San Diego is home to a lot of charming older houses. However, many of these beautiful homes lack modern comforts like updated plumbing. Even houses from just a few decades ago may not have the type of plumbing system you need. If you are considering living in an older home, it is important to be aware of these common plumbing problems.
Toxic Lead Pipes
Lead is one of the oldest types of piping materials because it is very durable and malleable. However, this metal is also highly toxic. It can leach into pipes, causing developmental problems in children, and pain and memory loss in adults. Lead occasionally shows up in water main lines and in the solder around copper pipes. Fortunately, lead is rare in most homes built after the 1920s, and it was entirely banned in 1986. However, lead pipes are dangerous enough that it is worth looking into.
Fragile Iron and Polybutylene Pipes
A few other types of piping material to look out for are galvanized iron and polybutylene. These pipe materials are not toxic like lead. However, as they age, they become so corroded and oxidized that they end up cracking. Leaving these types of pipes in your home is just asking for a disastrous pipe leak. If your home was built before the 1960s and has the original plumbing, there is a good chance it uses galvanized iron. Overall, galvanized iron pipes are the cause of most common plumbing issues in old homes. Polybutylene is a little rarer. It was introduced in the 1970s and was so problematic that it went out of production in the 1990s. If you have any sort of plastic piping in your home, look closely. Polybutylene looks similar to PVC, but it is typically grey and might have a model number that includes the phrase “PB.”
A lot of older San Diego homes are built right on the ground or on a concrete slab. This design is practical for southern California weather, but it can be rough on plumbing. Pipes end up being buried in the ground or encased in the slab. Over time, the ground shifts and settles, causing the pipes to move. This can cause a pipe belly. A pipe belly occurs when your water pipes end up on a negative slope. Water cannot flow in the right direction, so you end up with leaks, water stoppages, and clogs. This repair can be fairly tricky since it involves adjusting pipes underneath the house.
Tree Root Infiltration
When you think about old pipe problems, you might not be considering the gorgeous old trees outside your home. However, all of San Diego’s beautiful native live oaks and sycamores can be a big problem. As trees grow, their roots constantly seek out sources of moisture. The tiny roots of trees can sense the water flowing inside pipes, and over time, they can worm their way into your pipes. This is most likely to happen to your main water line and your main sewer line, and it can cause nasty clogs. There are some things you can do to prevent tree root infiltration, but sometimes, the only option is cutting out the clogged section of pipe and replacing it.
Low Pressure Due to Corrosion
If you have an older home with galvanized iron pipes, breakages are not the only thing you need to worry about. Another common complaint is low water pressure. The materials inside of galvanized iron interact with the minerals in water to form buildup. This buildup reduces the diameter of the pipes until only a trickle of water can get through. Low water press can be somewhat improved by clearing out valves and installing fixtures meant to work with a low flow. However, to actually solve the problem, you need to switch out the pipes for modern ones without corrosion.
Bad DIY Repairs
Unless you buy your home brand new, there is always a chance that the previous owners messed up your plumbing. This is especially true of older San Diego homes since many early residents in the city preferred to handle things themselves. Depending on the age of the home, you might run into things like strangely installed pipes, backward sink traps, or poorly sloped showers. Expect that any plumbing issue might take a little more time and effort to repair since the plumber might have to reverse the earlier owner’s mistakes.
Even if your pipes are not bellied or filled with tree roots, there is a chance you might struggle with clogs. In older homes, your plumbing system has had to deal with decades of grease, soap scum, and other issues. This means that your drain lines will be a little more susceptible to clogging. Especially if the previous owners did not take good care of the home, there is a chance your drains might clog shortly after moving in. Some drains may be close enough to your home to fix with a plunger and a little elbow grease. However, many older homes can benefit from a more thorough pipe cleaning.
For many homeowners, original fixtures are a good thing that means the home still has plenty of historic charm. However, historic fixtures are subject to a lot of wear and tear. Rust, corrosion, and mineral buildup can all cause clogs, while constant use can wear down screw threads and joints over time. This can be tricky because when your old fixtures break down, plumbers might not have the parts on hand to repair them. Homeowners have a few options for dealing with ancient fixtures. It can be possible to restore them with help from an expert, or you might be happier replacing them with a modern reproduction that looks similar but functions better.
Failing Sewer Lines
Even if your home has been extensively remodeled, there is a chance all your drains are hooked up to the original sewer line. Some homes in the town might have sewer lines going all the way back to the 1890s when San Diego first installed them. Unfortunately, these lines tend to shift over time, and materials tend to wear out. Homeowners might not notice the problem at first since it can just make sewage seep into the ground. However, this can be quite dangerous because it releases toxic material into your yard. Even if your sewer line is in good shape, older lines are not the right size to handle modern appliances like dishwashers and garbage disposals. You may notice your line backing up or causing your drains to move more slowly.
If you suspect that you are dealing with any of these issues in your San Diego home, it is important to take care of them right away. Tarpy Plumbing, Heating & Air is here to help with all your plumbing repairs and installations. We also offer a wide range of heating and cooling services. We have plenty of experience working in older homes, so we are aware of the unique challenges found in these sorts of buildings. If you would like to schedule a service visit with us, give us a call today.