Your home’s plumbing system can easily become worn out, either as a result of age or lack of maintenance. When this happens, it can potentially cause damage to your furniture and even your property. Homeowners in this situation are faced with the choice of either repairing the faulty plumbing system or replacing it completely.

Some minor plumbing problems - such as a clogged drain or leaky pipe - can easily be repaired if you’re fairly adept with tools, whereas other faults may need to be looked at by a knowledgeable and experienced plumber. However, in the event of a major problem with your home plumbing, the following tips will help you with your decision to repair or replace.  

Lifespan of your pipes

One factor that can help you decide whether to repair or replace is the condition and lifespan of your pipes. Although pipes don’t last forever, they are durable, with their longevity depending on the material. For instance, copper and cast iron pipes can last anywhere from 80 to 100 years. Brass and galvanised steel can last up to 50 years, while PVC pipes have been known to last between 20 and 40 years. Though this might seem impressive, you need to understand that some factors can actually cut short their lifespan; for example, how the pipes are installed (if they are insulated), the use of chemical cleaners and the quality of water.  

You need to first determine the material used in making the pipes that make up your plumbing system, then calculate exactly how usage (if any) they have left. Considering that the pipes will be concealed behind walls, you might want to refer to the paperwork that came with your house or plumbing installation.

If your pipes are quite old, then it will be prudent to change them completely - especially if they have long passed their expected lifespan. Conversely, just because they’re old doesn’t mean they all have to be replaced. In some cases, changing components such as joints, fittings and fixtures will probably solve the problem. However, if you happen to have PVC or lead pipes, you might be best to replace them regardless. Lead can contaminate your drinking water and PVC pipes are extremely prone to leakage.

Failing plumbing

There is a huge difference between a plumbing system that is failing and one that is simply faulty. Although an inconvenience, a faulty plumbing system will not require a complete overhaul, but how can you tell if what you have is a fault or a fail?

There are some obvious signs that your plumbing system is failing, including corrosion, cracks and leaks from pipes. Because these pipes are concealed, you might not be able to see these cracks and leakages. However, a good pointer will be when you find damp patches in areas where the pipes are likely located, such as behind the sinks or dishwasher. Another obvious sign of failing pipes are discolorations on the walls, as a result of constant leakage.

Also, when you notice that there is rust in your water, this is an obvious sign of corrosion or decay in pipes. This typically happens when you turn on your tap first thing in the morning or for the first time in a while.

Another sign of failing plumbing is when repairing becomes a tough ordeal - whether for you or a professional plumber. When you try to fix a fault, you commonly end up detecting another one. This means there is more elaborate damage somewhere that you’re yet to notice and is an indication that the time is right for a plumbing overhaul.

A good rule of thumb is to replace plumbing when you carry out extensive work in your kitchen, bathroom or basement, as the pipes can be exposed when the walls are removed.

Whatever you decide, make sure to get the opinion of an expert, so that you can be sure you’re doing the right thing. You will no doubt find several qualified plumbers nearby, but if you’re based in London, the contact details of a could prove invaluable.

If it ain’t broke…

Though apt for many scenarios, the popular slogan “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” might not apply to your home plumbing.  According to Frank Finn, a professional plumber in Richmond, “certain plumbing related fixtures in your home, such as toilets, might not be broke, but the improved efficiency you’ll get from making a general upgrade will be well worth the investment.” So you do not have to wait until they go bad. Many of these fixtures are inexpensive to replace and will save you money in the long run if you replace them, rather than trying to fix them (if indeed you do discover they are problematic).


  1. avatar
    Kenneth Martin

    Experienced and professional in-house writer Ken has written for several publications and has a passion for housing, finance and mortgage news. He has developed an expertise in international real estate news and enjoys extending his knowledge to the regions that cover.