To the trained eye, plumbing and electrical lines in the basement can provide a historical roadmap to the age of the various service components in your home. Look at the photo and note the dated piping and wiring that provide a tell-tale sign as to when work was done.
CSST (Corrugated Stainless Steel Tubing) has been in use since in the U.S since around 1990 and has been a favorite of contractors because of its flexibility and ease of installation. The reduction in pipe joints greatly reduces the chance of pipes leaking since it is estimated that 75% fewer joints are used with CSST than with black iron pipe systems.
CPVC has been around since the early 1960s but in this case, it wasn’t installed until 1980. Unlike PVC, CPVC is readily workable and is preferred by contractors for machining, welding, and forming. The ability to bend, shape, and weld CPVC enables its use in a wide variety of processes and applications.
Cast iron was commonly used prior to 1960 because of its durability. The downside of cast iron plumbing pipes is that they rust over time which is why they have been phased out and replaced with PVC.
The Romex cable from 1950 that was utilized here replaced the old “rag wire” that was still being utilized at the time. This was a precursor to what was to follow since this update to Romex cable made installation easier and is still the standard today.
Knob-and-tube wiring was an early standardized method of electrical wiring in buildings and it was commonly used from about 1880 to the 1940s. The system is considered obsolete and can be a safety hazard, although some of the fear associated with it is undeserved. After all, you can still find it in use in some homes today, although home inspectors are trained to label this as a defect.
Galvanized piping was commonly installed in homes built before 1960. When it was invented, galvanized pipe was an alternative to lead pipe for water supply lines. Today, however, we have learned that decades of exposure to water will cause galvanized pipes to corrode and rust on the inside.
So, you can see that the materials used for utilities in historic homes tell a story if you seek out someone who is trained to look for these things. This home has had many updates over the years and many of the improvements were state-of-the-art at the time they were done. Now, a couple of generations have passed, and the utilities are outdated which could be labeled by an inspector as a defect even if some of them still work fine.
At Old Line Home Inspections, we run across these kinds of things every day so you have any questions about the condition of your home please contact us at (410) 236-3027 or click here to schedule an appointment.