If you are wondering when to replace the pipes in your home, then you could be asking yourself a $ 10,000 question. To get an answer, you need to know at least these two important things about your home.
· When were the pipes in your home last replaced?
· What kind of pipes do you have (eg, PVC, lead, polybutylene, copper, etc.)?
Different piping materials have different lifespans, so knowing what kind of pipes you have and when they were installed gives you a starting point. Here are some common materials used for pipes and their average maximum lifespans.
· Galvanized steel: 50 years
· Copper: 50 years
· Brass: 70 years
· Iron: 100 years
· PVC: 40 years
· Lead: up to 100 years (see below)
· Polybutylene: – (see below)
Lead pipes are given to leaching lead into drinking water. While it is uncommon to find them in homes today, homes built in the early 1900s may still have them. If you have lead pipes, replace them immediately.
While lead pipes top the list for being the unhealthiest piping material, polybutylene pipes are arguably the most maddening. Oxidants in water deteriorate the pipe and can ruin them within a mere 15 years. While this is bad, the exasperating part is that this deterioration occurs within the pipe. On the outside, the pipes appear fine which means visual inspections are futile. One day, the pipes look great. Then the next day, the pipes burst.
Polybutylene pipes were installed in homes from 1978 – 1995. If you have them, you should replace them immediately.
Other factors affect the lifespans of pipes. How well the pipes are maintained can play a big role in how long they will last. Well-maintained pipes can last longer than the ages noted above. Conversely, poorly-maintained pipes could fail years before they should.
Water with a high mineral content (ie hard water) can accelerate deterioration.
Once you know what pipes you have and how old they are, the next step is to do a visual inspection of all of your exposed pipes. Here are a few things to be on the lookout for.
The more of these signs you see in any combination-including multiple instances of one type of problem-the more likely you are to need to have your pipes replaced. Leaks are especially bright red flags. Your pipes are made of the same material, were installed at the same time, and have experienced the same wear and tear. If there is a random leak in one spot, then then it is only a matter of time until there are more.
If you have done a visual inspection and think you may need to replace your pipes, you have one last step: Call a licensed professional and have them inspect your pipes. Then, call at least one or two more licensed professional plumbers and get a second and third opinion.