Plumbing problems are not uncommon in older buildings. This is due not only to their age but also because they often contain unique architectural details that can pose certain challenges to their infrastructure. Here is a look at some of the common plumbing issues that older buildings may encounter.
Frequent Piping Clogs and Leaks
Older pipes are more susceptible to the types of clogs caused by normal use than newer pipes. In fact, certain types of pipes were not designed with the ability to accommodate double-ply toilet tissue. In some buildings, weak water pressure can pose issues and reduce the efficiency of water delivery and waste removal.
Another problem is old water linesz, which are susceptible to being crushed or broken by the roots of trees in the area as they grow and expand. As a result, groundwater can infiltrate the sewer system and wastewater can contaminate the ground.
Problematic Piping Materials
Many of the materials that were used in the past to construct pipes have proven to be problematic over the years, with some being linked to health problems and others known for poor long-term performance.
One of the most common materials used in the pipes of buildings constructed before 1990 is polybutylene. This is a type of plastic resin that was used for building pipes from the mid-1970s through the 1990s because of its ease of installation and low price. Unfortunately, when this material interacts with chlorine that is often used to sanitize municipal water, a chemical reaction occurs that can cause the pipes to become brittle over time, before eventually failing altogether.
Buildings older than 50 or 60 years often have pipes made of brass, galvanized steel, or cast iron. Although some of these materials can last for a century and do not contain harmful chemicals, they still need to be inspected regularly to look for signs of corrosion, which can occur in even the best pipes over time.
Finally, lead pipes are extremely problematic. Although the dangers of lead were widely known by the end of World War II and it began to fall out of favor as a material for pipes, lead pipes were not officially banned by Congress until 1986. Even then, existing lead pipe installations were permitted to remain intact. APM Reports shows that as many as 22 million Americans are still cooking with and drinking tap water that enters their home via lead pipes.
With older buildings, there are many unknowns, including who performed the plumbing system’s installation and what type of qualifications they had. Many times, the owners of older buildings may discover a patchwork of repairs that took place throughout the years, and there is a good chance that something may have been fixed incorrectly at some point. One of these quick fixes could lead to a problem that requires difficult and expensive repairs in which everything needs to be brought up to code.
As a result, the owners of older buildings often find that plumbers are not willing to give estimates for plumbing work until they can open a wall to get a closer look at the situation. Many times, what appears to be a simple job on the surface, such as replacing a leaky faucet, may necessitate thousands of dollars of plumbing work under the floors and behind the walls.
Water Heater Problems
Older water heaters pose a range of problems. Many times, they consume more energy and are less efficient than more modern models, which means they cost more to operate. However, the real issues arise when these heaters fail and need to be replaced. Modern tank heaters tend to be larger than older models, which means that it can be challenging to find a replacement that fits the available space when an older water heater needs to be replaced.
In many larger buildings, there may be multiple water heaters of different ages that come from different manufacturers, which can make it difficult to carry out even the simplest repairs. Unfortunately, it is essential to stay on top of water heaters in older buildings, with analysis by one insurance company finding that a failed water heater in a commercial property has the potential to cause half a million dollars or more in damage.
Contact the Experienced Plumbers at O’Connor Plumbing
Plumbing issues in older buildings can quickly turn into major disasters, so it is important to schedule annual maintenance and plumbing inspections. At O’Connor Plumbing, our highly trained plumbers are focused on completing jobs efficiently and providing top-notch customer service in the DC Metro area. and the surrounding areas. Contact us today to learn more about our plumbing services.