Whether you are a beginner or veteran of DIY plumbing projects, it is common knowledge that plumbing projects require supervision and maintenance long after they are complete. Tackling plumbing jobs by yourself instead of calling a plumber saves a considerable amount of money. However, the smallest of errors in a DIY plumbing job will impose high costs in the future. This post covers four common indicators that your plumbing needs to be updated. Staying vigilant for these signs of faulty plumbing will help you tackle errors head on and protect you from heavy costs in the future.
Plumbing Pipe Material
There are five types of pipe commonly used for plumbing projects: copper, PVC, CPVC, PEX, and galvanized steel. Of those five types, only one does not meet modern plumbing standards: galvanized steel. Although absent in newer homes, homes built from the 1930s to the mid-1980s often have galvanized steel plumbing systems. Galvanized steel pipes have a zinc coating that leads to internal rusting and eventually clogging, and they often discolor water and contaminate it with lead. Any home with a galvanized steel plumbing system should be updated before someone lives in it.
When deciding between the other pipe types, keep in mind that they all have their strengths and weaknesses. Copper pipe is extremely reliable and is recyclable, but it is the most expensive plumbing pipe type, making it impractical for large systems. PVC pipe is long-lasting and inexpensive but warps when exposed to hot water. CPVC pipe can handle hot temperatures and high pressures but will split if it freezes. PEX pipe is resistant to both heat and cold and is extremely flexible, but some plumbers still have reservations regarding PEX piping and water contamination.
Important factors to keep in mind when choosing a plumbing pipe type are maximum water temperature and pressure, job size, climate, and budget. Water temperature and pressure are extremely important; opting for less resistant pipe to save money in the present will inevitably lead to high-cost repairs in the future. If you find parts of your plumbing system that are not up to pressure and temperature specifications but have yet to break, it is a good idea to update those sections accordingly to avoid massive breaks and expensive water damage.
Low Water Pressure
Low water pressure is the most concrete sign that your plumbing needs to be updated. Unless something like a sprinkler system is drawing heavily upon your home’s water supply, low water pressure is almost always a symptom of leaks in a plumbing system. Leaky pipes should be addressed immediately; water leaks can quickly begin to damage your home through wood rot, mold, and even flooding if the pipe eventually breaks. If you want to avoid leaks altogether, copper pipe is the best plumbing material to use. While expensive, copper pipe is the least prone to leaks of the four main pipe types.
Discolored water is another telltale sign that your plumbing needs to be fixed. If you find yourself with discolored water, the first step is to make sure the discoloration is not caused by excess oxygen. Pour some of the discolored water into a glass and let it sit. If the discoloration does not subside, the cause is not excess oxygen. If the discoloration does not subside after 7-8 minutes of running cold tap water, then the cause of discoloration is likely a plumbing problem. Plumbing-related water discoloration has two main causes: sedimentary buildup and pipe corrosion. Dirt and other-naturally occurring sediments accumulate in all plumbing systems over time. However, low-quality plumbing systems can allow for unsafe, water-discoloring amounts of these substances to accumulate. Additionally, significant increases in water pressure (usually caused by pipe breakage) can also stir up these substances and discolor/contaminate your water.
Pipe corrosion is usually only a problem in older homes that have galvanized steel or lead plumbing systems. If your plumbing system uses a lot of PVC piping, bits and pieces from rubber or plastic fittings and seals can also be a cause of contamination. Regardless of the cause, water discoloration is a serious problem. If you end up with discolored water, take a look at your plumbing system to ensure that all materials are up-to-date and that there are no pipe breaks.
Moisture accumulation is the last major sign that you need to update your plumbing. If you find moist and/or moldy spots close to your plumbing system, it is likely that your system contains corroded pipes or pipes that are not correctly sealed. While moisture accumulation isn’t as dire as having hazardous pipe material or discolored water, it should still be addressed as soon as possible. Plumbing system leaks can quickly increase in size and cause expensive water damage. To deal with moisture accumulation, replace any old or worn out pipes in your system. If that does not solve the problem, you should examine all the pipe connections in your system while water is running through it. This usually exposes leaky connections and allows you to quickly pinpoint the problem area.
Maintaining a home’s plumbing system is a task that requires a great deal of time and effort as well as constant vigilance and maintenance. However, tackling small plumbing problems as soon as you see them is a great way to guard against costly damage. If you ever encounter any of these signs, make sure to inspect your plumbing system as soon as possible to prevent the plumbing issue from getting any more severe. Additionally, remember to never use water that is contaminated or discolored as it may contain substances that should not be ingested, such as lead or large amounts of dirt. A preventative approach to plumbing will save you countless amounts of time, money and effort!
Tim McFall is the Marketing Manager at Commercial Industrial Supply, a commercial/industrial supplier & distributor of industrial pipe materials nationwide. CIS has been known for providing the highest quality industrial piping products since 2009.