Vintage Homes And Vintage Plumbing: What You Need To Know

That darling little house you just bought has the vintage feel you craved. It has original glass work in the front door, original wood floors throughout and maybe even some of the original hardware, like doorknobs and drawer pulls. But all those classic, original-to-the-home features that you love so much probably also mean that something else is original to the home: the plumbing. It's nice, but short-sighted, to assume that because you aren't noticing any leaks in your "vintage" plumbing, that everything is a-okay with your pipes. Read on for some information on spotting potential plumbing warning signs and some ideas for making sure you aren't unprepared if your pipes need some repair work.

 Know Your Type of Pipe

After the 1880's but prior to World War One, most homes were built with galvanized and brass pipes. Brass was often the more expensive choice, so galvanized pipes were more common. The problem with those older galvanized pipes now is that they are more prone to mineral deposits, blocking the flow of the water. Worse yet, they rot away from the inside, a problem seldom seen in brass pipes or the copper piping that came later. 

Knowing what type of pipe you have will allow you to better prepare for any plumbing emergencies you may face. You can breathe a little easier if you have brass or copper. Mineral deposits don't build up in those as much. However, if you have galvanized pipes, you should be on high alert for trouble ahead.

Know Your Warning Signs

It's good to do a quarterly inspection of your pipes. If you notice tiny stalactites on your pipes, you've got a leak. Other things you want to make note of include:

  • Sagging or hanging pipes. The basement is a good place to spot this issue.
  • Debris in your shower or bathtub after you run the water. This is sediment, a sure sign that minerals are collecting in your pipes.
  • Low water pressure, which is potentially also due to mineral build-up and blockage in your pipes.

Know Your Plan

If you have a vintage home with original plumbing, it's just a matter of time before a repair or replacement will be necessary. It's probably best to start squirreling away some money so that when a problem arises, you are prepared. While you may not want to start ripping out perfectly functioning fixtures, what about some of those shut off valves? Replacing those doesn't have to be costly, but being able to shut off the water in an emergency can really save you a lot of money. If you can only afford to replace one valve right away, choose the main valve.

Extra tip: This isn't the time for DIY. Call a plumber to get the job done right. If you DIY your plumbing and you get it wrong, your homeowner's insurance may not cover the damage. See for more help and advice

If you are planning on doing any remodeling to the kitchen or the bathroom, budget in some money for new pipes. You don't want to open up the walls for your remodel, create a perfect kitchen or bathroom and then have to reopen the wall in a year or two for a plumbing problem. Spending a little bit more during your remodel will save you a lot of money and heartache down the road.

Your house is the perfect vintage home you've always wanted, but you should protect your dream by paying close attention to the original plumbing. Taking the steps above can help keep your new home in tip-top shape. Knowing your pipes, inspecting them, watching for warning signs and budgeting for repairs will bring you peace of mind and peace in plumbing.