8 Reasons Why You Might Need to Replace the Plumbing in Your Bathroom

Annie Sisk
Written by Annie Sisk
Reviewed by Joseph Wood
Updated May 12, 2022
Sink and plants in stylish bathroom
Photo: New Africa / Adobe Stock


  • Bathroom plumbing fixtures and pipes all have a typical lifespan of 20 to 100 years.

  • Your bathroom plumbing can stop functioning properly for many reasons.

  • Weak water pressure and drainage problems are common signs of trouble.

  • Foul-smelling or rust-colored water indicates problems with your water heater.

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When it comes to home improvement projects, you might prioritize jobs that add glamor or functionality to the home. Your first thought is rarely to replace your bathroom plumbing. However, plumbing doesn’t last forever, and the longer you put off the repair, the more damage you could incur. If you’re waiting for a sign to tackle this type of project, we’ve got eight of them right here. 

1. Your Fixtures Are Old or Malfunctioning

Plumber working in faucet with thermostat
Photo: ungvar / Adobe Stock

Take a close look at your sink fixtures, your tub faucet and handles, and your showerhead. If you see rust stains in your bathtub that won’t come off with a good scouring or chips in the metal, it might be time to replace this part of your bathroom’s plumbing.

Replacing your fixtures or bathroom sink are great projects for the DIY homeowner. Just remember to turn off the water before you begin to replace outdated fixtures to avoid accidental water damage. 

2. Leaks and Dribbles

Drainage issues, pooling water, and constant dribbles from taps aren’t just inconveniences or annoyances. They’re signs that you might need to replace your bathroom plumbing, hardware, or both.

3. Frequent Clogs

If your tub or shower constantly drains more slowly than it should or used to, it may not be enough to resolve with a drain snake or a vinegar and baking soda mixture. Likewise, if you notice pools of water outside the shower or tub, despite your best efforts to keep the water contained, it’s time to call in the pros. 

4. Visible Signs of Water Damage

A cracked pipe isn’t always immediately visible—most are under the floor or behind the bathroom wall—but you’ll surely see signs of water damage fairly soon after a crack develops. You should address damp spots on the drywall, pooling water on the floor, or unexplained wet spots quickly to mitigate damage and prevent mold growth. Turn off the water to the bathroom and call your local plumbing professional to resolve the problem. 

5. You’re Experiencing a Decrease in Water Pressure 

As the years pass, your bathroom’s pipes accumulate material that narrows the diameter of the water pipes, which results in a gradual yet noticeable decrease in water pressure. If it’s taking longer than usual to fill the tub, refill the toilet after flushing, or get that shampoo out of your hair, you may need to replace your bathroom plumbing. 

6. You Notice Discolored or Smelly Water

Water that smells funky or looks red and rusty indicates that your hot water heater is failing. Over time, steel rods (called “sacrificial anodes”) corrode due to bacterial and other elements inside the hot water tank. Oddly enough, it’s their job to attract debris to keep them from flowing into your pipes. However, when they start to disintegrate with age, your water heater will give off warning signs your nose and eyes will detect. When you do, it’s time to budget for replacement plumbing.

7. There’s Unpleasant Mold Growth

The development of visible mold spores on your bathroom walls or ceiling usually means that water is flowing somewhere it shouldn’t. Look for damp spots, crumbling drywall, or dark spots near the location of bathroom pipes. If you see any signs of mold or water infiltration, it’s time to call a professional plumber to locate the source and stop the leak or replace the plumbing altogether, depending on the scope of the problem. 

8. You Live in an Older Home With Lead Pipes

While the U.S. government banned lead in paint and varnish products in 1978, lead pipes are still frequently encountered in older homes. Lead poisoning is a potential health risk with repeated exposure, especially for children. The safest and most thorough course of action is to replace those pipes entirely.

Don’t Put Off Replacement 

Nothing lasts forever, including your bathroom plumbing pipes. Depending on the material, you’ll probably need to replace your pipes somewhere between 20 and 100 years after their initial installation. The longest-lasting materials are cast iron and copper, with a lifespan of 50 to 100 years, whereas galvanized steel and brass pipes can last up to 50 years.

Upgrading or replacing your bathroom hardware and other plumbing elements ensures your home stays safe from water damage and lasts for years to come. After you spot a problem, making repairs and replacements can save you money and time. If you spot one or more of these signs that it’s time to upgrade, hire an experienced local plumbing professional to help you determine the scope of the problem and devise a plan that suits your budget. The cost to install or replace pipes throughout a home averages between $1,500 to $15,000 or $600 to $1,600 per fixture.

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