When buying an older home in Houston, there is a lot you need to watch out for. That is why a proper home inspection is a crucial part of the buying process. But even a complete inspection may not tell you about the state of your existing plumbing. If you are buying, or already own, an older Houston home, here are a few things you need to know about the safety of your freshwater lines and how they will impact your family.
How Old is Your Home?
The best place to start investigating your freshwater lines is by knowing the age of your home. Lead pipes were still in use up until 1986, and even where lead was not used, galvanized steel was very common. Even after lead pipes themselves were banned, the use of lead solder and brass fittings meant that there continues to be lead exposure even if the main lines are not made of lead.
Understanding the Risks
Once you know the age of your home, you will have a better idea of what you're looking for going forward. There are several different types of pipes that you should be watching for. Plus, it's important to know that the freshwater lines, or supply lines, are what really matters here. Your discharge lines are not a cause for concern because they only carry waste outward, and they are not pressurized. Meanwhile, your supply lines are responsible for bringing fresh water into your home, and if they are contaminated, it means that the water you drink and cook with is also contaminated. Furthermore, supply lines are always under pressure, which means that if a leak or break occurs, they will pour water into your home until you can shut off the main supply. Thus, the freshwater lines should be your primary concern.
Types of Pipe
There are two main materials that you should be cautious of with your freshwater lines. First, is lead piping. Lead is a dangerous heavy metal that can leach into your water supply, and over the course of prolonged exposure can poison the body. Lead poisoning results in a wide range of symptoms, but is most pronounced in the form of developmental delays in children. Protecting yourself and your children from lead pipes is extremely important, and the best way to do so is to inspect your lines for matte gray pipes. If you see a pipe that may be made of lead, you can use a small screwdriver to gently scratch the surface. Lead piping is particularly soft, and when you scratch it, it will leave behind a shiny gray mark. If you confirm that there are lead pipes present in your home, you should take immediate action.
The other common type of piping you will see in older Houston homes is galvanized steel. Galvanized steel poses a slightly different risk than lead, but is still dangerous. Steel tends to rust over time, which means that flakes of rust could be breaking off from the inside of your pipes and getting into your drinking supply. Rusty metal exposes you to things like tetanus and other illnesses. Plus, as the rust flakes away, the pipe weakens in that spot, which will eventually lead to leaks on the pressure side of your system. You do not want this.
Finally, it is worth checking out your faucets and fittings for signs of brass. Brass was cheap to make and easy to work with, but oftentimes it included up to 8% lead during manufacture. While this may seem like an insignificant amount, the risk is still too great to ignore.
If you are unsure about the safety and quality of your freshwater lines, we encourage you to contact Allied Foundation today. We can go all the way to the slab to determine what kind of pipes are running through your house, and whether or not their age is a reason for concern in the immediate future. Contact us today to learn more.