Should You Fix The Leak Or Replace The Drain?

Posted on: 14 April 2016

When a drain starts to leak or keeps getting clogged, you have a decision to make. Do you limit your work to fixing the leak, or do you go ahead and replace the whole drain assembly? Fortunately, the decision is pretty straightforward once you analyze the two options. Your plumber can help you in determining which of these criteria apply to your situation.

How Old Are The Pipes?

Perhaps the simplest reason to replace the plumbing in your bathroom is because it is just too old. Older homes often contain cast iron pipes that just don't work as well as they did when they were first installed. Over time, cast iron starts to pit and rust. This weakens the pipes, and they are at greater risk of cracking. Even if they stay in one piece, this breakdown of the material will start to narrow the interior of the pipe, making them prone to clogs.

Fortunately, it is easy to tell if your pipes are cast iron or not just by looking at the color. Modern PVC is white or off-white and shiny. Cast iron might have a sheen to it, but it is very definitely black. Due to its age, it will also likely be pitted and rough as opposed to the smooth surface of the PVC.

Was The Drain Properly Installed?

Perhaps a previous owner was a DIY enthusiast who wasn't constrained by silly things like following directions. This might hold up okay in the short term, but in a few years, you may run into the familiar issues of leaks and clogs. For the drains you can see, you can take a look at the joints and see if you can see joint compound around the edges and a proper trap (that U-shaped bend you see in all drains). Joint compound comes in lots of different colors, but it is usually a different color than the pipes so that the person installing the plumbing can see what they are doing.

You can't see what's in the walls until you open them up, but if these two elements are present, you are likely in good shape. If you are still concerned, have a licensed plumber inspect the area. Their trained eye can spot issues with the joints that you might not notice.

Do You Want To Add A New Feature?

While a common reason to upgrade your plumbing is in order to prevent future problems, sometimes you need to upgrade your plumbing in order to support new features. There are plenty of options available, but these are some of the reasons your new bathroom may need new drains:

  • Moving items around can sometimes make great improvements in the flow of your bathroom. Of course, in order to accomplish this, you are going to move around some plumbing.
  • A hot water recovery system can help reduce your energy bills but does require adding some additional plumbing to your drains. A secondary pipe is wrapped around the drain to absorb the heat from the waste water. Since the water in the secondary pipe is warmed up, your water heater will be able to use less energy to get it up to the proper temperature.
  • Multi-head showers and large soak tubs are all the rage for amping up how relaxing you find your master bathroom. All that extra water needs somewhere to go, and many drains are simply not up to the task.

As you now know, making this decision isn't too tough. You just need to look at how long before the pipe will need replacement anyway, any existing issues that need to be corrected, and what your future plans are for the space. Once you take all these factors into effect, the choice should be pretty clear. If you are still unsure, you can give your answers to these questions to your plumber and see what they would recommend in your situation. You can also click here for more information on plumbing services in your area.