Should You Be Worried If Your Pipes Are Old?

You'll often hear homeowners complain that their pipes are old. Maybe along with this complaint, they mention issues like leaks or rusty water. Or perhaps they mention not purchasing a house because the pipes were old. If you are also living in an older home, these comments may have you worried. But should you be worried? That depends. There are a few questions you should seek to answer to determine whether you need to call a plumber about your old pipes — or if they are, indeed, still just fine.

What are the pipes made from?

Your pipes may not actually be as "old" as you think because some plumbing materials actually last a long time. If your pipes are made from copper, you can expect them to last at least 80 years — and copper hasn't even been a popular plumbing material for that long. So basically, if you have copper pipes, they're really unlikely to be old enough to have problems.

Galvanized steel pipes also last about 80 years — and this was a really common pipe material until about the 1960s. If your home was built between the 1960s and has steel pipes, they're getting up there in age, and depending on your answers to the other questions below, they might need to be replaced.

PVC pipes last around 50 years and are also pretty new to the industry. If your home has PVC pipes, they're probably not too old.

Do you see rust in the sink or tub?

Pay attention whenever you turn on the water at a tap after not having used that tap in a while. Is the water rusty? Then you have galvanized steel pipes that have begun to rust because their interior zinc layer has worn away. You might not have any leaks yet, but they're not far off. These are old pipes, and you should have a plumber take a look at them.

Do you see any exterior mineral deposits?

Chances are, most of the pipes in your home are not exposed. But there should be at least a few you can see in the basement or a closet. Take a look at them, and pay particular attention to the joints where two sections come together. Are there mineral deposits at these joints? This means that the pipes are leaking — maybe just a tiny bit. The minerals are left behind over the years and months, while the water evaporates. These deposits indicate that your pipes truly are old enough to need attention.

Whether or not your pipes are old does not just depend on their age. Consider the material they are made from, whether they have mineral deposits, and whether there's any rust in the water. Talk to a plumber for more detailed advice.