6 Main Plumbing Issues Found in Old Houses

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Main plumbing problems in old homes in Australia

An aged property can have character. It can also come with extra maintenance and upgrades required to keep the property structurally sound. Here are 6 main plumbing issues found in old houses, and what can be done to fix them. 

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Old homes built as far back as the 1920s are steeped in history and come with many stories. They serve as a physical representation of the families and communities of the time, and how they evolved as the years progressed. As well as the aesthetic appeal and renovation potential of a property, the history of an old home is an attractive selling point for many homebuyers. But while age can be an appealing factor, it can also be a drawback when it comes to the functionality of the home – especially with the plumbing.

Many old homes still feature old or even their original plumbing fixtures and systems. Though this existing plumbing may still boast some rustic charm that complements the house, its age means it has likely seen better days and may be doing your home more harm than good. Let’s explore some of the more common plumbing issues that can impact many older homes across Australia.

1. Old and Outdated Plumbing

Much like the human body, repeated usage and the passage of time both combine to diminish the performance of old plumbing. For example, taps can break and result in leaks, while other fixtures like valves, spigots and handles can corrode over time – even if they’ve been made with superior materials.

Leaks, drops in water pressure and corrosion in old and outdated plumbing can lead to more significant problems that may require expensive repairs. If your old home still has its original plumbing, or the plumbing has clearly seen better days, it might be time to consider replacing it.

2. Galvanised Pipes

The pipes found in many old homes are made from iron which have been galvanised in zinc to reduce rust and corrosion. Of course that protection doesn’t always last forever, so when the zinc coating begins to wear away, they do begin to corrode. This can potentially result in the pipes leaking, and water pressure dropping.

These days, homeowners and plumbers alike tend to favour plastic pipes as they don’t corrode, they’re lightweight, easy to install and largely resistant to chemicals. Plastic plumbing pipes commonly come in PVC (polyvinyl chloride), CPVC (chlorinated polyvinyl chloride), PEX (cross-linked polyethylene) or PB (polybutylene). Speak to a qualified plumber about your options to determine the best one for your home.

3. Tree Damage / Root Damage

When you have a 100 year old house, it’s not uncommon to find trees on the property that are as old if not older. And while they might make for a stunning feature, having tree roots as old as the house itself can be a problem.

Tree roots typically don’t make a habit of considering your plumbing when they grow in every possible direction. They don’t have the intuitive ability to detect a pipe and grow around it. Tree roots can – and will – break their way into your pipes and continue to grow, causing obstructions that can result in everything from blockages to water pressure issues and major leaks.

As with many plumbing issues, prevention is better than cure. If you do have a significant tree that has the potential to affect the plumbing of your home, consider engaging a specialist in regular tree root removal. It might feel inconvenient at the time, but will probably be far less inconvenient (and expensive) than repairing or replacing broken pipes.

4. Roof Leaks

Leaking roofs can be a common problem for older homes, due to the wear and tear they endure with the natural passing of time. Water breaching the home through a leak in the roof can result in mould growth and moisture or water damage.

roof leak Australia

The most common signs of a roof leak in an old home include a water stained ceiling, damaged shingles and moss or mould growing on the walls. If the leak is severe, you may even start to see pools of water or significant patches of moisture forming inside.

5. Faulty Previous Workmanship on Your Plumbing

Previous owners of your home may have taken the odd shortcut here and there with their plumbing, either engaging the services of someone less-than-qualified, or maybe even attempting a DIY job. This can often be reflected in the quality of the outcome, and though they may have taken these shortcuts to reduce costs, may end up costing more for you.

The best thing you can do at this point is to have a licensed and qualified plumber do a full assessment of your plumbing and do whatever is necessary to get it up to standard.

6. Shifting Pipes Causing Pipe Bellies

For old homes that might have their pipes underneath the property, the frequent movement above within the house and even by the house can result in the pipes shifting.

This can lead to the pipes buckling underneath, something called pipe belly, which sees the pipes sloping and hindering the water flow. This can result in substandard drainage, and possibly a blocked sewer due to a build up of debris and waste. This may also lead to your toilet flushing slower than normal.

Old properties certainly have a worthy appeal, but may require a little more work than a more modern home to get it up to scratch. If the plumbing of your home hasn’t been updated in the last 10 or more years, or hasn’t had a thorough inspection by a qualified and experienced plumber, there’s no better time than now to get it sorted.

Disclosure: This post has been written in accordance with my disclosure policy