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20, 70, 100? At What Age Will Your Chicago Plumbing Pipes Burst?

by Tod Althoff | May 24, 2016 | Plumbing | 0 Comments


Potable water is a modern convenience that's often taken for granted. When your Chicago building's residents turn on their taps or start their washing machines, clean water flows freely, but it wasn't always that way. Chicago didn't have a municipal water system until the 1850s, and it wasn't until 1885 that most residents started paying to have their homes plumbed. In fact, according to the Encyclopedia of Chicago, residents spent $2.5 million on indoor plumbing in 1885. However, it took until the 1930s before indoor plumbing was standard and government mandated in homes and apartment buildings. Today, it is important to be aware of your building's age and the age of your plumbing system. Risers typically have a lifespan of between 20 and 70 years, depending on your high rise plumbing pipe types. Drain lines can last more than 100 years, depending on whether they are constructed from cast iron or PVC.

Water Supply Pipes/ Risers

Today's modern risers are under constant pressure from either water pressure boosting pumps or water tanks that are located on the roof of your building. The added pressure helps transport water to the top floor of your apartment or condo building, but it can also wear out your water supply lines faster than anticipated. This is why you should be aware of your Chicago plumbing pipes type and their age.


Brass pipes have an average lifespan of between 40 and 70 years. They are manufactured by combining copper with zinc. Typical ratios include 67 percent to 85 percent copper with 33 to 15 percent zinc. Brass pipes with 85 percent copper are often referred to as red copper pipes.


Copper is the most common type of water supply pipe. It can be purchased as flexible or rigid piping and typically lasts more than 50 years. Flexible piping is used for appliances and can be found inside apartments and condos and inside break rooms or public kitchens with dishwashers and ice makers. Flexible copper pipe that is kinked should be replaced.

Galvanized Steel

Galvanized steel is an older technology that is found in older homes and buildings. It has an expected lifespan of between 20 and 50 years, and if found, it should be replaced.

Drain Lines

Drain lines tend to have a much longer lifespan than water supply lines, providing they do not get infiltrated by roots and experience large clogs.

Cast Iron

Cast iron can last between 75 and 100 years and is extremely durable. However, as it ages, it can develop cracks.


PVC can last indefinitely, but multi-unit apartment and condo owners would be well-advised to get regular camera inspections to ensure there are no clogs or roots infiltrating the system.

How Old Are Your Chicago Plumbing Pipes?

As a Chicago building manager, it is important to know the age of your water supply lines and to have regular maintenance and inspections performed. You may also want to start planning and saving for pipe replacement or pipe relining services. Since risers are under constant pressure, a leak or a burst pipe can quickly cause a significant amount of water damage and lead to mold and mildew problems in your building. Can you and your residents afford it?

To learn more about how we can help you maintain your multi-unit residential building's plumbing system and avoid catastrophes, call us at 800-225-2443.


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