There are two reasons why you might want to buy an old house. Either you fell in love with its charm, character, and nostalgic value, or you’re in the business of flipping homes. And although buying such an old place does come with its own set of benefits, it could also bring you plenty of problems. Plumbing, certainly, is one of those. So to make sure you’re prepared, let’s take a look at the common plumbing issues in fixer-upper homes.
It goes without saying that these old homes do look the part. Back then, people went the extra mile to make their houses look and feel special. They used materials that we consider too expensive by today’s standards to make ornaments, and it’s not rare that you see that these stood the test of time. With all the patina, they look even better than when they were new.
Owning such a nice-looking home makes you feel special, so people decide to do it without giving it much thought. But that’s the last thing you want to do. If you don’t do all the plumbing checks before moving into a new home, you may be in for heaps of trouble.
Let’s see why.
OLD PIPE MATERIALS
If the home you’re looking at is more than 30 years old, the chances are that the pipes are made from an outdated material. There are three possible types of materials old-house owners will be dealing with:
● Galvanised Steel
Lead pipes are the ones you want to be the most cautious about. Obviously, they’re bad for your health and that of your loved ones, but they weren’t banned until 1986. So, if your new house predates this year, you might want to check the type of your piping.
Although not as risky to use as lead, galvanized steel is a lot more common material to come by. It’s been extensively used since the 1960s when it replaced lead as the primary material, and that’s why so many older houses have such piping.
However, it was later found that this type of steel is corrosive. So, the water you drink may have some rust in it. Not a pleasant thing to think about, we know.
To solve the problem, you’ll have to re-pipe the whole house. It’s a big and expensive job that you want to do before you move in. So, be sure to add that check to the cost of the house.
It’s a well-known fact that houses can move and shift over time. It’s normal, and if there’s no structural damage, we discard this problem. However, we rarely think about how this might have affected the pipes under the house.
Most commonly, the pipes shift downwards, and they create a negative slope. This slope is often referred to as the belly, and it restricts the water flow. As a result — you get no water pressure.
Luckily, this is one of those problems that you can solve even after moving in. It will take an expert crew at least a full day to finish it, but you can use that time to fix everything else that needs to be fixed. When you buy an old house, there are always plenty of minor things you need to repair.
FAILING SEWER LINES
If you think about it, it’s funny how no one thinks about sewer lines until they fail. Unfortunately, these are one of the common plumbing issues in fixer-upper homes. They were built without dishwashers, garbage disposals, or even modern toilets in mind. Hence, they’re more prone to failing.
On top of that, tree roots or your house shifting can make a mess of your sewage system. In this scenario, the dirty water seeps into the ground or gets pushed up back through the pipes right into your home.
The best way to combat this problem is to install a brand new trenchless sewer line replacement. You won’t have to dig the old pipe out, so a pro shouldn’t need longer than a day to complete the project.
OUTDATED FIXTURES AND CONNECTIONS
An old saying teaches us that nothing lasts forever, and this is especially true for plumbing. When you buy an old home, it’s safe to assume that everything from your fixtures, over fittings, to your supply line connections is aging. Of course, all of these things can cause issues in your beautiful historic house.
If the damage is not severe, you’ll see things like broken knobs, leaks, and restricted water flow. And truth be told, you can get away with failing plumbing for a certain period. But you must be careful not to overdo it. If you push it too far, that rusty valve will give up at the worst possible moment. That’s how things always are.
Some of the problems, like a leaky faucet, you’ll be able to tackle yourself if you’re handy with tools. However, we advise you to call an expert if you need to install a new water heater, for instance. Those kinds of tasks are better left to the pros.
Think of your old house as a vintage car. If it has years behind it, it had its share of plumbing repairs without question. But the question you should be asking is who carried them out.
If any of the previous owners tried to do some serious DIY work, there are no guarantees that their repairs will hold. For all you know, there might be a big problem waiting to happen any minute. So, how can you prevent it?
GET YOURSELF AN INSPECTION
We get that you can’t get over the charm that old house has. There’s something about it that is speaking to you, and you feel that it’s your dream home. But don’t get ahead of yourself. Contact a professional plumber and schedule an inspection before you buy the place.
This way, you can be sure that you won’t be in over your head once you get it. And now that you know about the common plumbing issues in fixer-upper homes, we’re sure that you want to check it.
Guest Contributor: Sophia Perry