3 Common Plumbing Problems in Older Homes

3 Common Plumbing Problems in Older Homes

There is a lot to love about old homes, from size and architecture to unique, decorative elements. They provide a sense of character that newer homes do not have.

However, older houses do have one downside: repairs. There is a life expectancy for every component of a house and an older home will likely have many materials that are on the tail end of its lifespan, especially when it comes to your home’s plumbing.

But owners of older homes can be proactive and prevent their plumbing system from running into costly problems. In this post, we will be looking at three common plumbing problems in older homes and how you can prevent them from happening.

1. Old Pipe Material

Over the past century, pipe material has changed due to new technologies and regulations. The National Plumbing Code of Canada updates regulations for safety, health, and the environment when new concerns surface in the plumbing world.

There are three types of old pipes that you will often see in older homes: lead, polybutylene, and galvanized pipes.


Lead was widely used until 1975 when Canada passed the Hazardous Products Act. This established regulations for the ban of lead in building materials.

Lead is toxic and exposure may cause pain, fatigue, memory loss, and more. If you do find lead pipes in your home, you need to replace them immediately. If you are unsure if your pipes are made from lead, you can book an inspection with your local plumber.


Galvanized pipes are composed of iron with a coat of zinc. Over time, these metals erode causing the pipe to break.

It is okay to use water out of these pipes short-term, but they are not structurally sound. The brittle pipes break apart and plug up with rust, causing leaks and stoppages. Excessively rusty water can make your water unclean, smelly, and murky.

With that in mind, it is best to have a plumber inspect your galvanized pipes to find a solution. The plumber may replace the whole plumbing system or piece by piece depending on the damage.


Plumbing systems utilized polybutylene from the 1970s to the 1990s as a substitute for metal pipes. It rose in popularity as a cheap alternative.

Its inexpensive nature proved problematic for homeowners in the long term. Pipes crumbled, cracked, and became very brittle when exposed to chemicals in public water. You can try identifying if your pipes are made from polybutylene if they:

  • Have the code ‘PB211’ stamped on them
  • Are grey or black on the outside
  • Are flexible to touch and not rigid

If you suspect your home might have these pipes, call a professional plumber to come and inspect your property. They will be able to identify them and replace them for you.

2. Bad Repairs to Prior Plumbing Problems

When you have an old home, it’s challenging to account for all the work that has been done. You will probably be familiar with total replacements of systems and materials. Small repairs don’t always have a paper trail and might have been by the previous owner. This can be troublesome as bad repairs may be lurking in your plumbing system and cost you more money than they should. A plumbing professional with expertise in older plumbing systems can help identify and fix the bad repairs across your home’s plumbing system.

3. Pipe Bellies

Pipes rely on gravity to move water. As a house gets older, slight movements cause the buried pipes to shift and slope in a belly shape. In the case of pipe bellies, the water and materials are not able to flow easily. Consequently, wastewater can back up into the home causing damage if this is not promptly fixed.

Upgrade Your Home’s Plumbing with Caldwell Plumbing

If you own an old home, you are susceptible to an endless state of repairs. Make plumbing problems in older homes a concern of the past with the help of Caldwell Plumbing! Available across Durham Region and the GTA, our plumbers will inspect and service your home’s plumbing. We also offer professional bathroom and kitchen renovations in case you are looking for a total refresh to your home. Contact us today to schedule an appointment or get a free plumbing estimate. We will work with you to identify the issue and upgrade your plumbing system.