Think about the piping system in your house in the same way you think about the circulatory system in your body. It snakes everywhere, moving water freely and efficiently to the parts of the house that need it. Just like in your body though, if one of those pipes is damaged or clogged, it can cause major damage to your house on a colossal scale.
It’s not always easy (or convenient) to interrupt your family life and have your pipes inspected, but if your house has been standing for any period of time, it would behoove you to have someone check it out.
Why? Simply put, because you don’t know what’s happening inside your walls. This is especially pertinent if you bought a used house instead of building a new one, since you have no idea what the previous occupants did to the system. And, since the piping system is behind a wall, it’s even more impossible to estimate its condition.
Normal Wear and Tear
It’s very possible that the previous occupants of your house weren’t deliberately harmful to your house, at least any more than you are. They probably didn’t throw plastic bags down the garbage disposal or pour battery acid down the bathroom sink, but that doesn’t mean that your pipes haven’t seen better days.
The most common issue with the piping system is debris buildup. Over the years, soap scum, hair, food particles, and a bunch of other things that find their way into your drains can become lodged and cause obstructions.
It could also be mother nature that affect your house the most. Tree roots underneath your lawn can put pressure on your pipes, causing them to crack or even burst entirely. Alternatively, if you live near a fault line, earthquakes (even minor ones) can move your system and cause them to split.
Thanks to the Federal Government, if your home is built before 1990 (and 1975 in some cases), your house may require some updates, not necessarily to comply with the law as much as it is to make them safer to live in. Before 1990, homes were built with materials that are outlawed today; things such as lead and galvanized pipes were used regularly to cut down on costs. Lead, in particular, is incredibly toxic and has been linked to gastrointestinal pain, irritability, and physical and mental impairment. Even though lead was restricted as far back as 1920, it wasn’t until the Safe Drinking Act of 1986 that it was banned altogether.
Unlike galvanized pipes, which have a layer of zinc and can clog up pipes with layer upon layer of rust, polybutylene pipes – once heralded as the next great thing in plumbing – have a self-destruct mechanism almost virtually built-in. Builders learned that the plastic in the polybutylene pipes had a chemical reaction with the water that caused them to become weak and ultimately burst long before they should have. Orangeburg piping, common in the years following World War II, is similar in the fact that they last far fewer years than initially thought.
You’ll still find these types of pipes in homes today, and if so, you could be sitting on a potential plumbing problem on your hands. Get your pipes checked – it’s relatively painless for plumbers to do so – and give you and your family a healthy peace of mind.