Polybutylene, or Poly B, is a plastic pipe that was commonly used between the 1970s and 90s before it was discontinued. These pipes are prone to damage from water pressure and heat, which unfortunately leads to leaks and ruptures. 

2. Failing Sewer Lines 

If your house was built before appliances like dishwashers and garburators were introduced, your sewer lines may be dealing with more than they can handle. And if they fail, you’ll be dealing with a foul-smelling yard or house. 

Tree roots are another common cause of sewer line damage in older homes. Those mature trees that add to your home’s appeal have large roots. If they begin to wrap around your house’s pipes, it causes issues like clogging or breaking. 

3. Pipe Bellies 

Houses — and their pipes — rise and fall through the soil over time. This shifting can cause older pipes to buckle or bow, making it harder for gravity to control the flow of water and waste. This is known as a pipe belly, and it can result in poor drainage, slow-flushing toilets and clogged sewer lines. 

4. Outdated Fixtures 

Vintage faucets and fixtures may look nice, but they often can’t stand the test of time. When they start to wear out or corrode, you can be facing leaks, issues with water flow, and broken knobs and handles. 

5. Clogged Pipes and Drains 

There are two types of clogs you may have to deal with in your older home. Sink clogs are caused by debris building up in your sink or shower. This causes the water to drain slowly, and eventually stop draining altogether. Mainline clogs are more serious, and usually affect multiple sinks at the same time.  Clogs can often be cleared using store-bought drain cleaners, but if the problems continue, you’ll need the help of a professional

6. Stolen Copper Pipes 

Believe it or not, if you’re looking at vacant houses, you’ll want to make sure the original copper pipes haven’t been stolen. These pipes have become a common target for thieves, who take advantage of the high price of copper to sell them for scrap. 

 
Luckily, plumbing issues don’t need to be a dealbreaker when you’re in the market for an older house. Experienced professionals like the ones at Mr. Rooter are ready to diagnose and inspect your problems and offer top-notch repair services so that your dream home can become a reality.