Plumbing and drainage

Copper pipes are likely to remain in good condition but plastic pipes should be checked by a plumber during renovation.

Water supply

Galvanised steel or copper pipes supplied water from the public mains supply to the house. While copper pipes most often supplied water to fittings in the house, especially earlier in the decade, the 1970s also saw the introduction of plastic (PVC) piping for water supply. (Polybutylene piping was introduced in the 1980s).

In rural areas, rainwater storage tanks that collected rainwater from the roof provided the household water. Unless the collection and storage system was well designed and maintained, rainwater tanks often resulted in poorer water quality.

Common modifications

If a bathroom or kitchen has been upgraded, re-plumbing may also have been carried out to match the original or in some cases new work will have been done in PVC or polybutylene rather than the more expensive copper.

Common problems and remedies

Copper is a durable material in most circumstances, so it is unlikely that copper pipework or fittings will require replacement.

During the late 1970s, a particular type of plastic water pipe installed into homes was taken off the market because there were numerous incidents of failure which caused considerable damage. If there is plastic plumbing piping in the house, have it checked by a plumber to see if it needs to be replaced.

The original hot water storage cylinder may require replacement or may need earthquake restraint. See water heating for more. Also, if a low-pressure hot water system is still in use, it may not provide sufficient pressure to run modern bathroom fixtures such as showers controlled with a mixer. Consider upgrading to a mains pressure or continuous flow system.

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Sanitary drainage

In urban areas, stormwater gutters and sewage drains had to be connected to council drains, which were usually located under the grassed verges adjacent to the roadside kerbs. In some cases, depending on the ground contours, they could be located in strips of council-retained land at the rear of sections.

Where there was no council drainage system, sewer pipes connected a septic tank.

Stormwater and sewer pipework was becoming predominantly plastic, although clay pipes with socket joints and asbestos-cement pipes were still available. Sewer drains were usually 100 mm diameter.

Soakaways for stormwater continued to be common in a number of areas and in some cities stormwater could be discharged into the street gutter system.

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Who can do what?

Today, relatively simple plumbing jobs such as connecting up a washing machine or replacing a tap can be done by competent householders, but there are rules around who can do other types of work. Sanitary plumbing – work that involves water supply pipes or waste pipes, traps, ventilation pipes or overflow pipes – must be done by a licensed plumber. You can find more details here.