When Should You Replace Old Plumbing?

The invisible parts of your home such as your electrical wiring and plumbing systems are often the easiest to forget about. Maintaining them, however, and ensuring they are functioning properly is essential for your well-being, and the well-being of others in the home. That being said, the vast majority of us are not plumbers or electricians by trade, making it difficult to spot signs of wear and tear.

While this article by CSG Electric might help you address your electrical concerns, the team at Johnson Plumbing is here to walk you through our top tips when it comes to analyzing your plumbing system and assessing if you’re due for an upgrade.

These tips are an excellent starting point when it comes to understanding your plumbing, and decoding what certain warning signs may mean. Nevertheless, if you’re ever unsure or think you might have a bigger issue on your hands, don’t hesitate to reach out to the Johnson Plumbing team. We are available 24/7 to handle your plumbing emergencies.


Water Discoloration + Odor

Unless you have received a boil-water advisory notice for your area, discolored water is usually a tell-tale sign that something is off in your plumbing. If you notice brown or red-colored water, you can safely assume that there is rust in your pipes. Unclear, murky water, on the other hand, might mean dirt build-up and residue.

Always pay attention to the water you run. If you spot a problem, take note of where you spotted it. Perhaps the water has gone dark from the kitchen faucet, but the bathroom sink appears unaffected. Being mindful of a localized problem allows you to isolate it and address it before it gets worse and spreads to the rest of the home.

In a similar vein, be sure to pay attention to changes in the smell of your water. If you’re at the lakehouse and know that your plumbing runs on a well, stinky water might not come as much of a surprise, nor a concern. But if you notice a new odor or one that continues to worsen, you can safely assume it’s time for a check-up on your plumbing. While you wait for a plumber, be sure not to drink any water that is discolored or that has a funny odor, as this is often an indication of bacteria and buildup of other contaminants in your pipes.


Pipe Material

Another simple way to understand the longevity of your pipes and how close they might be to their expiry date is by knowing what material they are made of. Some homes and apartment complexes were built anywhere between 40 and 70 years ago. Knowing what your pipes are made of, when/if they were last changed, and their particular lifespan makes it easier to know when a replacement might be in order.

Pipe lifespans according to Ranck:

  • Brass: 40 to 70 years
  • Copper: 50 or more years
  • Galvanized steel: 20 to 50 years
  • Cast iron: 75 to 100 years
  • Polyvinyl chloride: Indefinitely

If you’re looking to purchase a new home, it’s paramount that you inquire about building details. While the home might be older, it’s quite possible the pipes were recently replaced. Conversely, while a property might be newly renovated, it’s important to clarify if those same renovations were applied to the pipes and plumbing systems.

If you’ve been in your home for a while and aren’t sure about specific details of your pipes, have a plumber come in and take a look so they can assess the situation. The team at Johnson Plumbing is always ready to serve those in the Reno area. We understand that proactive plumbing is safe plumbing.


Low Water Pressure + Slow Drainage

Taking a hot shower in the morning is one of life’s little luxuries. We’re all familiar with the feeling of stepping into a running shower, only to realize that the water pressure is nearly non-existent. It’s just no fun to have to work harder to rinse the shampoo out of your hair, and the entire experience is just a little… lackluster. 

While we’d love for all your bathing experiences to be positive ones, lack of water pressure can provide significant insight into the state of your plumbing, and be a valuable tool in assessing a problem.

Oftentimes it’s challenging to isolate the precise issue when there is low water pressure at the sink or during a shower. The cause might be a simple blockage in your plumbing or, more seriously, leaks or pinholes in your pipes. If you suspect your pipes to be leaking, it is important that you address the matter as soon as possible to avoid damaging your foundation and framing. Leaky pipes can also result in wood rot and mold growth which impacts air quality and can pose a significant health risk.

If you’re not much of a shower-taker and prefer baths, be on the lookout for tubs that take a long time to drain. If you’ve attempted to de-clog a drain on numerous occasions to no avail, this could be an indicator that the bath’s pipe system is heavily corroded, making it difficult for water to pass. The same is true for sinks and your shower drain.


Lead & Polybutylene

While some pipes may be old, it doesn’t necessarily mean that they are unusable and that you have to rush to replace them. Get a clear understanding of when your pipes were last changed, what they are made of, and what condition they’re in. Many times, pipes won’t need replacing for another 10-15 years and you can avoid a needless expense.

Sometimes, however, the above is just not true. No matter how old they are, there are two types of water supply pipes that need to be removed right away. Although early 1900s lead pipes have a lifespan of approximately a century, they can leach lead into your drinking water, posing a major health risk.

While they do not pose as much of a health threat, polybutylene pipes that were in use from the 1970s to the 1990s are very prone to breaking. Pipes bursting can cause serious injury to those nearby, and therefore polybutylene pipes should be replaced promptly.

But the situation with lead pipes is quite different. Because lead is extremely poisonous, even little amounts taken by children or larger amounts by adults can lead to hospitalization. Testing can determine the amount of lead in each pipe, and if it is more than the federally advised threshold, you should stop using the water immediately.


Look For Signs in Exposed Pipes

If your house is older, there is a good chance that you have exposed pipes. Oftentimes, you can find them in areas such as the basement or storage closet. Analyzing pipes that are exposed can help you determine how well-maintained the plumbing is throughout your house. Examine all pipes for fading, flaking, dimpling, lumps, and any other wear and tear that stands out.

Additionally, be sure to keep an eye out for water pools or pipelines that show signs of moisture buildup. These are often excellent indicators of corrosion or pipes that have not been properly sealed. Some pipes may only require a good tightening and your plumbing may not need a total facelift. However, it’s time to start considering an upgrade if there is significant or rapid leakage.


Although it might not be glamorous, your home’s plumbing is paramount to the well-being and comfort of those living in it. While it can be easy to forget about pipes and plumbing systems, try to keep a regular eye out for certain warning signs.

Discolored or murky water could be due to rust or dirt buildup. A new or worsening odor might mean your water is being contaminated by bacteria. Low water pressure could be caused by pinholes and degradation of your pipes, and slow drainage could indicate corrosion.

Whether you’re moving into a new home, or are assessing the state of your current one, take the time to look into its history. Knowing what your pipes are made of, when/if they were last replaced, and the condition they’re in are easy ways to understand their longevity. Make use of exposed pipes in your home and let them be a guide in determining the overall state of your plumbing system.

Don’t put off plumbing system upgrades until it is too late. Call our dedicated team at 775-204-7780 and let us take care of all your plumbing needs. Our skilled experts will evaluate your current plumbing condition and provide you with informed advice on what to do next. Johnson Plumbing is open 24/7 to serve the Reno community because we recognize that plumbing problems don’t work 9 to 5.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Do You Need Help?

24/7 Emergency Plumbing

Or Schedule Services Online

Scroll to Top