If your house is more than about 60 years old, make it an annual ritual to look at any exposed pipe—in basements, crawlspaces, and utility rooms—for telltale signs of trouble. Check under sinks in your kitchen and bathrooms.

  • Look for stains on walls and on surfaces underneath plumbing pipes that indicate leaks. Even if drips aren’t apparent, stains indicate a past leak that signals future trouble.
  • Check the tubing for discoloration, stains, dimpling, pimples, or flaking, which are all indications of corrosion. If you find irregularities, bring in a plumber to do an inspection. Plan to pay a minimum of $75 for a service charge.
  • Watch for leaks. Even small ones that are easily repaired may be indicators that the time for replacing plumbing for your whole house is approaching. It’s likely that the original pipes in your home are the same vintage, made of the same material, and they’ve been subjected to the same water supply and usage patterns.
  • Look at the color of bathtub water when you fill it—especially after a vacation when water has been sitting in the pipes for a while. If the water looks brown or yellow, what you’re seeing is rust, a sign of decay inside the pipes. Consider replacing plumbing soon.