The toilet supply lines in the couple’s rented home were only about ten years old. Within a year of each other, two of the three lines failed and flooded the floors with water, which found its way down the heating vents to the floors below. Luckily, this couple was home at the time and were able to shut off the water supply before it did too much damage. The landlord was quick to hire a plumber near them replace the lines and, after the second line broke, they asked him to replace the one in the ensuite, too, feeling that it was only a matter of time before that one failed, as well.
Had these folks been sleeping or away from home, the water damage would have been beyond imagining. Most people just don’t know how to prevent such nightmares from becoming a reality. Some simple rules can help avert disaster because, when it comes to water damage, costs could run into the thousands and a sewage backup would be even worse for obvious reasons. Here are some simple ways to avoid a plumbing disaster.
Material Life Expectancy
While the life expectancy of materials from which pipes and fixtures are made is influenced by a number of factors, they are made with a certain life expectancy. Proper maintenance can increase the lifespan. Some examples:
- PVC drain lines, 25-40 years
- Copper supply pipes, 70-80 years, depending on past maintenance
- Brass and cast iron pipes and fixtures, 100 years or longer
- Toilet supply line, stainless steel braided flex, 8-10 years
If you’re not sure what type of plumbing was used in your home, call in a certified plumber to do an inspection.
Get Rid of Lead and Polybutylene Pipes
Pipes constructed from these materials need to be replaced, no matter how old they are. Lead pipes can cause severe and long-lasting health problems by leaching harmful lead into your drinking water.
Polybutylene pipes were often installed between the 1970s and 1990s as a cheap alternative, but they’ve caused a lot of problems in the past, because of unexpected breakage.
Rust in the Water
If the water in your sink or tub appears brown or yellow, rust may be eating away at your pipes. This is most evident when you’ve been away from home for a while because water has been sitting in the pipes collecting rust particles. If you see signs of rust, replace the affected pipes as soon as you can.
Check for Corrosion
Keep an eye out for leaks and signs of corrosion such as discoloration and dimpling. These may be signs that your plumbing system is due to be replaced. Another strong indicator of imminent fixture failure is flaking and stains. Leaks in one area often predict leaks in other places, as well. Have them inspected, repaired or replaced as needed before you have to repair walls and flooring, too. Another way to detect possible leaks is to see if water is pooling below fixtures.
If you see any unexpected increases in water consumption on your bill, when your usage patterns haven’t changed, it may be an indication of leaks somewhere in your plumbing system. Clogged drains and pipes can also lead to unexpected changes on your bill.
Protect Your Pipes
Even the best garbage disposal units can become overwhelmed and contribute to clogs if too much is thrown in it all at once. For large quantities of leftover food, start a compost pile if you don’t already have one.
Replace When You Remodel
If you’re doing a remodel on your home anyway, be sure to have a plumber check to see if the plumbing in that area needs to be replaced. It could cost considerably less to do if you already have the room torn up anyway.
As a general rule, whenever you replace a fixture like a toilet or a faucet, the flex lines should also be replaced. A supply line may look like it’s still in good shape, but you can save yourself a lot of trouble by replacing it. The reason is simple; when the rubber seal is disturbed, it can be difficult to re-seal, especially if the rubber gasket is older. If the rubber gasket has been in place for several years, it’s probably less flexible than when it was new and often won’t form a watertight seal.
Try PEX Tubing
New copper piping can cost from $8,000 to $10,000. If that falls outside your home improvement budget, try using cross-linked polyethylene tubing (PEX), which can eliminate the need to cut holes in walls and is flexible enough to snake into position where it’s needed. PEX could save you as much as $4,000 in parts and labour for a 1,500 sq. foot home.
The downside of PEX is that its life expectancy is not yet fully known.
Find a Great Plumber
You may be getting a shoddy job done if a plumber you hired is in and out too quickly. Find someone who guarantees both materials and workmanship against future mishaps by offering a 100 percent guarantee.