Replace the Plumbing in Your Old House: Sacramento’s Historic Homes’ Pipes Are Failing

There are lots of great neighborhoods in Sacramento, but few are as picturesque as Historic Land Park with its wide, tree-lined streets. Named after William Land and home to the Sacramento Zoo and Funderland theme park, it’s no surprise that families flock to this neighborhood. And with its proximity to Sacramento, it’s a great town for commuters. Even though the town tends to have a young vibe, home buyers can still find a historical house as most of the homes in Land Park were built in the early 1930s and 40s. Owning a historic home, with its unique style and impeccable details, is the dream of many, but with that comes some challenges, one of which is replacing outdated plumbing.

The features that make many historic homes so attractive can also create unique problems for systems in a home, like the plumbing. Back in the early 20th century, most houses had minimal indoor plumbing. In fact, it didn’t become common in many rural areas of America until the 30s. Even for cities where it is was commonplace, the piping systems and materials that were used have since been deemed obsolete or violate health and safety codes. Luckily, nowadays a licensed and experienced plumber can retrofit or replace plumbing in your old home, modernizing your system and ensuring it is code compliant without affecting the historical aesthetic of an older house.

Signs You Should Replace Plumbing In Your Old House

new plumbing in old housePlumbing problems are sometimes like having a sick child. If your child is starting to come down with something, they are often lethargic and less playful, eating and drinking less, complaining and crying more. You might even have bigger indicators such as classmates or neighborhood friends that are sick too. You can get similar signs from a sick house, such as low water pressure, tubs slow to drain, or water is discolored. If your home is older, and your neighbors are also complaining of similar pipe problems, you should be on the lookout for these signs that your home might need its outdated plumbing replaced:

  • Your home is more than 60 years old: A home this old with all of its original plumbing still in place will definitely have piping made from materials past their prime including lead that can leach into your drinking water and make you sick. In this case, it’s important to have your whole plumbing system inspected so it can be determined how extensive the piping replacement will need to be.
  • Water and sewage leaks: Leaking from fixtures and exposed piping might be obvious, but less so from pipes in the walls and underground. Signs of leaks in these cases might be slow running faucets, slow draining tubs or toilets, and stains on ceilings or walls. These leaks can indicate piping damage, clogs, or corrosion, and definitely will need the expert care of a licensed plumber—especially after the doozy of a wet winter Sacramento just experienced.
  • Water color: Older pipes, like galvanized piping, are likely to have less protective coating against rust and to experience corrosion over time. That’s why it’s important to watch the color of the water. If it becomes milky or reddish in color, it’s time to call the plumber, especially if you’re wondering what type of water filtration system to have installed.

Old Copper Pipe Problems

Growing up, we had one of those cylindrical push mowers with blades that turned to cut the grass. It was hard work pushing that thing, and if you let the grass grow for too long, you could forget it. When we upgraded to a motorized lawn mower, it was unbelievable how much easier cutting the grass became.

Old plumbing systems remind me a little bit of that old push mower. They get the job done, but newer, more efficient pipes make it a lot easier. Many pipes used in early plumbing systems were made of corrosive and hazardous materials that would deteriorate quickly. If your historic Sacramento home has aging plumbing and old copper pipes, problems you may find are:

  • Outdated materials: Some of the piping materials used in the early 20th century, like lead and polybutylene, have since been deemed hazardous or highly corrosive. That’s why it’s important to check out your historic home’s plumbing to verify if it has been updated. If not, your plumber may need to replace all your pipes with safe, non-corrosive materials so your water doesn’t become contaminated.
  • Deterioration from leaks and rust: No matter how well you take care of a home, time will take its toll. Eventually, old pipes will have breaks and show signs of rust that can cause pipes to leak or fracture completely, especially if your piping is unprepared for a storm or rainy weather. Experienced plumbers advise historic homeowners to have their pipes checked out yearly to check for signs of damage.
  • Poor performance: Even if your pipes seem to be holding up, they may show signs of low water pressure and slow drains. This can be an indicator of clogs, pipe buildup, or things like tree roots growing into underground piping. These are definitely signs that you need to have your plumbing repaired or replaced.

The Advantages of Modern Plumbing Materials in Historic Homes

Old plumbing reminds me of an old car. You’ve used it for years until, eventually, it becomes less and less reliable, requiring more frequent repairs. Just like buying a new car, when the time comes, you’ll be glad you replaced your antique plumbing system. Modern plumbing materials, piping, and fixtures will improve the value of your home as well, which is definitely an advantage in a town like Land Park where homes can be pricey, just like the rest of Sacramento. Additional benefits to replacing the plumbing in your home are:

  • Increased efficiency: Dripping faucets and old water heaters are not only irritating, they can cost you money. By replacing your old plumbing, you can conserve water and save money on your water bill. Not to mention that once all that old clogged and corroded piping is replaced with new, clean piping, you can cut your shower time in half.
  • Better performance: Some older homes have piping that may not adhere to modern rules, thus they may have longer paths and require higher pressure to provide water to fixtures. That combined with the old, corroded piping makes for slow running and draining water.  Plumbing design has improved in the last hundred years. These days, experienced plumbers better understand the best method for getting clean water into your home and waste water out.
  • Protect historic elements from damage: Some homeowners hesitate to replace plumbing because it may require invasive repairs, but a skilled plumber can retrofit plumbing with minimal or no damage to architectural elements. Plus, neglecting to replace aging plumbing can cause damage if there are leaks or breaks in your piping. In the long run, it’s best to have your plumbing system replaced at the first sign of age.

Buying a historic home in Land Park is the goal for more than a few Sacramento residents. Good schools, great community, diverse culture, an easy commute to the city, and beautiful old homes are all key ingredients to many Northern Californian’s American Dream. Once you’ve made that dream a reality, making sure it stays comfortable, safe, and affordable becomes an important part of your lifestyle, though.

Updating the plumbing in your historic or older home isn’t just essential for your comfort, but also for your bottom line. Old plumbing can be hazardous to your health, not to mention a real hassle if it begins to corrode and break. In a highly desired area like Land Park, it’s critical to have your pipes and fixtures updated before they end up becoming costly repairs. And in the long run, a new, efficient plumbing system in a beautiful historic home will be an investment for your future too.

If you suspect the plumbing in your old home is as historic as the house itself, it’s time to look into having it replaced. Bell Brothers has licensed, experienced plumbers that can help you repair and replace your old plumbing system.

Image courtesy Unsplash user Kari Shea