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 everything you need to know about the state of a home. Although most home inspectors carefully examine each area of a house, there are cases when the electrical, heating, and plumbing systems don’t get the attention they should. 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 home and family.
Understanding the Risks Of Older Pipes in Houston
When it comes to older homes, the most important thing to know is that the freshwater lines, or supply lines, are what really matters. Your discharge lines are not a cause for concern because they only carry waste outward, and they are not pressurized. Conversely, supply lines are always under pressure, which means that if a leak or break occurs, water will continue to drip or flow into your home until you shut off the main supply. Furthermore, 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. Thus, the freshwater lines should be your primary concern.
How Old Is Your Houston Home?
The best way 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 means that lead exposure could be present even if the main lines were not made of lead.
Types of Pipe in Older Houston Homes
Whether you intend to purchase or already live in an older Houston home, there are two pipe materials you should be cautious of. First, is lead piping. Lead is a dangerous heavy metal that can leak into your water supply and over the course of prolonged exposure can lead to a wide range of symptoms. Since lead can cause different health issues, protecting yourself and your family from exposure to lead is extremely important. The easiest way to find out if you have lead pipes in your home is to use a screwdriver or coin to gently scratch the surface of the pipes you have access to. Because lead is a soft material, scratching the pipe with the flat edge of a tool will leave a shiny gray mark behind.
The other common type of piping material you may find in an older Houston home is galvanized steel. Galvanized steel poses a slightly different risk than lead, but it’s 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. While a small amount of rust in the drinking water isn’t a health concern, it can change the color of the water and make it taste metallic. As well, lead particles can attach to galvanized steel and enter your drinking water. Another problem is, as the rust flakes away, the pipe weakens in that spot, which will eventually lead to leaks. You do not want that to happen, as leaky pipes could cause foundation issues and water damage over time.
Finally, it is worth checking out your faucets and fittings for any components made of brass. Brass was cheap to make and easy to work with, but oftentimes it included up to 8% lead during the manufacturing process. While this may seem like an insignificant amount, the risk is still too great to ignore. Because lead can be harmful to human health even at low exposure levels, it’s advisable to replace old pipes and fittings made of lead, galvanized steel, or brass with a safer option, such as PEX.
If you are unsure about the safety of your freshwater lines, we encourage you to contact us as soon as possible! In addition to having your piping system checked, a foundation inspection done by our experienced professionals is another essential part of any home inspection. Not only will our specialists determine what kind of pipes are running through your house, but they’ll also identify foundation problems, allowing you to prevent or, in the worst-case scenario, properly address any structural issues you may have. Call Allied Foundation now at 832-400-6118 to learn more about our foundation inspection and repair services in the Houston-Galveston area!