Five Signs That Your Cast Iron Pipes Might Be Failing | APT

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For many people, the idea of buying an older home is very appealing. Older homes have a charm that newer homes don’t have, and it can be a one-of-a-kind experience for those who love history, art, and architecture. But owning an older home means problems can and will occur. These issues could include foundation issues, lead-based paint, asbestos, roofing problems, and older pipes. While foundation issues can be costly to repair, if a complete plumbing system in an old house needs to be replaced, this can be more expensive than any foundation issue.

Cast iron pipe became available in the mid-1700s for municipal water service, but the first large scale use occurred in Versailles, France in 1664. In the U.S., these pipes were manufactured for the first time in the Weymouth, NJ in the early 1800s. The city of Philadelphia was the first in the United States to install cast iron pipe due to its reputation for longevity and ability to handle high water pressure.

Prior to 1980, cast iron was the most common material used in home construction. Cast iron pipe was believed to have a lifespan between 50 and 100 years, with an average age expectancy of 80 years. While this is definitely a long time for a plumbing system to last, the issue with cast iron is that it will eventually start to rust and corrode. By the 1980s, PVC pipe was almost exclusively used in new construction.

Over the years, corrosion and rust can form and build up in cast iron water lines and drain pipes, resulting in deterioration, cracks, leaks, water flow issues, and creating holes large enough for tree roots to sneak in. This is especially true in older homes. The signs of a plumbing issue include low water pressure, slow draining, odors, water damage to your floors, and possibly pest infestation.

Sadly, old cast iron pipes can go bad without much warning leaving you with a mess and a smaller bank balance than you had before. The traditional method of sewer replacement has been known to be very disruptive and noisy to you and your neighbors. When plumbing and pipe issues occur, calling the team at Advanced Plumbing Technology is the first thing you should do.


Signs Your Cast Iron Plumbing Needs Replacing


1. Water Discoloration

If you live in a rural area, it can be a common problem to find red or brown colored water, but it’s usually not anything to be concerned about. However, if you have an old home with old cast iron plumbing, it could possibly indicate there is an issue with your pipes. This discoloration is caused by rust and corrosion. While the rust is not unsafe, it can discolor your laundry, stain your sinks, and cause your water to taste odd.

The rust in cast iron is usually caused by either oxidation or unusually acidic soil, and the rust happens most often in sewer lines. It causes the pipes to become weak, and the pipes to eventually crack. When cracks occur, it’s time to replace or repair your plumbing system. If it’s time to replace your pipes, replace them with copper or PVC, which are both non-corrosive.


2. Foul Odor

Your sewer infrastructure needs to be airtight but should have a few ventilation stacks. Once a sewer system starts to breakdown and cracks form, sewer gas can start to escape into your home. This is both unhealthy and very undesirable. The best remedy is to call a local plumber to fix the leak. However, this could be a sign of an even bigger issue, which can result in a complete pipe replacement.

Homeowners should address foul odors the first chance they get. These need to be addressed to ensure there isn’t something serious going on with your pipes.


3. Mold Growth

Mold is not healthy to have in your home. It can lead to health issues and negatively affect those who already have asthma, allergies, or other respiratory issues. If these go undetected, there could be potential health hazards for your family.

Symptoms of mold exposure include nasal stuffiness, throat irritation, coughing, and eye irritation. These symptoms are more severe in those with mold allergies.

One small crack in your pipe can lead to mold growth if oxygen is able to get in. Signs that you have mold in your pipes are the smell of mold when you run water or if you see mold buildup on the sides of your shower or toilet base. In many cases, the mold has been growing for a while before a leak is discovered.


4. Sewer Backup

If you are experience slow draining after flushing your toilet, or if you actually have sewer backup after flushing or using your sink and shower, these are another sign your sewer pipes may need to be inspected and replaced.

When you have backup every time you flush or run water down your sink or bathtub, there is likely a problem in the main sewer line. The main sewer line is relied upon for everything in your home to drain properly. These regular backups indicate a blockage caused by rust, dirt getting inside the pipe, or a tree root intrusion.


5. Structural Damage

A somewhat extreme symptom of pipe failure is a crack in your foundation slab. If the main line running under your concrete slab foundation develops a leak, this may lead to cracks in the foundation or settlement of your home. If cracks get out of control, a foundation specialist will need to be called to address the situation.

This type property damage is often helped along by the root system of the mature trees found in the yards of older homes. After calling a specialist, call your insurance company to find out if they can assist in iron pipe replacement.

After calling APT and having your plumbing evaluated, if it’s determined that you need complete pipe replacement, you might choose re-piping (complete pipe replacement) or pipe lining.

Replacing old pipes can be costly, and if you have a slab foundation instead of a crawl space, that will make repairing a leak or re-piping tricky. Cutting through the concrete slab to get to the plumbing can drive up the labor costs. While the slab is cut open, you can repair any leaks you may have, but it’s also the time to think about a complete pipe replacement. If your pipes are made of cast iron, you will eventually need to address the entire system. Repairing only the pipe leak may save you money now, but since the system will need to be replaced at some point, it might as well be done while the foundation is cut open.

Another option is pipe lining. Pipe lining is a process that starts with a resin-saturated tube made of polyester, fiberglass cloth, or other materials suitable for a resin coating. It’s inverted and pulled into a deteriorating pipe. It requires little to no digging, which is more affordable than digging up your foundation. It’s also not as disruptive to your life. It’s a great option to replacing your old pipes. This pipe lining process is also called a “trenchless technology”.

While pipe lining is not a permanent solution, it is expected to last 50 years or even longer.

Spot Repair

Sometimes the plumbing doesn’t need to be replaced, and a spot repair will work instead. A spot repair can be done by a plumber using new technologies and methods. It focuses on fixing only the broken part of the pipe and can be an option in some circumstances.

While it’s possible your entire system might be failing, you won’t know if that is needed until a plumber performs an inspection. The plumber can use a tiny camera which he lowers into a drain to get a look at the problem. If the entire pipe is in bad condition, it will need to be replaced. If the cracked pipe is only in one small location, a spot repair can be performed.

A spot repair is much less expensive than replacing all the pipes. It’s also quicker and less invasive than an entire replacement. It also fixes the issue without disturbing or damaging other utilities.

Cast iron pipes can go bad without much warning. Corrosion, tree root systems, cracks, and holes create broken down iron drain pipes, which can lead to problems such as cockroaches/pest infestation, sewer leaks, and water damage to your property.

Fortunately, APT offers FREE cast iron pipe inspections that include video inspection so that we can see what is going on in the pipes that run underneath your home.

Advanced Plumbing Technology can help you with all your residential and commercial plumbing issues. If you need pipe replacement, pipe lining, or spot repair, we are here to assist you 7 days a week. Contact our professional team for help with pipes bursting, drain line clogs, blockages, sewer backup, or whatever your plumbing issue may be. At APT, we know that by repairing or replacing your pipes, we are doing so much more to help restore your life.