Understanding your plumbing needs is essential. Whether you’re buying a new home or worried about constant plumbing problems, knowing when an overhaul is due can save you thousands of dollars and stress.

Identifying a plumbing problem early is critical. Plumbing problems are often discovered when it is too late. To avoid last minute rush, you need to know your residential plumbing life expectancy and the right time for an overhaul. Here are a few tips to help you assess your plumbing pipes and consider an upgrade.

How long should plumbing pipes last?

The life expectancy of plumbing pipes depends mainly on the material used to make the pipe. Here is a short table illustrating the lifespan of plumbing pipes made from different materials.

Material of plumbing pipe             Lifespan

Brass                                                40-70+years
Copper                                             50+years
Galvanized Steel                             20-50 years
Cast Iron                                          75-100 years
Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC)                   Indefinite

Other than the material, the life of your pipes is also affected by the weather, nature of use and the environment. Under favorable conditions, the pipes can last longer.

Time is one of the factors you can use to identify if your plumbing needs an upgrade. Once they have reached their life expectancy, it is essential to have them regularly checked for any problems.

Signs It’s Time to Replace Your Plumbing Pipes

Other signs that hint at possible need for an upgrade include:


Leaks are a common occurrence in every home. It could be a result of a minor problem. But, if the leaks are frequent and occur in different parts of the house, it could be indicating it is time to have the pipes replaced.

In most cases, frequent leaks are a result of rusting and corrosion inside the pipes over a long period. If that is the case, it is best to have the pipes replaced to maintain structural integrity of the house.

Mold, Mildew and stained walls

Mold, stained walls and mildew are caused by leaks by pipes inside the wall. It is important to deal with the problem quickly and effectively to avoid further damage. Poor sealing or clogged drains could also cause the leak.

Identifying the cause of the leak is essential in helping you find the right approach. If the pipes are old and rusty, consider replacement to avoid further damage.

Low water pressure

Corrosion is a severe problem in plumbing. It happens when you’re using steel pipes. They erode, and resultant debris clogs pipes hindering the flow of water. If you have steel pipes in your home, having the pressure water drop could mean it is time to upgrade the pipes.

Sometimes, low water pressure could also expose a clogged faucet. To check if the faucet or showerhead is the problem, fill a plastic bag with vinegar. Tie the bag over the fixture and leave it for a few hours. If the fixture is the problem, normal flow should resume after removing the bag. If it does not remedy the problem, it’s advisable to call in a plumber, like Benjamin Franklin, for more comprehensive checks.

Sluggish drains

A slow drain usually indicates a blockage in the pipes. You can try cleaning the drain using a drain snake or a power draining solution. If this does not work after trying a couple of times, call in an expert. It is usually a sign of deeper sitting problems like worn out pipes with limescale build up inside them.

Odd sounds coming from the faucet

Not all plumbing problems feature blockages, slow drains or leaks. Sometimes, hearing odd sounds when you turn on the faucet can also indicate serious trouble with plumbing.

Presence of air in the pipes usually causes the sound. It occurs when something is wrong with your bleed-off system. Unfortunately, there is not much you can do without training and the right equipment. If the problem persists, have a professional look at it. It’s better to have the pipes upgraded if repairing does not fix the problem.

Unpleasant smell coming from the drains

Bad odor coming from your drains is not always a plumbing problem. It depends on the location and nature of the smell.  If the odor is coming from your sink, there could be some decaying food scraps in the drain pipes. Using a disinfectant and boiling water could help alleviate the smell.

If the smell resembles rotten eggs, your sewer gas is probably backing up into the pipes. Even though this sounds serious, it’s not always the case. It is usually caused by a blocked drain vent which is easily repaired.

When the odor is coming from all the drains accompanied by constant clogging, your sewer line is having problems. To identify the cause of the blockages and possibly clear it, calling a plumber is highly recommended. After having a professional look at the drainage pipes, they can advise on whether you can keep the pipes or make replacements.

Poor water quality

You have probably noticed a funny smell in your water but passed it for a smelly drain. Sometimes, the water might also look cloudy or rusty. Most water heaters have steel rods covered in magnesium, zinc or aluminum. These rods attract bacteria and other elements that cause color change in water. The water coming out of the faucet remains clear because the bacteria and these elements don’t make it to the pipes. If these rods fail, your water can be smelly or change color.

Clogged pipes and rust can also change the color of water. Regardless of what is causing the reduced quality of water and change in color, you need to have the plumbing system checked. The checks should focus on the water heater and the piping in the house.

Outdated or defective hardware

Your residential plumbing life expectancy extends to the fixtures like showerheads, faucets and sink hardware. Over time, these also experience wear and tear. Not only are worn out fixtures sore to the eye, but they can also be harmful. Older hardware is notorious for having bits of metal that chip off and can get caught in the water stream.

When considering an overhaul of the worn-out fixtures, you should also have the pipes assessed. Chances are, the pipes are as old as the fixtures and could use an upgrade as well.

Keeping your plumbing system functional and up to date can save you from a lot of trouble and expensive repairs. By identifying these problem areas, you know when you need to call in an expert. It is also advisable to be aware of your residential plumbing life expectancy. It makes it easier when deciding if the pipes and other parts of your plumbing need upgrading or repairs.

Benjamin Franklin of Lake and Mendocino Counties has the expertise needed to safely and reliably inspect and replace your plumbing system, if needed. Give us a call at (707)-263-1629 or toll free at (877) 236-1776. You can also visit us online at Benjaminfranklinplumbingmendolake.com.