Homeowners of houses that are more than 60 years old generally start asking questions about their plumbing pipes, and for good reasons. Several signs can indicate that plumbing pipes need replaced, such as sporadic leaking, pipe discoloration, stains, or corrosion. Annual inspections of exposed plumbing pipes in utility rooms, basements, or crawl spaces are strongly encouraged for homes older than 50 or 60 years.

Regular inspections can foretell future plumbing repair needs and prevent plumbing problems or troubles down the line. It can also detect how soon a home’s piping will need replaced. Continue reading to learn more about the types of plumbing pipes and their average lifespans so that you may better protect your investment when the time comes.

Types of Plumbing Pipes

There are a few common types of piping material used for indoor residential water supply plumbing. These include galvanized steel, copper, brass, cast iron, and polyvinyl chloride (PVC). Some homes that are very old, or homes that were built in the 1970’s, may retain two other types of piping material that are very problematic and should be removed right away: lead and Polybutylene pipes. Lead is a serious health hazard and can be ingested through drinking water, and Polybutylene piping is highly vulnerable to breakage and very unreliable.

Aside from these two hazardous piping materials, galvanized steel is the most problematic water supply piping in homes. They are made from steel and coated in zinc, and commonly found in homes made before 1970. They easily corrode and accumulate mineral deposit buildups that cause reduced water flow, rust spots, and more. Any home with galvanized steel water supply piping needs plumbing pipe replacement services immediately!

Cast iron piping is another common pipe material. It is quite vulnerable to rust no matter what the water conditions may be, but its thickness can slow the rate at which the rust affects water flow and corrosion. Cast iron piping is mostly used for waste pipes.

Copper piping is popular because of its natural corrosion-resistant capabilities. Although not entirely immune to corrosion, copper corrodes at a much slower rate than other piping materials. Brass is a material made from a combination of copper and zinc, and retains similar traits as copper. Red brass pipe is the most durable brass plumbing pipe, made from mostly copper. Polyvinyl Chloride, or PVC piping, is made from plastic and has glued fittings. They are used for indoor water supply purposes because they are vulnerable under ultraviolet light.

Average Lifespans of Plumbing Pipes:

  • Galvanized Steel: 20-40 Years
  • Cast Iron: 40-80 Years
  • Brass: 40-80 Years
  • Copper: 50-80 Years
  • PVC: 50-80 Years