How Long Plumbing Lasts: When to Replace & Costs


One of the most important systems in your home is the plumbing pipes and fixtures. Just like any other part of your home, your plumbing system was designed to last forever. For those who have just bought homes with older plumbing pipes and fixtures, you might find you’ll need to update or replace your plumbing sooner rather than later. But how often should plumbing pipes and fixtures be replaced?

Plumbing supply pipes such as galvanized, copper, CPVC, or pex can last 40 to 70 years. Plumbing drain pipes such as cast iron, ABS, and PVC can last 50 to 80 years. Plumbing fixtures such as bathtubs, sink, and faucets can last 10 to 30 years or more. The lifespan of plumbing components will vary based on materials, usage, and installation quality.

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Different parts make up your plumbing system. While pipes tend to last for many decades, the other components may only last a few years. That’s why there is a need to find out whether or not there is a need to replace your plumbing and whether you actually need to get it replaced.

Below you will find some tables that outline the life expectancy of a wide variety of plumbing pipes and fixtures.

Plumbing Pipes: How Long Do They Last?

Your supply pipes are arguably the most important parts of your entire plumbing because they provide water to your home for drinking, bathing, cooking, etc. Supply piping is pressurized and can become damaged through stress or wear and tear. Damaged supply piping can cause damage to the interior or structure if ruptured due to failure.

Your home’s drain piping carries waste away from the house. Drain piping is not pressurized. However, it can still become damaged by age or wear and tear, causing leaks to happen. These leaks are often hard to detect and can go months or even years without detection.

If you have an older house, chances are at least some of your plumbing supply or drain pipes are older. However, that doesn’t mean they need to be replaced.

According to the International Association of Certified Home Inspectors, all plumbing parts have an expected life expectancy. Here are some of the commonly used plumbing pipes and how long they typically last:

PipingExpected Lifespan
Copper Pipes50 to 70 Years
CPVC50 to 75 Years
PEX25 to 40 Years
Cast Iron50 to 100 Years
Concrete/Clay 80 to 100 Years
ABS/Black Plastic50 to 80 Years
PVC50 to 80 Years
Gas Lines (Black Steel)75 Years
Gas Lines (Flex)30 Years

Galvanized plumbing pipes are steel piping with a zinc coating. Galvanized piping is not on the list above, and for a good reason. Galvanized piping hasn’t been used in residential houses since the 1960s. The lifespan of galvanized plumbing piping was 40 to 50 years, and if you have galvanized piping in your home, it should be replaced.

Galvanized piping can fail at any time. It corrodes internally, causing the inner diameter of the piping to narrow and eventually clog. Even worse, galvanized piping can carry metal particles, rust, and other contaminants that are not safe to ingest.

Polybutylene plumbing pipes are gray plastic piping that was used in the 1980s and 1990s. The lifespan of polybutylene plumbing pipes is 25 to 40 years but is no longer used in residential houses because of high failure rates. It has been the subject of numerous lawsuits because they can fail without notice.

Polybutylene deteriorates internally, causing the pipes to crack and potentially rupture, resulting in severe water damage to the house. If your home has polybutylene piping, it should be replaced with modern pex piping.

Copper plumbing pipes can last for 50 to 70 years or more. In theory, copper piping can last over 100 years because it can be repaired. However, there are instances where copper piping should be replaced.

Corrosion is the main issue with copper piping. Some regions have very hard water that can damage the copper piping. Hard water can shorten copper piping and cause leaks to develop.

Copper piping also has to be grounded, but grounding can speed corrosion and in some cases destroy copper piping.

If you have copper plumbing pipes, you should have your water tested to verify it’s safe for consumption.

CPVC plumbing pipes can last 50 to 75 years. CPVC piping has glued joints, so there are no galvanized or copper fittings that can corrode. CPVC piping can fade in ultraviolet light, so it can’t be installed in direct sunlight.

PEX plumbing pipes have a lifespan of 40 years. Pex can be used as a replacement for polybutylene piping. Pex has a crimped fitting, a screw-on compression fitting, or a push-on (SharkBite) fitting. PEX is flexible, which reduces the number of fittings needed. PEX has brass or copper fittings that can corrode. Like CPVC, PEX piping can deteriorate and become brittle in direct sunlight

Cast iron plumbing pipes have a lifespan of 50 to 100 years, however beyond 50 years, cast iron is prone to leaks and difficult to repair. Most plumbers will not repair cast iron piping, only replace it. Cast iron rusts from the inside out; however, due to its thickness, failure from rust can take many years.

When problems occur, replacement is often done on an as-needed basis with PVC piping and rubber fittings clamped in place to existing cast iron piping. If needed, cast iron piping can be scoped with a camera to determine the piping’s interior condition.

Concrete and clay plumbing pipes can last 80 to 100 years. Concrete and clay piping has a long life span. It’s generally found underground and is prone to tree roots that pierce joints and clog the piping. As tree roots spread, the piping can crack and collapse, becoming filled with dirt.

Concrete and clay piping is no longer used in residential houses. When failure occurs in older houses, replacement is needed for repair, which involves trenching and installing new PVC piping from the house to the septic or sewer source.

ABS/Black plastic plumbing pipes have a lifespan of 50 to 80 years. Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene (ABS) is made with Bisphenol A (BPA), a chemical used to harden plastics. Black plastic waste piping is still commonly used in manufactured homes.

Many municipalities no longer allow ABS piping for various reasons, one of which is that ABS is not chemical resistant and can react to chemicals added to purify the municipal water supply. ABS piping has been known to become brittle and fail, which has spurred some class-action lawsuits.

PVC plumbing pipes can last 50 to 80 years. Poly Vinyl Chloride (PVC) is commonly used today for waste piping connecting the house to the street or septic system. PVC is white piping that is chemical resistant, durable, more flexible than ABS, and lightweight making it very easy to work with.

Plumbing Fixtures: How Long They Last?

Plumbing fixtures can last for 20 to 100 years, depending on the type of fixture. You’re more apt to grow tired of bathroom or kitchen plumbing fixtures rather than them wear entirely out and are unusable.

Bathrooms and kitchens from the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s are often renovated, and the old plumbing fixtures are replaced over aesthetic improvements.

Plumbing FixtureExpected Lifespan
Acrylic Sink50 Years
Bathtub Faucet15 to 20 Years
Cast Iron Bathtub100 Years
Enameled Kitchen Sink5 to 10 Years
Kitchen Faucet with Sprayer15 to 20 Years
Fiberglass Bathtub/Shower20 Years
Hose Bibs20 to 30 Years
Septic System15 to 40 Years
Shower Enclosure50 Years
Shower Faucet15 to 20 Years
Soapstone Sinks100 Years
Stainless Steel Sink15 to 30 Years
Toilets/Bidets/Urinals15 to 50 Years
Toilet Tank Parts5 Years
Vessel Bowl Sinks5 to 20 Years
Washing Machine Hoses5 to 10 Years
Well Pump15 Years
Whirlpool Tub20 to 50 Years

Toilet Fixtures: How long they last?

Generally, the toilet bowl itself will only need to be replaced if it is damaged or cracked. Toilets can last up to 100 years, although most are replaced much sooner. Smaller parts, like tank components and seats, are not as durable and only last about 5 years.

However, the other parts of the toilet are not entirely as durable as the bowl itself. The handle can be prone to damages and may not last for more than 5 years. You would need to replace it if you have to jiggle it a lot or if you need to hold it down whenever you are flushing the toilet. The flappers and the other fittings that connect the toilet to the pipe can probably last for at least 5 years.

Kitchen and Bathroom Faucets: How long they last?

Kitchen and bathroom faucets are also resilient and long-lasting. When they are not working correctly, plumbers can actually repair them without replacing the entire unit. However, it is only when your plumber tells you that the faucet is beyond repair that you need to go and get it replaced.

Faucets can last 15 to 20 years or more. Most people will replace faucets for look and style well before the faucet is no longer functional.

Some faucets go for years without getting replaced as long as they are taken care of properly. But the top reason people often get their faucets replaced is that they want to update them or incorporate newer innovations instead of sticking to the traditional faucet type.

However, if you push updates aside, faucets usually last for 20 or more years. In some cases, vintage faucets are seeing new life and are growing in demand.

Washing Machine Supply Hoses: How long they last?

Washing machine supply hoses are some of the more commonly replaced parts of a house’s plumbing. The reason is that the supply hoses tend to be inexpensive and can easily fail. Washing machine hoses can last 5 years on average. Some braided sheathed hoses are tough and can last up to 10 years. 

So, as a rule of thumb, I recommend replacing your washing machine supply hose every three years if you don’t want to end up with leaks. Washing machine supply hoses can potentially burst at any given moment so long as they are showing signs of wear and tear, damages, and leaks.

Signs Your Plumbing is Bad?

If you are looking to check whether your plumbing is bad, it really doesn’t take an expert to figure it out. You don’t even have to wait for the second opinion after inspection to know whether or not you need to get your plumbing replaced.

The most obvious sign that your plumbing is bad is, of course, cracks in your pipes or plumbing fixtures. Leaks are a clear sign that your plumbing needs repair, but there are some instances where simple repair jobs can fix leaks. If your pipes are leaking, have them fixed right away or replaced because leaking plumbing can cause structural damage, mold, and mildew.

Corrosion and rust are also obvious signs that your pipes are bad. Even if such signs have yet to do damage to your plumbing, don’t wait for your pipes and fixtures to fail. Be proactive and replace piping and old fixtures before they become major problems.

Cost to Replace Plumbing

If you are thinking about replacing your plumbing, here are some of the costs you would have to incur:

Plumbing supply piping – If you are looking to replace a small section of plumbing pipes you can expect to pay between $400 and $2,000. Most people will pay on average about $1,100. However, if you need to repipe your entire house or installing new plumbing pipes you can expect to pay $2,500 to $15,000 or more for larger houses.

To replace the supply piping in a 2000 square foot, two-bathroom house with copper piping will cost $8000 to $10,000. However, the same house can be replumbed with PEX piping will cost $4000 to $6000.

The cost for CPVC piping is comparable to PEX piping; however, PEX piping is easier to work with and is approved everywhere. PEX and CPVC piping cost about 25% to 50% less than standard copper piping.

Plumbing sewer piping – If you are looking to replace plumbing sewer pipes you can expect to pay between $2250 and $6,000. Most people will pay on average about $3800. However, if you need to replace sewer piping in your entire house, you can expect to pay $8,000 or more and up to $30,000 if you need to replace the buried piping from the house to the street.

You can expect sewer line replacement to cost $50 to $200 per linear foot plus the costs of trenching or cutting through a concrete slab to access the piping. Small sections of sewer pipe replacements start at $3,000 to $6,000. to replace 50 feet or more, expect to pay $5,000 to $13,000 plus trenching costs. Digging a new sewer line from the house to the street can easily cost $30,000 or more.

Plumber – The hourly rate to hire a plumber is $50 to $200 per hour; however, most plumbers will charge a minimum charge of around $300. Hiring a plumber can cost somewhere between $175 and more than $400 because of how they bill you by the hour (which can cost at least $45 per hour). The overall labor expenses you would have to pay a plumber really depends on the job and how long it will take.

Installing a new sink/toilet – New sink/toilet installation can cost somewhere between $200 and $500 depending on the sink/toilet style and how hard the job will be.

Faucet installation – Installing a new faucet can be quite expensive as well and may cost somewhere between $150 to $300.

Main stack replacement – If there is a problem with your main plumbing stack and you need to get it replaced, the cost can range somewhere over $1,500 and go up to $4,000 depending on how tough the job is and how accessible the materials are in your area.

How Often Should Plumbing Be Inspected?

Plumbing inspection should be a routine for you if you want to keep your home in top shape. Inspections are a great way to check whether or not your plumbing needs repairs or replacement. I recommend that you have your plumbing inspected as part of a thorough home inspection once a year.

Those with newer houses with newer plumbing systems might get away with not having their plumbing inspected for the first three to five years, but owners of older houses should never overlook an annual inspection. If possible, owners of old houses should try to get their plumbing inspected once every year or so but not for more than 2 years.

How Often Should Plumbing Be Updated?

If your plumbing system doesn’t have any serious problems, but it still makes use of materials that can be hazardous (because you might live in an older house built before the 1980s or 1990s), you may be considering having your plumbing updated to improve your property value.

Meanwhile, if you live in a comparatively newer home and your plumbing has no major problems at all, the choice of whether or not to update your plumbing fixtures is a matter of choice. It really depends on you, such as when there are fixtures you might want to upgrade because of all of the added features.

And for those who have plumbing systems that need repairs and replacements, you might want to update your plumbing system altogether so that you won’t have to maintain a faulty plumbing system continually. Trying to repair old plumbing is like putting a band-aid over a garden sprinkler; you get one leak plugged, and another pops up somewhere else.

Sources:

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Hubert Miles

I've been conducting home inspections for 17 years. I'm a licensed Home Inspector, Certified Master Inspector (CMI), and FHA 203k Consultant. I started HomeInspectionInsider.com to help people better understand the home inspection process and answer questions about homeownership and home maintenance.

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