It’s a sad fact in life that nothing in the universe will last forever. Making it even sadder is the fact that we’ll often live to see things we rely upon come to an end just when we need them. Plumbing is no exception to this. Aging plumbing is a leading cause of most leakages and burst pipes, and can really rack up your bills if you’re not able to spot the warning signs in time. With winter on its way, many homes will require greater use of their pipes to keep the house heated, so it’s essential you can keep on top of your plumbing’s maintenance while you can.
What exactly your pipes are made out of can influence how long you can expect them to last, as each type of piping material has different attributes that will affect how they last. Galvanized steel pipes have the broadest range of lifespans, from as little as twenty years to as long as fifty. Copper pipes can last you fifty years while brass pipes can last as long as seventy years or even a century with proper care. Plastic pipes should be replaced where practical. While inexpensive as a material, they’re not as capable of withstanding the strain on a long-term basis as metal pipes.
Naturally if you know roughly when the pipes were installed, you can guess how much longer they’re likely to last. However, if you’ve moved into your home without changing the plumbing, it’s not possible to guess how aged your plumbing is. You have to keep out an eye for other signs of aging plumbing.
Feeling It in Your Waters
One of the most immediate signs of aging plumbing can be found within your water. If your pipes are starting to degrade, you may start to notice the following signs whenever you try to access water from your faucet.
- Strange taste
- Powdery residue
- Lack of water pressure
Any of these signs could indicate that somewhere along the pipe there is some sort of growing development. Strange tasting or looking water may be a sign of a pipe growing rusty, or even a build-up of gunk within the pipe itself. The pipe will either need to be cleaned or replaced depending on the severity of the case. Should water be coming through as barely a trickle even when the faucet is “on” at full blast, that indicates a leak and that water is being lost somewhere.
Another thing to watch out for is strange hikes in your water bill. If your use of water has not changed and you’ve not received any notice of increased prices, yet nevertheless your water bill is higher than it should be taken as an indication of a leak and check your pipes.
Physical Signs on the Pipes
When checking your pipes, one of the first things you should do is feel around any joints for signs of a leak. If water is escaping rest assured you will feel and see it. It may not be as obvious as a constant drip, of course. Sometimes the sign may be as little as growing moisture around the parts where individual sections of piping meet. Whether you’re dealing with a few droplets or a scale model of the Niagara Falls, make sure that any leaking pipe is repaired as soon as possible.
More obvious indications may include cracks or ruptures in the piping itself. One of the warning signs of aging pipes is signs of distress on the pipe that occur as a result of varying temperature. In the winter, water still in the pipes freezes and expands. Over time, this will weaken the material and eventually cause a rupture, destroying the pipe in the process. In such cases, the pipe will need to be replaced. Make sure you check pipes after particularly cold days for this reason.
Another thing to look out for are noises. If you hear strange groans, gurgles, hisses or creaks from pipes as water passes through them take it as a possible warning that your plumbing might be getting worn down. In such instances, try to find the source of the noise and make any repairs if necessary.
If you find yourself unable to identify a potential cause for a loss in performance in your plumbing, or if you have found it but cannot repair it yourself, always call in a professional, such as the ones at A1 Plumbing Service. Plumbers know exactly what to look for, often in areas you overlooked, and can also advise what to do in situations where your plumbing is reaching the end of its effective lifespan. If you already have replacement parts, a professional plumber can also ensure that pipes are installed up to code.
Christian Mills is a home remodeler and freelance writer who shares his insights and tips in renovating a home. He has learned many life skills from DIY projects, but knows his limtis and calls in professionals when needed. If you would like to learn more about Christian, check out his Google+ profile.