There’s no question that older homes possess a rare sense of charm and character. From the framing of the home to the craftsmanship inside, they are certainly unique in their own right. Unfortunately, many of these older homes are not necessarily built with the knowledge we now know about plumbing. Just like every other industry, plumbers have embraced technology and made advancements in terms of what materials or tactics work best.
While these older homes may look attractive and like a one-of-a-kind option from the outside, there could easily be plumbing problems hid behind the walls or underground. As a prospective homebuyer or current homeowner, it’s important to be mindful of all of these things. While the majority of them can easily be fixed with some repairs, I’m likely not the only homeowner that would prefer there to be no surprises arising a year after purchasing a new home! In this week’s blog post, I’ll walk you through some of these plumbing problems facing older homes, as well as the visible signs that you should look out for before signing any closing papers!
For any home built before the mid-1990’s that has also not been renovated, you’ll need to be mindful of pipes that could be close to failing or possibly even no longer approved by US building codes. There are a number of different types of materials you’ll want to keep an eye out for, but here are a couple that’ll need replaced right away:
Lead: With lead, we have a material that’s been diminishing in usage dating back to the early 1900’s. As you likely know, it has since been learned that lead happens to be highly toxic and obviously not something we’d want our pipes built out of! However, at the time, it was widely used thanks to the fact that it could bend slightly without breaking and maintain durability.
It was officially banned in 1986 with the re-administering of the Safe Drinking Water Act. According to the EPA, this act prohibits the use of plumbing fittings, fixtures and pipes that are not lead free. This alone should tell you that any remaining lead piping needs replaced immediately!
Polybutylene: Through all of the 1980’s and into the 90’s, polybutylene was widely considered to be the perfect replacement to copper piping. In fact, it was so popular that some say it found its way into the residential construction of over 8 million homes! Plumbing Express defines the reason why it fails in these usages in much greater detail, but “it is believed that oxidants in the public water supplies, such as chlorine, react with the polybutylene piping and acetal fittings causing them to scale and flake and become brittle.” If you’re interested in learning more, we encourage you to check out their website!
The consequences that followed included more than a fair share of lawsuits and plenty of piping that had to be replaced!
If you want a more in-depth analysis of some of the older materials used and why they don’t work anymore, you’ll want to take a look at our blogpost, “How Old Are Your Plumbing Pipes?”
Sewer Line Repairs
If you follow our Facebook or Instagram pages, you’ve likely seen how much work goes into a sewer line repair! While modern-day technology, such as sewer line inspection cameras, have made this process so much easier, the fact of the matter is these lines are buried more than a few feet underground. As a result, when a repair needs to be made, you’re always going to have to excavate a solid portion of the area around the issue.
How do these affect older homes? Well, the biggest culprit you’re looking at are tree roots. Typically, in most of the older homes, you notice larger trees in the front yard. One thing these tree roots love is water and a perfect place to find that is in the sewer lines! Unfortunately, you don’t typically think about a sewer line issue until you start smelling something funky and the lawn is surprisingly damp for no reason. All in all, the combination of tree roots, more wear and tear, and lines shifting increase the odds of a sewer lines being on the verge of collapsing.
While some may argue that the fixtures made 20-30 years ago were better quality and more durable than modern day options, the truth of the matter is that these aren’t going to last forever. Over time, you’ll notice handles start breaking off and valves slowly degrading. The result of this? Leaks that drive up your water bill until they’re replaced. Luckily, outdated fixtures are an easy thing to swap out. It’ll probably require a decent-sized investment up-front, but it will certainly be something that you’ll be glad you took care of!
Here we have something that affects all homeowners, especially if handled incorrectly. More so though in older homes, it’s no surprise that decades of soap scum and other sewage going down the drain makes it increasingly tough to keep it unclogged. A thorough drain cleaning is likely going to be needed to remove any future threats.
Who Repaired It?
How many homeowners have lived in the home you’re buying? If the house was built over 50 years ago, there’s a solid chance that it’s had at least a couple of homeowners before you. As a result, over that many years, there’s also reasonable odds that various repairs have been made in it’s time. You’ll likely find several DIY repairs that were truly meant as short-term fixes. This could easily include adhesives, glues and maybe even duct tape to patch cracks in the pipes. For one, these aren’t technically up to code, but they are also definitely not safe!
As always, whenever a repair needs to be made to plumbing, your best bet is to hire a professional plumber. Yes, this will require an investment to get the job done. However, your return on investment will be centered around not only getting a repair that lasts, but also one that keeps you and your family safe. Faulty plumbing can lead to some scary situations, of which include flooding.
Even though we strongly recommend hiring a professional plumbing company for any repairs or replacements, there are certainly smaller projects capable of being DIY jobs. A couple that immediately come to mind include (1) trouble-shooting a jammed garbage disposal and (2) fixing a running toilet. As a caveat though, if you don’t feel 100% confident in what you’re doing, it might be best to call in a pro! An inadequate repair can easily turn a small problem into a major headache!
Call Your Friends at Stine-Nichols!
There’s no denying the fact that some of the prettiest neighborhoods in the Kansas City area also happen to be filled with older homes. Some of these have likely been renovated inside, but the same charm and unique feel still exists. As seen above, there’s a few more items you need to be mindful of when considering the purchase of an older home. Whether it be replacing a collapsed sewer line or just installing some new fixtures throughout the house, your friends at Stine-Nichols have you covered! Fill out the form HERE to schedule your free quote or give us a call at 816-348-3481 to learn more!
Don’t forget about the coupons either before you call! On our COUPONS page, we regularly post specials to ensure our customers get the best deals in town!