When it comes to home maintenance, being proactive always pays, and this is especially true with plumbing. The better you are at inspecting your pipes and identifying damage early on, the easier it is to prevent that damage from growing out of control. The following factors can impact whether you need to repipe; by keeping an eye on them, you can keep plumbing problems and repair costs to a minimum:
The first step in taking charge of your plumbing system is to learn what materials your pipes are made from. Different materials have different lifespans, and thus require different levels of vigilance. The most common materials for residential plumbing in northeast Florida include:
- Copper- Pipes made from this material usually last from 70 to 80 years in some areas of the country. In northeast Florida, Type L Copper lasts 20 to 30 years. Type M Copper (thinner wall) only lasts 7-10 years. Like brass, copper is usually used to make supply pipes.
- Galvanized Steel- Also a common resource for supply pipes, galvanized steel typically lasts from 80 to 100 years.
- Polyvinyl Chloride- Commonly known as PVC, this material is used to make drain lines. This material has been used for the last 30 years and should last at least 30 more.
- Cast Iron- A more durable substitute for PVC, cast iron drain lines last between 80 and 100 years.
- CPVC- This material is used for the water supply lines. It was originally thought to be the copper replacement and that it would last a long time. However, at 10 to 15 years, the piping becomes brittle and can break very easily if stressed in any way.
- PE Pipe & Fittings- Newest to the market, this material is a flexible crosslinked polymer pipe that we hope will last 30 to 60 years.
Besides the aforementioned materials, pipes on older homes are sometimes made of lead or polybutylene. Plumbing systems using either material should be replaced immediately. Lead contaminates drinking water, leading to serious health problems for those who consume it, while polybutylene pipes break easily.
In addition to the materials used to make your pipes, it is also important to pay attention to the characteristics of your water. Hard water, or water containing large concentrations of minerals, tends to wear down plumbing systems more quickly than soft water. Jacksonville’s water supply is very hard, and has a very high chlorine content, meaning that you will likely need to repipe more often here than in many other areas of the country.
Not only does water quality let you know how often pipes need repairs, but it can also inform you if you currently need to repipe. Every time you come back to the house after an extended period away, run the taps for a minute and see what color the water is. If it is brown, red, or yellow, the pipes have likely begun to rust.
Whatever the general risks to your home’s plumbing system, it is important to check your pipes periodically to make sure they are in good condition. Although it is not possible for most homeowners to look at their entire plumbing systems, you can get a good sense of pipe condition by looking at the portions of your pipes that are exposed. At least once a year, examine these exposed areas for flaking, discoloration, or changes in texture; all of these features are signs of corrosion or deterioration. If you notice any of these signs, contact a plumber immediately to perform a comprehensive inspection of your plumbing system.
Clogs And Leaks
Along with signs of damage from exposed pipes, you should also pay attention to leaks and clogs. If your pipes become leaked or blocked and you cannot identify a source above ground, root penetration, broken sewer lines, and other comprehensive, internal issues may be to blame. Even if you have only minor, localized clogs and leaks, a large number of them may indicate that your plumbing is old and you should repipe.
Bill Fenwick Plumbing provides quality plumbing services throughout the Jacksonville area. To learn more about pipe problem detection or schedule a service for your home, visit our website today.