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Avoiding Common Plumbing Issues With Chicago’s Cast-Iron Pipes

Older Homes, Plumbing

Pile of cast iron sewage pipe fittings

Throughout its illustrious history, Chicago has had to be innovative when it comes to building materials for a rapidly expanding city. Some of those materials have stood the test of time, but others , like cast-iron plumbing pipes, have not proved to be so permanent. However, many older homes throughout the Chicago and North Shore areas are still operating on cast iron piping systems. In this blog, our plumbing experts at American Vintage Home explain the issues with cast iron pipes and how to address them.

Understanding Cast-Iron Pipes

Cast iron piping began underground, with use in the sewer system dating to the early 19th century. Iron was plentiful thanks to the city’s industrial nature, and it was cheaper to obtain than other materials. They were fairly simple to produce in various lengths and sizes while still being strong enough to withstand pressure and corrosion.

In the 1930s, as homes started being built with indoor plumbing, cast-iron pipes continued to be the piping material of choice. It wasn’t until the 1970s and the invention of Polyvinyl Chloride (PVC) plastic that Chicago homes started shifting away from cast iron pipes, meaning that many homes built before the ’70s still feature them today.

Common Plumbing Issues With Cast-Iron Pipes in Chicago

If you know your older home has cast-iron pipes, you should be on the lookout for the following issues:

  • Corrosion: Cast-iron pipes can form rust and deteriorate depending on soil conditions, water exposure, and other factors.
  • Cracks and fractures: Pipes eventually become brittle and more sensitive to ground movement and other physical damage, such as tree root incursions.
  • Scaling and buildup: The buildup of sediments and minerals in Chicago’s water supply can become bad enough to restrict water flow and increase blockages.
  • Joint failure: Joints can deteriorate at a faster rate than the pipes themselves, causing widespread instability, leaks, and water loss.

All these issues can cause structural damage and pose a danger to your health, so it’s important to know how to handle them.

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Tips for Preventing Plumbing Issues

While it’s ultimately best to replace any cast iron pipes with safer and more durable options, there are a few things you can do to keep your current piping as safe as possible:

  • Regular inspections to identify cracks, corrosion, and other visible damage.
  • Proper grading and water drainage.
  • Improve water quality with filtration or water softening
  • Prevent root intrusion by not planting near pipes.
  • Stop using abrasive or chemical cleaners.

The bottom line is that cast-iron pipes require extensive attention and care to remain safe and effective.

Maintenance, Repair & Replacement Options

Copper pipes

With cast iron pipes, the name of the game is maintenance and inspection. Regular maintenance will enable qualified technicians to detect issues before they have further consequences. Through techniques like video camera inspections, our plumbers at American Vintage Home can look for issues like tree roots, rust, clogs, and buildup that will cause damage and compromise piping systems.

To go a step further, you can have the cast iron pipes in your home entirely replaced. American Vintage Home provides expert repiping services in the Chicago North Shore area. We’ll safely remove your outdated cast iron pipes and seamlessly install a modern equivalent in their place. Our team works with top-quality materials, including copper, PVC, or PEX piping for fresh water lines and ABS or PVC for drain and waste piping.

If you need your cast iron pipes taken care of, American Vintage Home is here to help. Schedule pipe services today for better peace of mind.

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