The bulk of people out there live in homes that were built before 2000. On the surface, this isn’t a huge issue, as most components are perfectly serviceable. However, serviceable can also mean outdated, which is technically the case with traditional cast iron plumbing versus modern plastic plumbing. Cast iron plumbing, on paper, is extremely effective, lasting from 80-100 years, and durable enough to handle heavy water pressure. Part of the issue, though, is that for those older homes, that cast iron plumbing may be reaching the end of its natural lifespan. In addition, there are external factors that may cause this plumbing to wear out even faster than that. Here are some things to look out for.
One of the basic things that happens with age in cast iron plumbing is the development of a crust of “tubercules.” This is internal rust that forms inside the pipes, slowing the flow of water and eventually contributing to corrosion. Corrosion can manifest in a lot of different ways, from long horizontal cracks to pipes being blocked or having certain segments erode away. In general, this is a natural part of the aging process.
Another potential cause of rust that is inherent to waste lines is hydrogen sulfide gas. This is a natural byproduct of what runs through waste lines, but can produce sulfuric acid, which will corrode cast iron. Some drain cleaners contain this as well, but we will reach that topic in a moment. In other cases, you may end up having issues with your cast iron plumbing for something completely out of your control, like the growth of roots near your pipes outside. Older trees may end up endangering the health of your pipes, so it may pay to learn where your pipes are located and see if any older trees are nearby. In addition, some soil composition in some areas is inherently acidic, another potential threat to your pipes.
In some cases, though, certain acts on the part of the homeowner may end up speeding up the deterioration of cast iron plumbing. One thing that a lot of experts talk about is washing certain items down the drain. These include things like:
- Acidic soils
- Drain chemicals
In many cases, the issues boil down to chemical reactions. We already talked about how gases can develop in piping from regular use, but putting in things like chemicals or bleach can lead to further reactions and gas release. On top of this, it may end up clogging up the drain. If you plan on using a household chemical to try and clean or unclog the drain, try looking out for environmentally friendly options. These not only help the environment, but are less likely to cause piping problems.
A similar situation happens with excessive cooking grease. Unlike other biological components, grease doesn’t break down over time. This can lead to clogs and unpleasant odors from the drain, and in time, cause excessive wear and tear on the pipes.
When it comes to the health of your cast iron plumbing, it’s going to be difficult to pin down these issues, so the best thing you can do is try and be proactive. Before leaks or major plumbing problems, you may notice occasional odors, slow draining, or indentations. In some cases, you may also see some indirect signs of plumbing trouble, like a rodent infestation or a lawn that look extra healthy—despite the fact that you’re not doing anything special for it.
Cast iron plumbing, in theory, is a long-lived component of your home’s water system. However, as you can see, there are a number of issues that may result in you needing to replace it before its time. When you’re caught in this situation, the best course of action is to call up the top Miami plumbers to get service before this causes additional problems. Hernandez Plumbing is a 3rd generation family-owned business that’s been around since 1972. Among our many other services in the Miami area, we can help replace any corroded or leaking cast iron plumbing, as well as target the issue that caused it to wear out faster in the first place.