Should I Repair or Replace My Old Piping?

Your plumbing system is one of the most important systems in your home. In addition to ensuring that water gets to where it needs to go, your plumbing pipes also carry wastewater and solid waste away from your home. Therefore, your plumbing pipes undergo a ton of stress, wear, and tear and aren’t going to last forever.

Once your old plumbing pipes start to have issues, you have two options – repair or replace. It can be tough to know which option is right for you since it’s natural to want to get the most use possible out of your plumbing system. Additionally, because replacing pipes is more expensive than repairing them, your budget will likely be a factor.

If you have old plumbing pipes with issues and you’re debating between repairing or replacing them, you’ve come to the right place. This article will examine when it’s appropriate to do one or the other, as well as how to determine what the right option is for you.

Signs You Need to Repair or Replace Your Plumbing Pipes

One of the keys to deciding between repairing or replacing your old pipes is to spot signs of damage. Here are some signs you’re having plumbing issues and need to take corrective action.


Leaking pipes can happen for a wide range of reasons, some of which you can repair. In other cases, however, your leaking pipes will need to be replaced, depending on the severity of the leak.


Corrosion on the outside of pipes on residential plumbing systems is another sign that you have pipe problems. Corrosion typically happens when there is a slow leak, and the water gets exposed to oxygen. Corrosion is common on copper, brass, and galvanized steel pipes and will have a bluish tint on the pipe surface.

Low Water Pressure

Several problems can lead to low water pressure. In many instances, however, it’s because you have a clog in your pipes that is slowing down the flow of water. This is especially common with galvanized pipes because they can corrode from the inside out. When this happens, tiny pieces of the pipe break off and block water flow.

Slow Drainage

In the same way that water supply lines can get clogged, drain pipes can get clogged as well. When a drain pipe gets clogged, water from your sinks, bathtubs, showers, and toilets will drain slower than normal. Slow drainage is most common with cast iron pipes because they corrode from the inside out. As with galvanized pipes, small chunks of the pipe break off and cause clogs.

Visible Cracking

Finally, if you see visible cracks on your plumbing pipes, you definitely have a problem. While it might seem like all cracked pipes must be replaced, this isn’t always true. Small cracks are repairable, while larger cracks warrant at least a partial replacement.

Average Life Expectancy of Plumbing Pipes

Age and date of installation are the first things to consider when you’re debating about repairing or replacing your pipes. As you’re considering this, it’s important to understand that there are different pipe materials, and they have different lifespans. Here’s a quick rundown:

  • Galvanized steel pipes last for 30 to 40 years
  • Brass pipes last 30 to 50 years
  • Copper pipes last 60 to 75 years
  • Cast iron pipes last 60 to 80 years
  • Pex pipes last 50 to 70 years
  • PVC pipes last up to 100 years

Each of these estimations is an average, but it’s the timeline that plumbers will use when recommending whether or not it’s worth repairing or replacing your pipes.

Repair or Replace: Factors to Consider

Now that you know the average lifespan of different piping materials and problems to watch out for, let’s look at how to choose between repairing and replacing your old plumbing pipes.

The Age of Your Pipes

The age of your pipes is the first thing that plumbers will look at when they advise you to repair or replace your pipes. If they are within five years of the age brackets listed above, your plumber will likely recommend replacing them. The only time they won’t is if this is the first issue your pipes have had, and they’re otherwise in good shape.

What Your Current Pipes Are Made of

Another important factor to consider is what your current pipes are made of. If you have a home that’s more than 30 years old, there’s a very good chance your supply lines consist of rigid copper pipe or galvanized steel while your drain lines are made of cast iron.

If you have issues with your cast iron pipes, it’s a good idea to strongly consider replacing them. The same goes for galvanized steel pipes or metal pipes aside from copper. Additionally, if you have lead pipes, you should replace them as soon as possible, whether they’re damaged or not.

How Often You Need Repairs

If it feels like you’re on the phone every other day with your plumber scheduling repairs, you should strongly consider replacing your piping system. If, however, you’ve only had one or two problems and your pipes are well within their average lifespan, you can hold off on replacing them and make a repair instead.

Water Discoloration

Discolored water is potentially a massive health hazard! Therefore, you should contact your local utility company if your water looks cloudy or otherwise discolored. If there isn’t a city-wide problem and the discoloration is unique to you, you likely have a pipe issue. Most plumbers will recommend a pipe replacement because you should never take chances with discoloration.

Pipe Replacement Vs. Repair Cost Comparison

As with all things, your budget will play a role in whether you repair or replace your pipes. A whole-house pipe replacement project can cost anywhere from $5,000 to $20,000, whereas a repair is typically much cheaper. However, if you’ve been having ongoing problems and are racking up the repair bills, a pipe replacement might be cheaper in the long run.

Benefits of Replacing Pipes With New Ones

If you’re still on the fence about whether to repair or replace your old pipes, here are some benefits of replacing them.

Peace of Mind

One of the biggest advantages of replacing old pipes is that it offers peace of mind. No longer will you have to worry about when the next leak or problem will appear. New, properly installed plumbing pipes will likely last the rest of your life, which means one less thing to worry about.

You May Save Money

In addition to saving money on repair bills, new plumbing pipes could result in lower utility bills. Modern pipes are designed to operate more efficiently than older ones, and water can flow more easily through them. As such, washing the dishes, taking a shower, flushing the toilet, and other everyday tasks will require less water.

An Improved Plumbing System

Thanks to huge improvements in plumbing materials, modern plumbing pipes have very few issues and are built to last much longer than old plumbing pipes. PVC and PEX, which are two of the most commonly used plumbing materials, are built to last and require very little ongoing maintenance.

The Healthier Option

Even if you don’t see visible discoloration or particles in your water, that doesn’t mean it’s clean and healthy. Water supply contamination is a huge problem in older pipes, so replacing them is always the safer option.

Better For Resale

Finally, if you’re thinking about putting your house on the market, new plumbing pipes are a huge benefit in terms of resale value. When someone buys a house, they’ll pay a little extra if they know they won’t have plumbing issues in the foreseeable future.

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