Are you looking to buy an older home? Do you already own one?

Old houses can lead to a vast array of problems, including costly plumbing issues. The problem is, many plumbing issues can exist silently for many years. Pipes made of old materials and in dire condition may not be apparent until you start noticing leaks, backups, stains and foul odours. Even if the “old pipes” have made it this long, there’s no guarantee how much longer they will last. Plus, many older materials pose serious health risks and should be replaced immediately.

Does this mean you should give up your dream of owning an older home? Absolutely not!

By knowing what to look for, and having a professional plumber inspect the home’s pipes, you can address the need for upgrading the plumbing system before it becomes an expensive plumbing problem.

Keep reading to learn more about plumbing considerations for older homes.

Outdated Pipe Materials

Houses built prior to 1990 may have pipes constructed out of outdated and hazardous materials. These materials, if used today, would not meet modern safety regulations.

Lead Pipes

Lead is one of the oldest metals used in piping but perhaps one of the most dangerous. It is highly toxic and can lead to issues such as joint pain, gastrointestinal pain and memory loss. It can also cause physical and mental developmental issues in children. In 1975, lead piping was banned under the revised National Plumbing Code of Canada.

Galvanized Pipes

Prior to the 1960s, galvanized pipes were used when building homes as an alternative to lead piping for water supply lines. Galvanized pipes are steel pipes that have been coated in zinc to prevent rust and corrosion. The process didn’t really work out in the end, since galvanized pipes are notorious for rusting and corroding over time.

The rust that accumulates within the piping will eventually narrow the passages which can lead to low water pressure, clogs and bursts. Not only that, but the zinc coating contains lead and cadmium, which are both unhealthy and can create health risks for children.


When polybutylene pipes were introduced in the 1970s as a replacement for copper lines, it was widely used into the 1980s. Unfortunately, these pipes proved to be defective. Oxidants in public water systems caused the plastic to flake and eventually crack.

If you own or planning on purchasing a home built in the 1980s to early 1990s, be sure to check for polybutylene piping and have it replaced before it fails.

Failing Sewer Lines

Most older sewer lines are not compatible with modern-day appliances such as dishwashers and garbage disposal units. For this reason, the increase in water usage can cause an older sewer line to become blocked and eventually back up. Not only does this result in an unpleasant smell, but it can also negatively impact your home’s foundation.

Older homes typically have sewer lines that are made from transite, clay, cast iron, or Orangeburg (a product made out of tarpaper) which can create their own unique issues:

  • Transite is made of asbestos
  • Clay pipes can become crushed easily (especially by tree roots)
  • Cast iron is susceptible to corrosion
  • Orangeburg pipes can crack, crush and break very easily

Sewer line failure can be a big and expensive problem to solve, so it is best to have these lines inspected to ensure they are made out of updated and robust materials.

Outdated Fixtures

Apart from the actual pipes that run through older homes, faucets, fixtures and connections can wear down over time. This can lead to leaks and inefficient water flow, causing a spike in water usage as well as damage to your home.

Older fixtures made of brass or copper may look beautiful, they are not efficient and will eventually reach the end of their lifespan.

How to Find Outdated Plumbing in an Older Home

The truth is, you cannot determine the condition of the home’s entire plumbing on your own. While there are certain aspects you can inspect visually, the entirety of the system cannot be seen with the naked eye.

Here are some tips on how to perform a visual inspection and when to call in the professionals:

Visual Inspection

As a homeowner or homebuyer, you can do a visual inspection of the condition of the piping as well as the materials it is made out of:

  • Supply Line Piping: This is the piping that brings water into the house. Look under the sinks in the bathrooms to see what the pipes are made out of.
  • Sewer Line: This pipe connects the house with the septic system or sewers. Located in the basement or crawlspace, you can get an idea of what kind of conditioning the piping is in.
  • Fixtures: Look at the sinks, tubs, faucets and toilets – you’ll be able to tell if they are old and in need of replacement.

There are some aspects of a home’s plumbing that can’t be easily seen with the eye, such as the water main and waste piping.

You can ask the previous homeowner if they have any records of the current plumbing, its condition and materials. If they do not, you may be able to find municipal records. If you cannot find these, you’ll want to call in a professional to do a thorough inspection.

Professional Plumbing Inspection

A professional plumber can conduct an inspection to check the pipes throughout the home to see if there are any issues related to older plumbing. Our expert team at Peak Sewers is armed with the right tools and knowledge to carry out a complete inspection of your home’s plumbing. Plumbing issues are often more than meets the eye, which why our technicians perform sewer camera inspections to quickly and accurately diagnose any issues hiding within your pipes.

Our goal is to prevent larger plumbing issues and costly repairs, especially when it comes to dealing with an older home. Why wait until something goes wrong? If you own an older home or are looking to purchase one, don’t hesitate to contact Peak Sewer today!

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