how long does plumbing last - drawing of pipes and fixtures

How Long Does Plumbing Last? (From Pipes to Fixtures!)

A home’s plumbing system isn’t meant to last forever. We run across new and old pipes and fixtures every day in our world. Whether they’ve been neglected or meticulously maintained, they seem to have a life of their own.

The best you way to answer, “How long does plumbing last?” is to go by experience. So, that’s what we’re going to do here.

From the main types of pipe materials to key plumbing fixtures, here’s what we’ve learned about longevity from visiting (then repairing and replacing) thousands of homes across the country every day.

How Long Does Plumbing Last – Pipes

The pipe used for plumbing inside a house varies depending on the house’s age and when the material was placed.

1. Copper Pipe

Copper is the most commonly used material for plumbing pipes in a home. It is a long-lasting material that can survive for 40 to 50 years before needing to be replaced.

Copper pipes are the color of pennies and, due to oxidation, are often greenish. These pipes have a long lifespan, but due to a variety of reasons, they are often susceptible to corrosion. 

The corrosion is easy to spot since its bright green color contrasts sharply with the pipe’s metal. A small amount of corrosion is typical, but you should monitor the pipe segment or contact a specialist if you notice a large quantity.

how long does plumbing last - copper pipe
Copper pipe is the professional plumber’s choice for many water supply pipe applications. It has a great look (similar to brass), has a long lifespan, and highly reliable when fitted correctly by a professional.

2. Steel Pipe

Galvanized steel has a reliable lifespan of about 40 to 50 years. But we’ve noticed in cast last as little as 20 years. This material is used and found most often in older homes and only rarely in modern home construction.

The color of galvanized steel pipes, as well as a magnet test, make them easy to spot. If the magnet does not respond, it is recommended to look into it right away to make sure it isn’t in fact a lead pipe. Due to tension, steel pipes may develop corrosion or fissures. The physical indications are clear and should not be overlooked.

how long does plumbing last - galvanized steel pipe

3. PVC Pipe

Most PVC piping (a type of plastic pipe) has a life expectancy of at least 75 years. PVC pipes are incredibly durable and rarely develop problems.

Factors that can lead to leaks in the future include too much pressure in the pipes or on the pipes, slight natural movements in the house that puts stress on the joints, and an improperly fitted joint that leaks.

PVC tubing - types of plumbing pipes
PVC pipe is commonly used in modern construction. It is lightweight and poses no health risks. And it lasts a long time, up to 75 years.

4. Brass Pipe

Brass pipes have an average lifespan of more than 50 years. Most installations that use them are already fairly old and should be inspected on a regular basis to avoid mishaps.

Brass resembles copper in appearance and has subsequently been phased out in favor of copper. It is similar to copper, except it is less flexible and does not corrode, making it more difficult to detect symptoms of stress unless there is a noticeable leak.

These are brass fittings, used to connect “runs” of brass pipe. Because resembles copper but is less flexible than copper, it is no longer as popular as copper.

5. Lead Pipe

A lead pipe will last up to 100 years. But that’s not what’s important. If you have lead pipes, replace them immediately. When lead leaches into the water supply, it becomes toxic to humans. This is a serious health issue that requires repiping the entire house with safer materials.

lead pipes - Lead
Lead is toxic to humans when it enters the water supply. We strongly encourage you to read our article on lead pipes that will tell you everything you need to know.

How Long Does Plumbing Last – Fixtures

1. Water Heaters

A water heater’s lifespan is determined mostly by its model and fuel type.

  • The average lifespan of a gas storage tank water heater is 10 years.
  • Electric storage tank water heaters have an average lifespan of 11 years.
  • Tankless water heaters can have up to a 20-year lifespan.

Keep in mind that if you flush your storage tank water heater on a regular basis, it can last longer than ten years. Flushing is also required for tankless water heaters. Neglecting to flush away the mineral deposits (sediment) that accumulate inside the unit can reduce its efficiency and lifespan.

Make sure to flush your water heater about once a year so it operates at peak efficiency.

2. Sewer Lines

To reach the city sewer system, everything that goes down a drain in your home must pass through your home’s sewer line.

Residential sewer lines are typically composed of PVC or ABS nowadays. PVC pipes are more flexible than ABS pipes, but ABS pipes are more durable. These pipelines can endure up to 100 years beneath the soil, despite some problems such as roots and changing terrain.

You also might have a sewer line made of clay, cast iron, or even Orangeburg if you reside in an older neighborhood. Orangeburg has the shortest life, lasting between 30 and 50 years. Cast iron pipes last 75 to 100 years. Clay pipes last 50 to 60 years.

clay or terra cotta sewer pipes - vitrified clay sewer pipe (VCP)
Although clay sewer lines last about 50-60 years, they can crack easily. They are seen mostly in older home construction.

3. Sinks

Similarly to pipes, the material you use indicates how long your sink will last.

  • Porcelain: These sinks will last 25 to 30 years before they need to be “refinished,” which restores their original appearance. These sinks may, in essence, survive as long as you want them to.
  • Enamel Steel: Enamel steel sinks are made of stainless steel with an enamel covering. They last 5 to 10 years if used regularly.
  • Stainless Steel: Stainless steel sinks can last anywhere from 15 to 30 years.
  • Soapstone: Soapstone sinks are incredibly long-lasting and can last for over a century.
bathroom sink pop-up drain with running water
Porcelain is a great sink material as it has a life of about 25 to 30 years. But they can be refinished, which adds to their lifespan.

4. Faucets

Thankfully, you don’t always have to replace the entire fixture if your faucet isn’t working properly. It may be necessary to replace a worn-out washer or a broken cartridge.

However, faucets do need to be replaced at some point. Faucets on the bathroom sink, tub, and shower should last at least 20 years. Kitchen faucets are subjected to more wear and tear, and they typically last 15 years.

faucet tips - separate spray
Faucets can be cheap or expensive. And they can last a long time, but often longer than they should. We get called out to fix faucets all the time, due to being prone to leaks and mechanical wear and tear. So don’t be surprised if they don’t last as long as they’re supposed to.

5. Toilets

A toilet does not need to be replaced until it develops a major crack in the tank or bowl. Its internal components may need to be adjusted or replaced from time to time. Many people, however, choose to change their toilets not only for aesthetic reasons, but also to save water.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), replacing old, inefficient toilets with WaterSense labeled models can save nearly 13,000 gallons of water per year for the average household.

how long does plumbing last - toilet
Most toilets are sturdy companions and can last a lifetime unless they crack…or you just want more modern features.

6. Showerheads

Shower heads, in principle, should last a lifetime. If you reside in a region with hard water, on the other hand, the limescale that accumulates inside the fixture might start to cause problems in just a few years. Give your shower head an overnight soak in white vinegar and clean it with a brush to lengthen its life.

how long does plumbing last - shower head
Shower heads are simple mechanisms that can last a lifetime. Hard water is their main nemesis. To clean them and keep them functioning, place the head in a bag of vinegar for a couple of hours, then wash off and put back.

Final Thoughts

Most homes have a diverse range of plumbing systems, making it difficult to keep track of everything. At least once every 5 years, we recommend consulting a plumber for a checkup. You can considerably reduce the likelihood of any unforeseen difficulties developing by performing routine maintenance and inspections.

Call 1-Tom-Plumber

Don’t hesitate to contact us here or call us at 1-Tom-Plumber (1-866-758-6237) if you need help understanding how long plumbing lasts in your home.

1-Tom-Plumber’s certified team of plumbers and drain technicians respond immediately to any emergency plumbing, drain cleaning, or water damage problem. We also handle the excavation of underground water lines and sewer main lines. Our immediate-response team is available every day and night of the year, even on holidays.

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