When it comes to home plumbing, not all pipes are created equal. If your plumbing lines develop problems, the time and resources needed to repair the problems depend on the type of pipes used in the construction of your home.
When you call a plumber, it helps if you know what type of pipes you have. Plumbers use different tools to work on different materials, and certain pipes are also known for leaking and causing other problems.
When you learn about your home's plumbing, you benefit in other ways. You can catch problems early and maintain your pipes the correct way. Here's some information to get you started on getting to know your pipes.
Old Pipe Types Are Varied and Vulnerable
The pipes in your home's plumbing system grow old and change with age. They get clogged with waste material, corroded by rust, burst by freezing and thawing cycles, loosened by improper fittings and crushed by strong forces.
The vulnerabilities in your home's pipes depend on the type of pipe used to install the original plumbing system. Some older plumbing-line materials are known for serious corrosion and leakage issues.
Since 1900, over a half-dozen types of pipe materials have been used in various forms and configurations. You can't determine the type of pipe used in your home's construction strictly by age in most cases, but you can narrow it down when you know the year your home was built.
The Types of Pipe in Your Home Vary by Age
Below is a brief timeline of pipe materials installed in U.S. homes since 1900. The years listed represent construction dates, and the materials listed indicate the most common pipe types used in construction during those intervals.
1900 to 1935
Most homes used one of three types of pipe during this period: brass, lead and galvanized steel. Brass pipes and fittings were common until the mid-1930s. Lead pipe was used until 1940. And galvanized steel was used for pipe material until 1950. It is also known for having a high rate of failure.
1933 to 1965
Copper pipe saw widespread use starting in 1950 and ending around 1965. Until then, copper was virtually the only kind of pipe used in home-plumbing supply lines.
1965 to Present
Polyethylene plumbing pipes were introduced in 1965. Polyethylene is often used in plumbing today, including in popular PEX lines. Homes built after 1968 and to the present day are most often plumbed with polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipes.
During the '80s and '90s, polybutylene plumbing was also used, but the failure rate of the product resulted in damages to homes and a few big lawsuits.
Other Pipe Problems Can Arise in Old and New Homes
If your home was built between 1965 and 1972, or a sewer line was installed on your property during those years, you may have another problem: Orangeburg pipe, a bituminous fiber pipe used as a substitute for cast iron during WWII.
Orangeburg pipe is basically compressed tar paper with a lifespan of 50 years. If you suspect that this material has been used for your sewer lines, call a plumber to verify. Orangeburg pipe must be replaced with PVC or another sturdy material soon. If not, your sewage lines will eventually collapse.
Pipe problems happen in brand new homes too. Improperly installed and inferior PEX pipes have caused significant problems for homeowners in some areas. Another concern of homeowners is the amount of lead that leaches into their drinking water. Water treatment plants now use chloramine, which forms ammonia that corrodes brass fittings. When brass fittings corrode, they leach copper, lead and zinc into the water.
Since modern homes are mostly plumbed with PVC pipe and brass fittings, this chloramine-related issue is a concern. If your water treatment plant uses chloramine, consider switching pipes to copper or asking your plumber about ways to mitigate risks.
Contact Souza & Viviani Plumbing Co. today and schedule a video inspection of your plumbing lines.