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Updating Plumbing: Know When to Upgrade Your Pipes

Out of sight and out of mind. That is usually the case with the pipes in your house. You can’t see them, so how can you be expected to know when you need to update your pipes. When it comes to updating plumbing, a pipe upgrade can have a huge impact on your quality of life.

Updating Plumbing – Upgrading Your Pipes

When it comes to updating plumbing in your home there are many different options available. A new tap or shower head may seem like obvious choices. Maybe even a low-flow toilet to save water. But one of the plumbing upgrades that is often overlooked is an upgrade to the home’s pipes. The home’s pipes are its lifeline carrying the vital resource that is water to all the important places in the house. When the pipes are in top order, the water flows cleanly and smoothly, but pipes wear out and that can cause problems in your water supply.

The Two Types of Pipes in Your House and Their Life Spans

For housing pipes, there are two types – supply pipes and drain pipes. Supply pipes provide water to your home. Whenever you turn on a tap the water that comes out is coming from a supply pipe. Drain pipes are the opposite of supply pipes, as they carry waste water away from your home and to the sewage system or septic system. Supply pipes and drain pipes can be made of a number of different materials each with their own expected lifespan. Here are some of the most common materials that we run into.

  • Copper – A very popular choice for plumbing pipes, especially supply pipes. Copper has an intrinsic property that gives it natural defences against bacterial growth, making it ideal for supplying clean drinking water. Copper pipes will usually last 70-80 years.
  • Galvanised Steel – These pipes were common in Australia until the 1960s. They are made out of steel that has been galvanised with a layer of zinc to protect the pipe from corrosion. They typically last 80-100 years.
  • Cast Iron – Cast iron is very strong, but older pipes have a tendency to rust. For this reason, they were more often used in drain pipes, but occasionally they can be found in older homes as supply pipes. Their expected lifespan is 80-100 years.
  • PVC – These plastic pipes are extremely common in modern homes. They are easy to work with and affordable. The downside is they have a relatively short lifespan of 25-40 years.
  • Clay – Vitrified clay pipes are constructed from a blend of shale and clay, which makes them very strong. They are not commonly used today, but they were in the past, especially as drainage pipes. They tend to last 50-60 years.
  • Lead – In Australia lead has never been a common material used in home pipes, unlike in Europe and the US. But it is possible that a very old home could have lead piping. If that is the case then the pipes need to be immediately replaced, as lead is an extreme health and safety hazard.

Signs Your Pipes Need Replacing

Pipes can be difficult for you to inspect to determine their condition and if they need to be replaced. However, there are some signs that you can be on the lookout for that are an indicator that your pipes may be in need of replacement. Here of the signs of aging pipes.


The water from your tap should be clear. If the water has any discolouration that means there is something in the path the water takes to your tap that is adding impurities to it. This is usually from corrosion in old iron-based pipes, such as cast iron pipes or galvanised pipes. It looks bad and you don’t want your family drinking rusty water. Discolouration is a sign you need to get your pipes checked out.

Water Tastes Unpleasant

Sometimes the water will look just fine but have a strange taste to it. The taste could be metallic, bitter, or just unpleasant. When water leaves the water purification plant it has been cleaned and purified, so there is something in your pipes that it giving it that taste. It could be corrosion or bacterial growth. It’s a good idea to call a professional plumber if you notice your water having an odd taste.

Low Water Pressure

You can tell a lot about the condition your pipes are in by the amount of water pressure you get out of the shower or taps. There are a number of different causes of low water pressure, but a main cause is some sort of obstruction in the pipes. One such cause of this obstruction can be calcium deposits that have built up over the decades. These deposits are not an easy fix and require replacing the pipes. New pipes are a plumbing upgrade that will do wonders for your home’s water pressure.

Drains Frequently Clogged

So far, we’ve discussed problems that commonly occur with supply pipes, but drain pipes are not immune to aging problems. If your sink or tub frequently become clogged or drain slowly, that can be a sign of a drainage pipe problem. Cooking fats, hair, and other nasty things can build up in drainage pipes over time slowing them down when they do their draining work. This happens more frequently with older pipes, as corrosion can increase the rate of this kind of fatty build up. If you have problems with your drains not working well, call a plumber to see if the pipes can be unclogged or if the pipes need to be replaced.

Problems with Exposed Pipes

Most pipes in your home are hidden under the floors or in the walls. It is possible that you could have some exposed piping in the garage or in the basement. If that is the case then you can visually inspect those pipes to see if there is anything out of the ordinary. Causes for concern could be stains, leaks, flaking, dimpling, or swelling. All of these are signs of corrosion or immanent pipe failure. If you see anything like this on your exposed pipes chances are your unexposed pipes have similar issues and need to be replaced.


If you live in an old home and you’ve never had any problems with your plumbing, it doesn’t mean that your pipes don’t need to be upgraded. Pipes age and wear out. Old pipes can break, leading to a catastrophic water leak that can cause serious damage to your home. If you’re home is particularly old and of historical importance then the results of a water leak could be especially devastating. Get your old home’s pipes checked and upgrade them accordingly. You’ll be glad you did.

Updating Plumbing? – Who to Call?

If you’re looking into plumbing upgrades, such as updating your pipes, you definitely want to work with the best plumber available. Akins Plumbing has been providing Brisbane plumbing and gas services for more than 40 years. We specialise in residential plumbing upgrades and plumbing maintenance services. We are the plumbers you can trust and depend on. For more information please give us a call on (07) 3891 7480, or you can get in touch online. You can also e-mail us at with quote and service requests or for general enquiries.

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