What You Need to Know If Your House Was Built Before 1975

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If you live in a home built before 1975, your pipes are probably made of cast iron, and you should check them for damage. Your pipes may be hidden underground or in the basement, but an ounce of prevention will be worth a pound of cure. You don't want to end up like this family, which was forced to move out of their home because of sewage backup.

Deterioration of cast iron pipes is normal after just 25 years.

Wear and tear is normal in residential pipe systems. One frequently asked question is “How long do cast iron drain pipes last?” Cast iron waste pipes last anywhere between 50 and 100 years. However, it may be time to replace cast iron pipes long before their lifetime is up. Deterioration of cast iron pipes is normal after just 25 years, so homeowners should conduct routine inspections. An estimated 76 million American homes have failed cast iron pipes that must be replaced.

Signs of Trouble

If pipes appears rusted, decayed, discolored or cracked, owners should have a plumber determine if the entire piping system needs replacement. Sporadic leaks are a cause for concern; they may lead to a more serious flood of water or raw sewage backup in the future, causing foul smells and attracting pests into your home. Rather than patch and replace segments of damaged pipes, a full (and costly) replacement may be in order. Symptoms of water damage may include:

  • Slow drains
  • Clogs or backups
  • Foul smells from sewer gases
  • Roach/pest infestation
  • Warped or separated wood floors
  • Tinted (raised) floor tiles
  • Loose or broken floor tiles
  • Water-stained floor tiles (grout)
  • Water-stained/discolored carpet or rug/mat

Leaks can cause serious health problems, including coughing, sneezing, eye irritation, and fatigue. A broken plumbing system also lowers property value.


The Science Behind Corrosion

Underground waste pipes fail for a variety of reasons. One reason is external corrosion caused by materials found in soil. Soil often contains high levels of acidity, stray electric currents, and toxins, all of which can cause cast iron pipes to rust. External rust is not necessarily a cause for concern, though it may indicate more serious problems in the internal piping.

Sulfuric acid is corrosive to cast iron.

Another, more common problem—internal corrosion—occurs within the pipes themselves, and is usually caused by the acidity of the actual sewage running through the pipes. Waste running through pipes can cause hydrogen sulfide gas buildup, which oxidizes and produces sulfuric acid. Sulfuric acid is a recipe for disaster; it is corrosive to cast iron. Experts suggest checking the ingredients on household drain cleaners, as many brands contain sulfuric acid, which accelerates pipe corrosion.

Corrosion Is More Common Than You Think

Pipe corrosion is ubiquitous in American cities irrespective of climate, but salt and moisture-rich environments—such as Florida—can accelerate the problem. The problem is that household plumbing is often hidden behind walls or in neglected crawl spaces or utility rooms, so problems can go unnoticed for years. For good home maintenance practices, homeowners should routinely inspect exposed tubing for signs of deterioration.

Protect Your Rights as a Homeowner

Coverage for water damage is a sticky area in the fine print of homeowners insurance policies. However, you may have a legitimate claim for damages if you suffered financial losses or health problems caused by water damage from bad pipes.

You may have a claim for damages if you suffered financial losses or health problems caused by water damage from bad pipes.

Most insurers exclude coverage for pipe repair or new pipes, but they may pay for damage resulting from deterioration, with one major rule: you did not have prior knowledge of the issue when you bought the home. Still, insurance companies are notorious for denying claims or providing low reimbursements for these issues. A skilled attorney can help appeal a claim denial related to water damage or secure funding for a full system replacement. Protect your rights as a homeowner and get a free case evaluation today.