Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) piping is often thought of as a newer material, and relatively speaking, it is. But the material has been in use in home plumbing since the 1960s, which means that many homes that are 40 or 50 years old-not exactly new in housing terms-had these plastic pipes installed decades ago.
Given that PVC’s life span runs between 25 and 40 years old, which means a lot of older homes are due for a plumbing system replacement. The actual life span of the particular PVC in your house can vary depending on what it’s been exposed to. But if it’s been exposed to a lot, it could be ready for replacement even if it’s not that old.
Following are ways to tell if your PVC pipes need to be replaced. Note that if you haven’t had to deal with any of these problems, you should still keep an eye on your home’s plumbing.
How Many Leaks Have You Found?
If you’ve started noticing new dripping sounds or have had to fix several leaks in different locations that could be a sign that the whole plumbing system really does need to be replaced. Even if the leaks seem concentrated in one area, if they recur and just won’t go away no matter how many repairs you make, something is wrong systemically.
Also, keep in mind that such leaks indicate that more is going wrong behind the scenes. For example, if part of your home seems prone to leaks, but the other parts aren’t, hire a plumber to do an inspection. You may have sections of pipe that are getting ready to start failing. It’s better to catch them before they become a problem.
What’s the Frost-Heave Potential?
Your plumbing extends outside and underground. What sort of frost-heave issues have you had in the past? PVC pipes should be buried below the frost line so that ice lenses, those chunks of expanding ice formed when moisture in the soil freezes, don’t cause the pipes to move.
However, frost lines can change, and if you’ve had some harsh freezes in the past few years, your exterior piping could be under more strain than is healthy. This would be a good time to have it checked out.
Has Any Been Exposed to Constant Sunlight?
Sunlight can make PVC deteriorate more quickly. Any pipes that have been exposed to constant sunlight, either outdoors or through a window, may need replacement before the rest of the pipes in your house. You should have these sections of pipe inspected on a regular basis.
How Hard Is the Water?
Hard water leaves behind scale, which can eventually clog a pipe. While this is an issue no matter what pipe material you have, PVC pipes already have shortened life spans-meaning the pipe could crack more easily when you try to remove the clog.
Have You Experienced Water Hammer?
Water hammer occurs when the pressure of the water flowing through the pipes is so intense that when you turn off a faucet, the water slams into the valve, rushes back and starts slamming into other parts of the pipe. If you have not installed devices to halt water hammer, your PVC pipes could be taking a beating that will shorten their life span considerably.
Has the Water Pressure Increased?
On a related note, has your water pressure increased substantially over the past few years? If so, the pipes you have may be undersized. The excess pressure can lead to not only water hammer but also to general wear on the pipes and connections.
How Noisy Is the Plumbing?
PVC pipes are noisy-their relatively light weight allows rushing water to make the pipes vibrate, and there isn’t a lot of noise insulation. You can hear loud noises when you use a faucet or flush a toilet. Those vibrations can eventually loosen connections. It would be a good idea to have the pipes inspected.
Contact HELP Plumbing, Heating, Cooling and Drains as soon as you can to set up a home inspection. Even if replacement isn’t in the cards yet, technicians will be able to spot leaks and fix issues before they become serious.