No matter what your home sweet home looks like, plumbing is essential to any house. Old homes, however, often need different care than newer home plumbing.
In our hometown of Louisville, many home buyers are choosing to renovate and revive homes in older neighborhoods. Old Louisville, Butchertown, Germantown, Clifton, and many other neighborhoods throughout the city are known for their charming old homes with character and rich history. But with the charm also comes older plumbing.
We’ve put together some tips for maintaining old plumbing and some key plumbing things to look out for when purchasing an older home.
What to expect in an older home’s plumbing
Clay pipes, cast iron, and galvanized steel are common in older homes that have not been restored with newer plumbing.
Clay pipes were used from the 1800’s to the early 1900’s, which many homes in Old Louisville date back to. Unfortunately, these pipes are known for cracking over time and are heavy, which can lead to breakage at one of its many joints.
Cast iron pipes have also been around for 80-100 years and were used until about 1975. Not surprisingly, these pipes easily fail due to rust. But the damage can be hard to identify because the pipes rust from the inside out.
Galvanized steel pipes were used until the 1950’s and were intended to combat rusting with a zinc coating. Unfortunately, the coating eventually wears off and these pipes close off as they rust, too.
Luckily, PVC and ABS plastic pipes became the new standard for home plumbing, but old homes that haven’t been renovated likely won’t have these kinds of pipes. This means you’ll want to take precautions with your older home’s plumbing and look out for damage and deterioration to detect it as soon as possible.
Tips for maintaining old plumbing
- Avoid chemical drain cleaners – Clogged drains happen in any home, and nowadays many people use chemical drain cleaners bought from local supermarkets or grocers. In old homes, though, chemical cleaners can be a recipe for disaster. Chemical drain cleaners cause corrosion in non-plastic pipes and can eventually eat away at the pipe with sustained use. Instead, use a snake to clear out the clog or call a plumber.
- Watch for signs of leakage – Leaking pipes often mean there is corrosion or damage somewhere along the line. Signs you have a leak include dripping fixtures, wet cabinets, and even warping of walls and flooring. If you notice any of these things, call a plumber immediately. This may be a given for any home, but in an old home, minor damage can become a major problem quickly.
- Know where your main shut-off valve and sewer valve are – In the case of an emergency, or even just making a small repair, it’s imperative to know where your main shut-off valve and sewer valve are located. Newer homes often have these valves in easily accessible locations in the basement or utility area. These valves in older homes, on the other hand, may not be intuitively located. Also, if a home has been renovated or restored, the valves may be in hard to reach places.
- Protect your pipes in cold weather – Old pipes that have already begun to deteriorate are more prone to failure during a freeze. When the weather gets cold, take steps to protect your pipes. Insulating pipes is an obvious precaution, but you can also open cabinets that hide pipes to help them warm up. Additionally, opening taps to keep water running can prevent the water from freezing within the pipes.
When you experience plumbing problems in your older home, the safest solution is to request service from a professional plumber. Small problems can easily become very large and expensive in older homes. You can also prevent problems from happening by replacing old pipes when you decide to renovate an older home.