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A Plumber’s Guide to Caring for Older Plumbing

December 10, 2015

There is no denying the appeal of an older dwelling. From aesthetic elements like ornate woodwork to functional features like laundry chutes, many homeowners enjoy the charm of bygone eras that remains to this day in older homes.

Yet, choosing to live in an older structure has its challenges, and common household plumbing problems are no exception. You can’t control how the home was built or altered over the years, what plumbing codes existed at the time, or what materials were used, but you can get to know your older plumbing a little better to help prevent common problems.

You’ll find that most plumbing issues in older homes begin with the skeleton of your plumbing system—the pipes. As recently as the 1960s, cast iron and galvanized pipes were used by plumbers for both indoor and outdoor plumbing. There are many common problems with these pipes than can affect your entire house.

Mineral Calcification

Cast iron and galvanized pipes are susceptible to mineral buildup and calcification along the interior edges. Over time, this buildup can thicken and reduce the water-carrying capacity of the pipes. In addition to slowing the flow of water, mineral buildup also means non-liquid particles are more likely to get stuck and cause clogs.

Pitted Walls

Old cast iron or galvanized pipes also tend to corrode and rust. The interior surface of these pipes becomes pitted and rough, snagging hair, food particles, grease and other waste products as they flow through. These materials accumulate to form clogs. Over time, pits in the metal can become breaks or leaks.

Preventative Actions to Take in Older Homes

Until it is time to call a plumber to replace older pipes, there are things you can do to help keep pipes clear and prevent clogs or leaks:

  • Put a strainer over bathtub and drains to catch as much hair as possible.
  • Once a week, pour three or four gallons of boiling hot water down the drain. This will break up soap scum and flush it down the line.
  • Once a month, use an environmentally safe drain cleaner to dissolve any remaining grime and coat the walls to prevent future buildup from accumulating.
  • When you start to notice a slow drain, address the problem immediately by using a plunger to dislodge the clog before it grows.

Benefits of Modern Pipes

The most common materials for pipes today are copper and PVC. These products are far superior to cast iron pipes because they are very durable. In addition, they provide a very smooth surface that does not corrode, rust, or become pitted. Any necessary repairs should be completed by replacing old pipes with newer materials when possible. Overall, you should strongly consider preventing future problems by replacing all of your pipes throughout the home.

If you find yourself facing a drain clog that you can’t seem to clear yourself, give Roto-Rooter a call anytime day or night. In addition to addressing your plumbing problems, our expert plumbers can advise you on replacing your old cast iron or galvanized pipes with new ones and build a plan for bringing your older home’s plumbing into the modern age.

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