These days, we tend to romanticize older homes and historic buildings. Homeowners often gravitate to vintage houses for their sense of character or so they can fix them up and “flip” them. Aging office buildings have their own sense of style, as well. However—not to put too fine a point on it—behind the nostalgia, these buildings are just plain old. Behind the walls, the infrastructure (e.g., plumbing and electrical) gets difficult to maintain and must eventually be replaced. If you’re planning to buy or live in an older building, you need to be prepared for some or all of the following plumbing challenges.
Aging, Corroded Pipes
Older pipes present some of the most common plumbing issues in vintage buildings because they tend to corrode and eventually break. Galvanized pipes, among the most common in these homes, often get clogged with rust (turning the water brown), they become brittle, and the joints often fuse together. Polybutylene pipes, once popular in the 70s, are also notorious for breakage and aren’t even made anymore. And even though lead pipes are now banned, every so often we may still come across them. When these pipes start going bad, your best long-term solution is to replace them.
Drainage problems can also be common in older buildings for a number of reasons. As described above, the aging pipes are more susceptible to leaks and breakage. Additionally, in more mature neighborhoods, large trees often send their roots into the drain pipes, obstructing or rupturing them. These issues can cause nasty sewage to seep up into the yard or back up into the toilets.
Piecemeal or Inadequate Repairs
The longer a building stands, the more maintenance and repairs have usually been done on it, including the plumbing. The more people work on it over the years, the more inconsistent and “piecemeal” the fixes become. When we get behind the walls of some of these places, we’re often astounded by some of the subpar patchwork and inconsistent fixes, making it more and more difficult to make effective repairs. Eventually this piecemeal approach becomes unsustainable, and the whole system needs to be replaced.
Older plumbing should not necessarily dissuade you from buying an older home. It just pays to be aware of the potential challenges so you can be prepared to deal with them if and when they arise.
ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Jeff Palady, RMP is the President and co-owner of Budget Rooter Plumbing & Drain Cleaning. This family owned plumbing company has been serving their customers for more than 25 years, and makes customer service and quality of work their priority.
Jeff started working in the field at the age of fifteen under the tutelage of his father, who owned a Philadelphia-based plumbing and drain cleaning company. At the age of eighteen, Jeff and his mother decided to open their own shop in their home state of Delaware. For the first few years, Jeff was Budget Rooter’s only field technician, and was often out on calls until late at night while going to school to earn his Master’s License. As Budget Rooter grew, Jeff trained new technicians, researched and purchased the best equipment, and today he manages the operations of the company.
Known for being dedicated to Budget Rooter, Jeff is one of the first to arrive in the morning and is usually the last to leave. In his spare time, Jeff enjoys fishing, modifying his truck, and spending time with his wife and two sons.