Today lets talk about galvanized plumbing pipes. If you own a pre-1960s home, chances are your plumbing supply lines are made from galvanized steel. The problem with galvanized pipes is that they often rust and corrode from the inside-out, due to prolonged exposure to the minerals in water. Here’s a photo of a corroded galvanized pipe.
The average lifespan of galvanized pipes is anywhere between 50-65 years. When they do reach the end of their life they begin to develop leaks. Often times, these leaks begin at the threaded joints on the pipes.
When PEX, CPVC and even copper supply lines develop leaks, all you have to do is cut out the leaky section and crimp, glue or solder the new section on. With galvanized pipes, is can be much more tricky. I’ve replaced many galvanized plumbing pipes over the years and let me tell you, when the insides are rusted and corroded, you can bet the farmhouse that the threads are going to be corroded too. This will often prevent you from reusing them on the repair. You can see in this photo where the corrosion may have damaged the threads, making repairs more difficult and costly.
Another side effect of older galvanized plumbing pipes is that since they rust from the inside-out, water pressure becomes lower as the pipes get worse. Have you ever been in an older house and noticed that the when you turned the water on it had an orange tint to it? If so, it’s probably a result of galvanized pipes (or a water heater, but that’s another blog post).
This leads me to my next point. Since galvanized plumbing pipes rust from the inside out, they begin to deposit rust and minerals into the water that you use for drinking and bathing. I’ve seen the rust get so bad that small flakes of rust come out of the faucet in the tub. It may be the hippie in me, but personally don’t think this is healthy.
One problem with having galvanized plumbing pipes is that when they do develop leaks, it’s often in areas of the house that you can’t see. Two of the most common places are behind walls and in crawlspaces. If a pipe springs a leak in your crawlspace, what are the chances of you finding out about it? Probably none. I rarely go in my crawlspace… AND I’M A HOME INSPECTOR 🙂
So if you live in a pre-1960s home and have either low water pressure or slightly discolored water, you might have galvanized pipes in your house. Howdy Home Inspections also does Pre-Listing Inspections before people list their homes for sale. It’s a great to find out if you have galvanized pipes.
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