Fixing Common Water Problems in Old Homes

As anyone who owns an old home knows, these houses have lots of charm and lovely features, but they also come with lots of challenges. Small closets make storage tough. Leaky windows let in winter’s cold and the dark and scary basements harbor spider that make the toughest owners cringe.

Skillings & Sons has more than 40 years of well drilling and water system experience. We’ve met with hundreds of homeowners who have problems with old wells and outdated water systems, offering them solutions to modernize and improve the overall quality of their home’s water supply. Here we’ve compiled a list of common water problems we’ve found in old homes around New England.

Low water pressure

When you turn on the tap, does the water come out at a steady rate, or is it more like a dribble? When someone turns on the dishwasher when you’re in the shower, does the water pressure drop to a trickle? These are signs that you have low water pressure.

If you notice water pressure drops at one source when another water-drawing source is turned on, installing a constant pressure system could fix the problem.  A constant pressure system is easily installed in your basement on the line where the water enters your home. As its name suggests, it keeps the water pressure constant as different faucets and appliances are being used, changing the speed of your water pump as demand increases or decreases. This is an affordable solution that can also help address water pressure issues for homes where the well is located a great distance from the home.

Homeowners may also be able to fix low-pressure problems by adjusting their pressure tank. These tanks have gauges which tell the homeowner how much pressure is behind the water flowing through the pipes. If it is below 40 psi, the pressure should be increased.

In some cases, the problem might not be low water pressure, but “low flow,” caused by clogged pipes or a clogged well casing from a buildup of sediment and minerals, or an improperly placed well pump.

In these cases, adding water pressure will not help the problem in the long term. We advise our customers with water pressure concerns to get a consultation from a professional to avoid damaging their water system.

Lead pipes or lead seals

Homes built before 1986 are more likely to have lead pipes, lead seals and fittings, and brass fixtures, some of which contain lead. Up until 1997, some brass faucets were made of up to 8 percent lead. Lead can leach from these pipes and fixtures into the water if the water has been sitting in them for long periods of time, such as overnight.

This is mainly a concern if your home has corrosive water. Corrosive water is a condition caused by low water pH. Metals dissolve from the plumbing as water sits in the pipes, especially when the water is hotter. Much of the water in New Hampshire, including both surface water and groundwater, is corrosive, so testing your home water pH level is recommended. One sure sign of corrosive water, however, is blue-green stains on tubs and sinks.

Lead can be harmful to your health, especially in children. You can do a few things to avoid health risks, like never cooking with warm or hot water, as they are likely to contain more metals, or flushing your pipes by letting the water run for less than a minute. Skillings & Sons can also advise you about treatment options.

Sediment buildup on fixtures/appliances

There are many causes for sand and sediment build up on fixtures and in appliances. If the build-up white and chalky, leaving a film on dishes in your dishwasher, the cause is likely hard water, a common problem for homes with wells in New England. Water softeners are an easy and relatively affordable way to relieve this problem.

If the sediment is brown and has been staining your clothes, it’s likely iron and manganese. These are naturally-occurring contaminants that are also common in New England and can be treated with some methods.

In older homes, however, the cause could be something more serious, like a well defect or loss of flow due to sediment in fissures.  

Whether there is sediment in the water or your water system just doesn’t seem to be keeping up with your needs, Skillings & Sons can advise you on ways to improve your water quality and increase the flow into your home.