Don’t Trust Your Plumbing to Old Pipes – Here’s Why

The water supply is one of the home’s most essential services, right up there alongside drain/sewer, hydro and gas. Without it, you wouldn’t have potable water right at your beck and call, nor would you have hot showers or clean dishes. It’s such an essential, important part of our daily lives that it’s funny sometimes to think that we trust it to pipes that some of us have never even seen before.

Not only that but we trust this essential service to (sometimes) 80-year old pipes. That would be like trusting your car with tires from the 1940s. You just wouldn’t do it. And yet, that’s the case for many homeowners in Toronto – although they might be unaware of the time period and provenance of their pipes, they certainly see the effects.

It’s important for all homeowners to have clean water with decent pressure, but despite multiple renovations, some Toronto houses still have their original pipes, which are 80-90 years old. These old pipes, which are made of lead or galvanized steel, produce a bevy of problems, some of them fairly innocuous, and others quite serious.

We’ve zeroed in here on what we believe are the three main issues (and, incidentally, the most common issues) facing homeowners with old pipes. If you live in an older Toronto home, take note, and never hesitate to call your plumbing experts in Toronto, Mister Plumber. We’ll be there to chat with you about water line repair and get the ball rolling on your brand new plumbing.

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Lead Contamination

At the time these pipes were being installed, 80 or 90 years ago, lead was viewed as an ideal material for pipes, as it’s not affected by corrosion and belongs to a class of soft temper metals. What that means is that underground, when the soil is settling down, the pipe has the capacity to bend without kinking, so the water flow remains unchanged. You can’t blame plumbers of the time for their lack of foresight – advancements in science would have to arise for the plumbing industry to realize its error.

That’s exactly what happened. In the 1950s, scientific research discovered the various health hazards that lead particles pose for humans. Homeowners with lead pipes were (and still are, obviously) susceptible to lead leaching into their drinking water, which can bioaccumulate in the body and cause health problems, especially developmental problems for children and babies.

When lead was found to have negative health effects, another material was approved to be used for drinking water: copper. It has proved to be a suitable replacement, and is still used today. Copper has two types of temper – hard and soft. Above ground, hard temper copper is used (every homeowner can see such pipes in their furnace room) and underground applications require using soft temper, or, in other words, coil.

Lead is no laughing matter, and if you think you might still have some lead pipes in your house, give Mister Plumber a call and get clean water in your home today.

Leaking

Aside from contamination, old pipes have another common problem: they get a little weak. Just like any of us, pipes carry the passage of time and, gradually, become less structurally stable. This isn’t exclusive of lead, as the above point was, but can affect any type of old pipe.

As pipes get weaker, they might get pinholes, which can cause property flooding as water inside the pipe is under a constant pressure of approximately 50 PSI. This leaking might seem like a mere annoyance, but after some time it can do a lot of damage to your home, not to mention that leaks just look bad.

In this case, there’s no sense in patching the leak. With an old pipe, this is just going to keep happening, no matter how many Band-Aids you slap on it. Your best course of action is to call in the pro plumbers.

We’ve replaced a lot of pipes here at Mister Plumber, and we understand that one of the top priorities for homeowners is a lack of disruptiveness; they don’t want their house upended just to do away with a few leaky pipes. That’s something we’re great at – we are professional, neat, discrete and we get the job done in a timely fashion – give us a call today to do away with leaks.

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Poor Water Pressure

This last one is more of a nuisance than either a hazard (as in the case of lead contamination) or damage (as in the case of leaks), but it’s still a nuisance. No one wants to turn the faucet for their morning shower to find a weak, dribbling stream of water. That’s no way to start a day. Luckily, the question of how to improve your home water pressure is pretty simple to answer.

With older pipes sometimes, after flushing a toilet, the pressure drops so significantly that other plumbing fixtures cannot be used. This is because when these pipes were installed, appliances were neither as powerful nor as plentiful as they are today. These pipes were meant to accommodate a 1920s toilet and shower, not a modern day household with a washing machine, dishwasher, two bathrooms, etc. Their diameter is too small (1/2-inch) that the incoming water flows with less velocity.

If the problem you’re having with your old pipes is poor water pressure, consider yourself lucky. Although you won’t be for too long. Take this poor pressure as a warning that your pipes are out-of-date, and call Mister Plumber to come replace them. They might be lead, or they might be near to the point of leaking – either way, you don’t want them around for long. Plus, after the replacement, you can finally take a satisfying shower!

In the first picture above, you can see a torpedo drilling to make an underground channel for a new pipe installation – it’s not invasive and, as you can see, we do a fantastic job of it. In the second picture, you can see a newly installed copper pipe with new main shut off valve. This is the immaculate plumbing you have to look forward to when you take the leap and replace those old pipes. Don’t wait on change: call Mister Plumber today!