How To Extend the Lifespan of Your Cast Iron Pipes?

It’s a rainy Saturday afternoon, and you’re cozied up on the couch with a hot cup of tea, engrossed in your favorite movie. Suddenly, you hear a gurgling sound echoing from the walls, followed by a foul odor that invades your living room.

Panic sets in as you realize it’s yet another plumbing disaster caused by your aging cast iron pipes. But fear not! In this post, we’ll reveal the secrets to extending the lifespan of your cast iron pipes and keeping your plumbing system functioning smoothly for years to come.

When it comes to household plumbing, cast iron pipes have long been the workhorses. Yet, over time, they can succumb to corrosion, leading to leaks, blockages, and costly repairs. But with a little knowledge and proactive care, you can delay the inevitable and ensure your cast iron pipes stand the test of time.

Cast iron pipes can last up to 100 years. To get the longest life out of your cast iron pipes, there are several maintenance steps homeowners can follow.

You can extend the lifespan of your cast iron pipes by keeping them clean and clog-free. Avoiding chemical cleaners is also a great way to preserve the integrity of cast iron. Additional steps homeowners can take include adding water softeners to their water and flushing their water heaters.

Regularly inspecting your cast iron pipes and using proper cleaning methods will extend their lifespan. This will keep money in your pocket and protect your home from costly repairs and plumbing replacements.

How Long Do Cast Iron Pipes Last?

If maintained well, cast iron pipes can last 80-100 years. Cast iron pipes are most commonly found in older homes. 

There are several benefits to having cast iron pipes, including sound-proof plumbing. However, over time cast iron erodes. It is impossible to completely prevent the erosion of your cast iron pipes, but there are several steps you can take to extend their lifetime.

How to Extend the Life of Your Cast Iron Pipes?

You can extend the life of your cast iron pipes by keeping them clean and clear of clogs. Chemicals will corrode cast iron pipes, so using environmentally friendly cleaners will make them last longer. There are additional options to preserve your cast iron pipes like properly insulating them and using water softeners.

Regularly Clean Your Pipes

Sediment builds up on cast iron pipes more quickly than PVC and copper pipes. Build-up within your pipes will cause water to run more slowly and keep water in the pipes longer. It can also lead to clogs.

Furthermore, the acid in water eats away at the cast iron. Water sitting in the pipes will expedite the erosion process. Cleaning your cast iron pipes regularly will lessen the effects of acidic water.

Plumbers offer professional pipe cleaning services that use high-pressure jets to remove sediment along the inside of the pipe walls. There are also environmentally safe, chemical-free cleaners that can be purchased and flushed down the pipes.

Use Natural Drain Cleaners

Chemicals erode cast iron. Avoid using chemical declogging agents like Drano if you have cast iron pipes. The best way to address a clog is to use a snake or auger to break apart the debris causing the clog. If you cannot access the clog or pipe, you may have to use a drain cleaner. If that is the case, make sure to pick one that is environmentally safe with minimal or no chemical additives.

It is also a good idea to use natural cleaners when cleaning sinks, bathtubs, and showers. When you wash away the cleaner, it goes through your cast iron pipes. Therefore, using cleaners with bleach or other harsh chemicals can also negatively affect your cast iron pipes.

Insulate Your Pipes For Winter

Insulating your cast iron pipes will help regulate their temperature. As the weather changes from hot to cold, this can cause expansion or shrinkage to the pipes and fittings in your home. Insulating the pipes will help regulate the temperature to prevent these shifts that could cause damage. 

Common choices for pipe insulation are polyethylene foam. Polyethylene foam is sold in various diameters and fits around your pipes. They help to hold in heat. Be sure to measure the diameter of your cast iron pipes before purchasing foam. You may need to special order the appropriate size for your cast iron pipes since they tend to be larger than PVC or copper pipes. 

Polyethylene foam is usually available in 7ft lengths. You will need multiple pieces to cover the entire length of your pipe. Use foil pipe insulation tape to connect different sections of polyethylene foam. The foil tape will trap in heat and ensure a snug connection between coverings. 

Regularly Unclog Your Drains

Cast iron pipes are prone to sediment build-up. As sediment gets more and more built up, water flow is constricted and there is a higher chance of clogs. 

Address clogs in your cast iron pipes quickly. Attempt to remove blockages with drain snakes or augers. These are available in large lengths and are the best choice for unclogging pipes. Do not use a de-clogger unless it is absolutely necessary. If you do choose to use one, pick an all-natural formula. Never send chemicals through your cast iron pipes.

Large clogs may require the help of a professional plumber. Clearing clogs safely will preserve your cast iron pipes.

Install a Water Softener

Water softeners work by breaking down build-up in pipes. Soft water will absorb hard minerals like iron and magnesium. The process is slow but effective. Begin using a water softener as soon as you move into a home with cast iron pipes. The sooner you start, the faster you will see results.

Eliminating calcium from iron and magnesium build-ups will help keep your pipes clean and prevent clogs. 

Flush Your Water Heater Regularly

Sediment can build up in your water heater. Flushing it regularly will help keep it clean, improve its efficiency, and extend the life of your cast iron pipes. It is simple to flush your water heater. You do not need anything other than a garden hose and vinegar.

Step 1: Create a safe workspace

Before you flush the water heater, make sure to disconnect the power source from the heater. Then, turn off the water. The shut-off valve is usually located on the top of the water heater.

Step 2: Hook up the garden hose and drain

Connect the garden hose to the valve and open it. The water will flow out of the water heater. If there is a lot of sediment build-up in the water heater, this may be a slow process.

Step 3: Check the inside of the water heater

If there is a lot of sediment in your water heater, pour a gallon of white vinegar into it. Let the white vinegar sit in the water heater for 6 hours. This will help break down the sediment. Make sure you close off the water valve so the vinegar doesn’t flow out.

Step 4: Flush the water heater

Turn the water back on so it can flow into the heater. Turn on the closest hot water tap. Allow the water heater to fill and drain. 

Step 5: Let the water heater fill up naturally

Once the water heater is flushed, close up the water release valve, turn the water supply on, and reconnect the power to the water heater. Once refilled, your water heater will have been flushed.

Flushing your water heater prevents sediment from traveling from the water heater into your cast iron pipes. It also allows your water heater to work more efficiently. Depending on the sediment levels in your water heater, you will want to flush it 2-3 times per year.

Keep Up With Regular Maintenance

Cast iron pipes are not designed to last forever. As they age, small issues will crop up including minor leaks and cracks. Regularly inspecting your cast iron pipes will ensure you find problems quickly and can fix them before they become a bigger problem.

Cracks and leaks can be easily fixed by using waterproof export sealant and rust-preventative paint. These repairs are easy to DIY and are inexpensive. 

Form a regular schedule of cleaning and inspecting your cast iron pipes to extend the lifetime of your plumbing. 

How Much Does It Cost To Repair Your Cast Iron Pipes?

Repairs on cast iron pipes can range from easy and cheap to extremely expensive. Catching issues early is the best way to prevent costly repairs. 

Small cracks and leaks are repaired with waterproof epoxy. The top brand for repairing cast iron pipes is J-B Weld 8265S Original Cold-Weld Steel Reinforced Epoxy. It is just $5.99 on Amazon and is also easily found at most hardware stores. After applying the epoxy, adding rust-preventive primer and waterproof enamel paint from Rustoleum will seal the repair. The primer is Rust-Oleum Rust Inhibitor 10.25-Ounce Spray and the paint is Rust-Oleum Professional High-Performance Enamel Spray Paint, Gloss Black.

You can also hire a professional to fix your cast iron pipes. Simple repairs start at $255. However, factors like accessibility and the size of the damage can affect the price. 

If you find a serious problem with your pipes like multiple leaks, large cracks, and heavy rust, contact a professional plumber to find the best option for your budget. Usually, it is recommended to replace severely damaged cast iron pipes. Depending on the size of the pipe, this can cost thousands of dollars.

How To Know When You Need to Replace Your Cast Iron Pipes

Regular maintenance and inspection of your cast iron pipes will help identify any issues. However, severe problems with your cast iron pipes can be identified by smell, discolored water, draining issues, and water or sewage backups. 

While cast iron pipes can last up to a century, they do need to be replaced eventually. It is important to replace them as soon as major problems arise to prevent damage to the rest of your home.

Slow Drainage

If your water is draining slowly, it might be time to replace your cast iron pipes. Check to see if there is a clog first. If there is not a clog in the pipe, you are probably dealing with a more serious issue. 

Lots of small leaks and cracks throughout the cast iron pipe can cause slow draining. Heavy sediment build-up can also reduce the amount of water that can flow through the pipes. If the build-up is too much and the integrity of the pipe is compromised, it will not be able to be cleaned. 

Call in a plumber to assess the situation and see if there is a repair option before deciding on a complete replacement of your cast iron pipes.

Bad Smell From Pipes

If you are experiencing a strong sulfur odor that resembles rotten eggs coming from your pipes, it may be time to replace them. Sewer gases should be trapped in your pipes and undetectable. If sewer gases are leaking into your home, there is an issue with the integrity of your cast iron pipes. It usually means there are cracks in the fittings or pipes. 

Sewer gases are toxic and should not be breathed in. Once you detect a foul odor, call in a professional. 

Frequent Leaks

Patching a leak here or it is easy to do with cast iron pipes. Unfortunately, once you repair one, there are usually 10 more on the horizon. Cast iron pipes are usually installed at the same time. That means if one is eroding, the others are too. If you are experiencing a lot of leaks, it is time to replace your cast iron pipes. DIY repairs will no longer solve the problem.

If you suddenly notice a lot of mold on your walls or baseboards, you probably have a plumbing leak. As the pipes leak into the walls and floor mold grows. When mold is present, there is probably a large leak and it is time to replace your cast iron pipes.

Discolored Water

Discolored water can be caused by several factors including contaminated well water and a dirty hot water heater. If you eliminate both of those causes and still end up with brown or orange water, the problem is in your cast iron pipes.

Cast iron is known to rust. Discolored water from cast iron pipes is probably rust flaking off the inner walls of the pipes and mixing into the water. 

Unfortunately, there isn’t a repair for rusted pipes. Rust is a sign of deterioration. The walls of the pipes are weakened and most likely close to severe cracking. 

Sewage Backup

If you experience sewage or water backups it might be time to replace your cast iron pipes. Backups mean the water is not flowing and draining properly. This can be caused by numerous issues like heavy sediment build-up, cracks, and leaks. When sewage mixes with your water, it contaminates your water supply. It is extremely dangerous. Call a plumber immediately.

Sewage can also be leaked into your yard. If you notice odd growth around your house, like fast-growing grass, get your sewer lines inspected. This may be a sign that your cast iron sewer pipe is leaking. The growth is attributed to the fertilizing effects of sewage. You may also notice sinking soil. If this happens, your cast iron pipes are compromised and need to be replaced.

Cast iron pipes are a durable and long-lasting option for plumbing pipes. Properly maintaining and servicing your cast iron pipes will extend their lifespan and prevent the need for costly repairs.

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