Common Plumbing Issues When You Buy an Old Home

Common Plumbing Issues When You Buy an Old Home

During your home buying journey you may be considering, or even specifically be looking for an older home. It might be due to the charm an older building has, or you might be looking for something to renovate.

Although you shouldn’t be put off purchasing an older home, there may be a few pointers you might want to be aware of before committing to buying an older property. Here’s a guide on some common plumbing issues when you buy an old home

What are the benefits of buying an older home?

More Character

Filled with unique features and a charm you just can’t put your finger on older homes have a comforting lived-in feeling. Period homes are often sought after with features that are characteristic to the era they were built in, such as herringbone hardwood floors, accents and exposed beams.


Older homes tend to have been built when space and efficiency wasn’t such a big factor, and as such tend to generally be bigger, both in square footage and lot size.

Better Construction

You might be familiar with the term “They don’t build them like they used to!” Although newer homes are built to specific and sufficient standards, older homes are renowned for a better quality due to long lasting materials such as brick, hardwood and old growth wood. Reliable, sturdy and built to last

Upfront Cost

Obviously this depends on the individual house, but the purchase price of older houses can be cheaper to buy upfront, particularly as they don’t have the latest modcons, or if they have a few age-related issues.

Renovation potential

Older homes are fantastic if you’re specifically looking for a project to do-up, either to live in yourself or to sell on. All you need to look for is the potential.

Plumbing in Older houses

One thing to keep in mind is that no matter the work done on an older house to make it more aesthetic, you must be careful that the functional systems of the house are up to scratch and working. This includes the plumbing systems. The plumbing inside older homes may be as old as the structure itself and you want to make sure that there aren’t any persistent issues, or even disasters waiting after you get the keys!

Common Plumbing and Drain Issues in older homes to look out for:

Old Pipe Materials

Any home built before 1990 and hasn’t since been renovated or had the plumbing system replaced could feature pipes with materials that are no longer approved for building.

  • Lead – originally used for its durability, lead has since been banned because it is highly toxic and could cause serious health problems if left in place.
  • Galvanised – commonly used before the 1960’s, this material is particularly susceptible to corrosion, rust and breakage. Brittle pipes will need replacement over time
  • Polybutylene – revolutionary in its time, but later found to react with plastic leading it to flake and crack

Pipe Bellies

If the home is slowly shifting over time, the gradual movement can “belly” which means that they start to slope negatively and it can restrict the flow of water, creates pools and cause stoppages and leakes. These need a professional plumber to fix.

Sewer line failure

Sewer lines tend to go completely unnoticed, until they fault that is! You’ll know there’s a problem if and when sewage starts seeping up through the ground, or you start to notice a foul-smelling backwash into the home’s appliances. Problems in older homes tend to be because the sewer lines were built before the installation of modern plumbing appliances such as dishwashers, so water then gets forced through an insufficient system Older homes may also have shifting sewer lines or they may have encountered damaged by tree roots.

Outdated or Worn Fixtures & Connections

Everything has a lifespan, and older homes are more likely to have taps/faucets, fixtures and supply connections that are nearing the end of their lives through general corrosion and wear and tear. Although a slightly dripping tap or an unusually restricted water flow can be tolerated, eventually these will give way and could cause an expensive emergency call out to fix. It’s best to make sure these routine maintenance fixes are taken care of proactively.

Bodge job repairs

All homes experience wear and tear over time, and need to have the odd plumbing repair jobs done now and again. Especially older homes, will have had more time to wrack up repair jobs. However, in order to reduce cost, these repairs may have been DIY or by a general handyman instead of a professional plumber – especially if its a quick patch up in order to sell the home. Although most bodged jobs are harmless or cause minor inconvenience, some can be very dangerous so it’s worth having a plumber look over your home to access.

How to find out about plumbing issues before you buy

The best advice would be to get a professional plumbing and drainage company to look over your potential property before purchase. Again, it might not put you off buying, but it’s good to be fully aware of any issues and know the picture to avoid any post-purchase drama!

A sensible idea would be to have a domestic CCTV Drain survey done before purchase – this is quick and most lenders request to have this done before valuation. It’s a cost effective solution in the long run and doesn’t very long as well.

Sandy Jensen
Sandy Jensen, a celebrated writer in the home and garden niche, boasts over 12 years of hands-on experience. Her educational background includes a Bachelor’s in Landscape Architecture from Cornell University. Before joining our team in 2016, she worked as a landscape designer, combining her love for nature and design. Sandy's expertise shines through her articles, offering readers practical and aesthetically pleasing gardening tips. Off the clock, she enjoys hiking and nature photography, further nurturing her connection with the outdoors.

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