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old house plumbing problems

13% of recent homebuyers bought a brand-new home. 87% purchased a previously owned one.

45% of those who bought new wanted to avoid renovations to plumbing or electricity. 38% of those who bought used wanted a better price.

Read on to learn about 10 common old house plumbing problems.

1. Corrosion

Most aged pipes have rusted or become corroded.

Water that seeps into any cracks causes the metal to rust and break down. Oxygen makes it oxidize and weaken. Chemicals such as chlorine or fluoride can also make them break down.

There are signs of this issue beyond visible rust. Your water or pipes beneath the basement may become discolored. Your carpet or flooring could get wet or sag. Your water meter could continue to run when no water is flowing. This is only one reason for increased monthly utility bills.

2. Outdated Pipe Materials

Many homes built before the 1990s may use dated plumbing technology and materials. It needs to be replaced to prevent health issues, keep your plumbing running, and keep your home up to code.


As of 2019, lead exposure has caused at least 901,720 deaths. It contributes to cardiovascular diseases, diabetes, kidney disease, and mental disorders. It may also cause symptoms such as:

  • Aches
  • Constipation
  • Fatigue
  • Impaired brain function
  • Decreased fertility
  • Hypertension
  • Anemia

These symptoms may go unnoticed or not show up, and the body can’t purge the toxins.

Old homes may use lead for sewer lines, water mains, or pipe fittings. Have a professional test them for it.

Galvanized Steel

Galvanized pipes were used in water lines in homes built before the 1960s. They had a protective covering of zinc.

The metal corrodes over time, causing the pipes to rust or break. It can even cause failing water pressure or copper in your drinking water.


This material was used as a replacement for copper water lines in the 1980s and 1990s. It’s found primarily in mobile homes.

The problem is that it isn’t built to last. A chemical reaction causes it to become brittle, flake, and break apart.

Polybutylene has been removed from circulation. You’ll need to replace it if you find it in older homes because it doesn’t meet current building codes.

Cast Iron Pipes

Cast iron has been used for waste piping, but it isn’t an effective option. Sulfuric acid gathered inside turns into hydrogen sulfide gas.

It corrodes the pipes from the inside. This leads to structural damage and rust spots.

3. Outdated Fixtures and Connections

A historic home has an antique charm throughout every room, but its aging fixtures may need to be replaced or repaired.

Look at all the fixtures and connections. Keep an eye out for any broken knobs, leaks, cracks, or restricted water flow. Check for changes in the water pressure, excessively running toilets, or improper connections on the appliances. See if the finish has begun to wear down, exposing the fixtures to corrosion.

4. Pipe Bellies

Underground pipes shift as the house settles. This creates negative slopes known as pipe bellies that eventually get stopped up and leak. This can happen in any home but is more likely in older ones.

They’re not a concern in a pressurized water drain but are a problem for main drains. They hold water at a low point where waste can collect and cause clogs. The standing water also attracts tree roots.

Call a certified plumber to assess the damage. They can determine if your pipe needs to be repaired or replaced.

5. Failing Sewer Lines or Gas Leaks

Modern appliances force more water through sewer lines than old ones. If you do extensive remodeling on a historic home, the dated lines may not be able to handle it. Shifting foundations and tree roots also cause damage.

Signs of a failing sewer line include:

  • Wastewater backup
  • Foul odors
  • Multiple slow drains
  • Dried out or disconnected pipes
  • Puddles or soft spots in the yard

A sewer gas leak is an even more dangerous issue. The gasses are flammable and can lead to hydrogen sulfide poisoning or asphyxiation. Look for signs such as:

  • Dried-out pipes beneath the sinks
  • Disconnected pipes
  • Damaged drain lines
  • Broken plumbing vents
  • Cracked or crumbling wax seals
  • Cracks in the foundation

Call a sewer service immediately to fix either of these issues.

6. Bad Repairs or Installation

Buying an old home means trusting previous owners to install and repair plumbing. They may have hired an unlicensed plumber or taken on the job themselves.

Find a trustworthy, certified plumber to fix any damage you notice. They can also perform an inspection before you move in.

7. Leaky Pipes

Small household leaks account for a trillion gallons of wasted water every year. A leaky faucet alone loses 3,000 gallons.

This is one of the worst old house plumbing problems because it goes unattended for so long. The water damage, poor flow, and mold growth it causes become even harder to fix.

8. Water Heater Problems

There are several signs you may need to replace your water heater. They include:

  • Rising energy bills
  • Cold water
  • Frequent repairs
  • Visible corrosion
  • Strange noises or odors
  • Frequent leaks

Age is one of the major factors. Most units only last 10 years. An old water heater is more than an inconvenience; it’s also a flood and fire hazard.

9. Tree Roots

Tree roots and plumbing lines don’t share space well. The problem is even worse in old houses.

Aging pipes give roots more spots to enter. They also create moisture that encourages roots to grow.

You may not notice the intrusion until it causes issues in your yard such as sinkholes. Frequent maintenance, including unclogging the septic tanks, is the best prevention.

10. Failed Connections

Tight connections are what keep plumbing from bursting. Plastic or rubber washers are placed where fixtures meet supply lines.

They become brittle and porous over time, causing small leaks. It’s easy to handle if you act quickly.

How to Fix Old House Plumbing Problems

Repairs on used homes include fixing old house plumbing problems. The pipes may be leaky, corroded, or made of outdated materials.

My Guys Now has offered prompt, professional, and courteous care to the Greater Cleaveland area since 1969. Contact us for plumbing service today.

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