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What Is the Lifespan of Your Plumbing System?

“Out of sight, out of mind.”

If this saying represents how you think about your plumbing system, we are here to help. Whether you are looking to buy a new home, or hoping to improve your existing home, your plumbing system is a crucial component to consider—but is rarely the first thing to come to mind.

Your home’s plumbing is an incredibly complex system, but you can think of it as a highway system for your water. Water lines will transport water to your home from the city, distribution pipes will divert water throughout your home, fixtures will dispense your water—and vent pipes, drains, and sewers will remove your wastewater. This entire process is done without you giving any thought to it. However, this well-oiled machine is not an eternal system (unfortunately).

The best way to evaluate the lifespan of your plumbing system, specifically your pipes, is by finding out when your pipes were installed, and the material your pipes are made of.

Piping Materials and How They Affect Lifespan

After learning about when your pipes were installed, checking their makeup is a crucial step to diagnosing your system’s lifespan. Below, we’ve listed some of the most common materials used, and how to evaluate them.

  • Galvanized: This type of pipe is typically steel with a zinc coating. And although this type of system stopped being used in the 1960s, we’re including it in this list because if it is in your home, you need to act quickly. This material can last around 40-50 years if conditions are good; so, again, if galvanized pipes are in your home, it is time to get them looked at by a professional.
  • Brass: Brass pipes became popular in the late 1970s. As long as these pipes are regularly checked for leaks and maintained properly, they can last between 40-70 years.
  • Copper: Copper was the material of choice throughout the 1960s and 70s. As long as your home’s water pH level is consistent, these pipes can last 50 years or more. Your water’s acidity level is important because, if the pH drops below neutral, it can potentially corrode your plumbing system.
  • Cast Iron: This type of material is most often used for drains or waste pipes. Although the NAHB says cast-iron pipes can last up to 100 years, there have been cases of malfunctioning systems in as little as 50. These pipes have a long lifespan due to the material and thickness of the pipes, making deterioration a slow process even in bad water conditions.
  • Plastic: Plastic piping can take many forms, including PVC, CPVC, and PEX. These materials range in their lifespan but the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors list PEX on the low-end of life expectancy at 40 years, with PVC on the high-end at nearly 80 years. While plastic systems are generally quicker to install, they can deteriorate when exposed to ultraviolet light and should exclusively be used underground, as above-ground conditions can make these pipes brittle over time.

Some less common piping materials are lead and polybutylene. If you suspect your home has lead pipes you will need to get your water tested to ensure lead is not leaking into your water supply. While polybutylene pipes aren’t as dangerous as lead pipes, this seldom-used material is fragile and can break without warning. Call a professional in both cases to ensure your home’s water supply is healthy and consistent.

Is it Time to Replace Your Pipes?

Once the age and material of your pipes have been determined, it is time to dig a little deeper. The good news is that there are some easy-to-detect signs that your pipes might need some TLC:

  1. Low water pressure
  2. Slow or sluggish drains
  3. Discolored or murky water
  4. Foul odors coming from your drains
  5. Gurgling noises

If you have noticed one or more of these signs, it is time to call your local plumbing professional. Our plumbing specialists at Meyer’s have the tools and expertise to diagnose these problems and share quality solutions.

If you are looking to replace your home’s pipes, call Meyer’s today at (219) 240-0610 or contact us online.