America has lots of old houses. According to Eye on Housing, the average owner-occupied structure was about 37 years old in 2015 which is higher than the U.S. median age. More than 38% of all U.S. homes were built prior to 1970. If you live in a historic home, you enjoy the character and craftsmanship of quality artisans from an era long past. The old walls and beautiful woodwork may speak of the home’s history, but the reality is often a different story.
Water and moisture problems in older homes often stem from two different sources: original equipment and multiple owners. Equipment installed as part of an original ’60s floor plan is likely nearing the end of its expected lifespan. Twenty plus year old homes can often present a host of headaches, such as plumbing problems that contribute to water damage. The team at Premier Construction want to remind you to check out these common issues:
Fifty years of draining water, soap scum, sewage and shampoo can take a toll on your older home’s drains. Toilets, kitchen sink drains and showers were not designed for 100 years of service. Plus new materials save water and easier to clean.
Sewers and sewer lines are definitely at the top of many people’s old house plumbing problems. Sewer lines are always wet, so they attract tree roots. Cast iron pipes are particularly susceptible to cracking and intrusion by tree roots, which can completely clog a line.
Nowadays, restorers and plumbers send a camera into your home’s sewer pipe to diagnose problems, a much more affordable option than the disgusting and expensive issues created by a sewer backing up.
Each material used in supply and drain pipes has a limited life. Brass and copper pipes typically last 50 years or more; steel pipes can wear out after as little as 20. Pipes made from PEX, a plastic material, typically last 40 or 50 years.
Common in older homes, galvanized pipes are a constant source of potential problems after a half century. The process means coating an iron pipe with molten zinc to prevent the iron from corroding. The zinc lasts a while, but not forever. As the zinc erodes, the exposed iron begins to rust. This can cause pipes to fail, but the warning signal is easy to spot– your water will become discolored from the rust in it.
While some original fixtures are notably sturdier and of better quality than their corresponding modern fixtures, many older ones simply wear out with time. Washers and valves degrade and cause leaks; stems and handles break. If your home still has its original spigots, faucets, handles and valves, it is only a matter of time before you have a water failure.
A 50- or 60-year-old house may have had three or four owners before it came to you. You may inherit a lot of questionable repair work that detracts from the value and may require a retrofit, for example, mix-and-match plumbing. Some lengths of copper pipe may have been replaced with plastic, creating a weak joint between two unlike materials.
Homeowners with no skills or money might have used chemical patches, glues, adhesives, hose clamps and even duct tape to repair plumbing pipes in older homes. Additions, remodeling and upgraded appliances are also areas where questionable plumbing may leave you vulnerable to surprise leaks, pinholes in pipes or clogs.
Basements in old houses were not designed for living space. They were originally meant to store food for the winter, coal and other fuel, tools and gadgets, or even ice. Extensive waterproofing was not standard; the foundation allowed for water to seep into the basement in very wet conditions, where it flowed to a floor drain.
If you plan to use the basement as living space, you’ll need to invest in more waterproofing than the old design originally allowed for.
Check the condition of gutters and downspouts, older homes might not have any or might have bent or damaged structures. As the ground around a home settles naturally, it can slope in toward the house and begin directing water at the foundation wall. Plus, many very old homes have porous stone foundations that have no ability to repel ground water.