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Should You Upgrade Your Plumbing System?

Money October 8, 2019
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Even small pipe issues can lead to huge disasters, and you understandably want to avoid water damage. In an older house, it can be tempting to jump straight to gutting and replacing the plumbing system, but a full upgrade is a large undertaking. While there’s no denying that newer systems perform better, save money in the long run, and add value to a property, they’re not always worth the initial costs. With older homes, it can be especially difficult to calculate the worth of a major project like upgrading a plumbing system. 


Each home will have a host of unique factors contributing to the decision. Here we’ve broken down some of the tell-tale signs that you should (or shouldn’t) go for a plumbing upgrade.  

Signs a Plumbing System Upgrade is Worth the Costs


1. Multiple Repairs are Necessary 


Sometimes it just comes down to numbers. It can be less expensive in the long run to upgrade your plumbing once than to pay for moderate fixes every year. Consider the following points to determine if an upgrade is worth it:


  • Does each repair bring another problem to the surface?
  • Have you needed to repair the same thing more than once?
  • How frequent are the repairs?


2. Your Pipes are Near the End of Their Lifespan


Nothing good lasts forever, especially with an older home. No matter what your pipes are made of, there’s a time limit on how long they’re going to last. Different materials may last longer than others, but ultimately, pipes will wear out. If you know when your pipes were installed and what they are made from, then you can easily calculate how much time they have left. While these numbers are only estimates, they can give you a good idea of whether or not it’s worth it to keep repairing a system, or if it’s smarter to just put in a new one. 


Here are the potential lifespans of common plumbing materials:


  • Copper: 75 years
  • Brass: 100 years
  • Galvanized steel: 100 years
  • PVC: 35 years


Remember, environmental and usage factors can contribute to a shorter pipe lifespan. If your system has been around the block a time or two, it can become a big risk. You’re not only risking your whole system failing at once, but also water damage to your home (and anyone who’s gone through it can attest that getting insurance to pay for water damage can be a huge headache).


3. Your Current System Uses Lead


Although banned from production in the 1980’s, some older homes may still have lead pipes. These should be replaced immediately as they are not safe. Regardless of any other factor, replacing lead pipes should always be a priority. 


4. You’re About to Sell Your Home


An upgraded plumbing system can be a major selling point for a home. An out of date plumbing system can mean lower offers or be a deal breaker all together. With older homes it can be especially important since the age of the building may already make it a tougher sell. Potential home buyers will be on the lookout for things like low water pressure, drainage issues or discoloration. New fixtures like sinks and drains are particularly appealing to buyers. 


Many home buyers are looking for homes with efficient plumbing systems that conserve both water and money. 


Do compare the numbers, though. While updating electrical or plumbing systems is usually a safe bet that yields a relatively high ROI, circumstances like the current state of the market or the amount of work needed can make a plumbing upgrade less viable. 


Warning Signs That an Upgrade May Be a Waste of Money


1. Repairs are Infrequent


If the last time you had a leak was six years ago, then your current system probably still has some good life left in it and you can opt to repair minor problems as they arise. After all, you wouldn’t buy a whole new car after one or two minor dents, so don’t go overboard with your plumbing. 


2. It’s Not Your “Forever” Home


While there can be a benefit to upgrading plumbing before selling your home, it’s not always the right decision. When a problem crops up with your plumbing and you enter into the great “repair or replace” debate, you may consider opting for a cheaper repair if you know your future lies elsewhere. 

3. Your Water Bill is Too High, But Not Enough to Justify Upgrade Costs


It’s that uncomfortable middle ground where you can tell your current plumbing is wasting water, but the numbers just don’t quite justify investing in a new system. In instances like these, smaller solutions are available to help you conserve water without upgrading your plumbing entirely. Sometimes all it takes is a few new, low-flow fixtures. Smart home services like Flo can also help you out. Flo monitors your home’s plumbing for leaks, so you can stay on top of plumbing issues and get the longest possible lifespan out of your system. 


Look at the Numbers


We know nobody gets excited about extra math, but replacing an entire pipe system in the average home can easily soar to upwards of 15,000 dollars depending on location and material costs. It’s important that you sit down and really calculate out how much a replacement will save you, and then compare that to a service estimate. The more data you have, the more informed your decision will be. Living in an old home doesn’t have to mean living with out-of-date plumbing.  

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