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When is the right time to replace old piping

Old piping routing water to and from a home are usually an afterthought for homeowners, even though these fixtures are vital for many of the home’s most important functions and conveniences. And like any other material or fixture in a home, the pipes will only last for so long before homeowners will need to replace old piping to ensure things like hot showers, flushing toilets, and running water can continue without issue. But what signs can tip off homeowners to the current state of their pipe’s health? 

Some signs are easier to spot than others — particularly given that only some portions of pipe should be exposed in a home — but these are the ways homeowners can tell if now is the right time to replace old piping in their house.

Cracks and Leaks

Let’s start with the most obvious sign. If there are visible cracks and detectable leaks in a pipe, this is a sure sign that at least that portion of pipe should be replaced, if not more. Of course, not all leaks come from cracks in pipes — they can also be caused by loose connections. But if there is water running out from what should be a sealed pipe, or if there is even a hairline crack on the pipe’s surface, it’s time to contact professionals.

Leaks in pipes behind walls are more difficult to detect, but not impossible. Unfortunately, the most common ways these issues become known is when the leak is already soaking through the wall or ceiling. If wet spots are forming on a wall or ceiling, usually noted by the brown or yellow discoloration spots in those areas, homeowners should call in a plumber to have the leak sealed, or the pipe replaced, as soon as possible.

Discolored Water

We all know that water should ideally be clear when it comes out of a faucet. Water that comes out tinted brown or yellow, or that has visible spots of sediment floating in it, is not only off-putting, but also a potential sign that a home’s pipes are overdue to be replaced. 

This could also be an issue with the local water supply, and may clear up in 24–48 hours. However, if this is a more common issue at home, homeowners should reach out to plumbing professionals for an inspection and recommendation on pipe replacements.

Water Pressure

Sudden fluctuations in water pressure are tell-tale sign that there is an issue with a home’s plumbing. This could be a water main breach near a neighborhood, or it could be a sudden issue caused by a crack or leak in a home’s pipes. This can be difficult for homeowner’s to diagnose on their own without additional context or training, so calling professionals for a second opinion and inspection will help determine the source of the pressure flux, and determine if a pipe replacement is needed to solve the problem.

Old Age and Materials

Not all pipes are made of the same materials, and knowing what metals were used for a house’s pipes can help clue homeowners in on when they can expect a full replacement to be necessary. The most common metals used for pipes, and their relative lifespans, are:

Brass: 40–80 years

Cast iron: 75–100 years

Copper: 50+ years

Galvanized steel: 20–50 years

  • Polyvinyl chloride: Indefinitely

That said, some homes still have remnants of older materials that pose a risk to household health. Lead pipes were a common installation feature in the early 1900’s, but were discontinued as lead contamination causes serious health risks. Because they have a life span of 100 years, lead pipes are just over the limit on their wear-and-tear, and will begin to break down more regularly. But up until this point, if lead pipes were used in older construction projects, or used to replace part of the plumbing without proper documentation, it would be difficult to know. If homeowners suspect they have lead piping still in their home, or worry there may be lead piping, they should consult with plumbing professionals and have the lead pipes replaced immediately.

Pipes are not something homeowners need to replace regularly, and annual inspections provide homeowners with insights on the continual health of their plumbing and sewer systems to avoid any surprises and help prolong the health of home pipes as long as possible. If you are worried you may need a home pipe replacement, or if you are looking to schedule an inspection to survey the health of your home’s plumbing, reach out to the technicians at Duane Blanton Plumbing, Sewer, Heating, and Cooling. With 30+ years of experience and knowledge, the technicians at Duane Blanton are trained and prepared to help homeowners with any plumbing issue or need that may arise. Reach out via phone today, at (815) 781-2567, or schedule online right from your browser with Duane Blanton’s convenient online scheduling tool!


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