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Happen Houston - Serving the areas of Briargrove, Garden Oaks, and Houston Heights

Galvanized plumbing inside a house

Maybe you like older houses because of their charm, but you keep hearing about something called “galvanized plumbing,” and it’s beginning to give you the willies. Is this the last nail in the coffin of your nostalgia for the past?

Galvanized water pipe life expectancy can reach up to 50 years. The quality of the galvanized pipes and the skill with which they were placed determine how long they will endure. The lifespan of certain galvanized pipes is just 10-20 years at most, however.

It’s pretty astounding how galvanized pipes may be on the verge of collapse yet still hold together as long as no one touches them. There are, however, signals that indicate when it’s time to replace them.

What Is Galvanized Plumbing?

Galvanized pipes are zinc-coated steel pipes used to avoid the problems associated with rust and corrosion. Homes built before the 1960s were piped with galvanized steel. Galvanized pipe replaced the lead pipe in water mains once it was developed. But now we know that after decades of usage, galvanized pipes rust and corrode on the interior due to water exposure.

Galvanized pipes have the appearance of nickel when they are initially installed. However, a galvanized pipe may change color significantly over time. Water pipes in some houses have been painted, so it might be hard to determine just by looking.

If you are unsure whether or not pipes are galvanized, there is a simple test you can do. Get yourself a powerful magnet and a flat-headed screwdriver. First, locate the home’s water supply line and use the screwdriver to make a small scratch on the pipe’s outside. Galvanized steel will become silvery gray when damaged, and a powerful magnet will adhere to it.

What Is Wrong With Galvanized Plumbing?

Why are galvanized pipes a problem in older homes? Rusted, old galvanized pipes can taint the drinking water supply. The zinc coating on freshly installed galvanized pipes prevents them from rusting, but this protective layer may wear off over time. Homeowners should replace pipes as soon as possible to prevent corrosion.

Changing up the pipes in the property might make it more valuable. If you want to reduce the risk of a plumbing catastrophe lowering the home’s value, consider replacing the pipes. Damage from water leaks caused by aging pipes may go undetected for some time.

It is possible to lessen water loss to the environment by fixing or replacing outdated pipes as well. New pipes might be cost-effective if the old ones are dripping water.

It’s even more worrisome if your galvanized pipes are linked to lead fixtures or service lines. Lead fragments could have been trapped by corrosion within the galvanized steel pipes. Although previous homeowners may have removed lead pipes years ago, galvanized steel pipes may still intermittently leach lead into the water supply. 

Only by completely replacing the galvanized plumbing and any lead service lines can you be confident that lead is not being transported from plumbing to tap in a specific property.

When did they stop using galvanized pipes in older homes? Since the late 1960s, galvanized steel water pipes have not been utilized in new residential construction, meaning that all the remaining pipes have reached the end of their useful life. Most insurance companies will not insure a residence with galvanized steel pipe because of the risk of leaks caused by the pipe’s corroding interior.

Therefore, it is possible that repiping may be required before insurance pays out. It’s important to talk to your insurer before you buy a home. Some policies don’t mandate replacement but have a very high deductible in the event of water damage or demand a home inspection and report on the pipe’s condition before paying out. 

In what additional ways might galvanized piping be problematic? 

  1. Water discoloration due to contamination – discoloration and iron release are real issues with galvanized plumbing. A brown stain on a porcelain sink is a telltale sign of this. 
  2. Disparate water supply – a sign of galvanized pipes is decreased water pressure at certain fixtures but not others. Corrosion often forms in irregular patterns. It’s possible that not all of the galvanized pipes in older homes were replaced. 
  3. Weak water pressure – corrosion in galvanized pipes may impede the water flow in the line, resulting in decreased water pressure in the house. 
  4. Pipe leaks – rust can eat through galvanized pipes if you wait long enough and worsen existing damage to the property if left unchecked. 

What Do You Do With Galvanized Pipes?

Should I buy a house with galvanized piping? Or should I buy a house with cast iron pipes? Buyers on the real estate market should avoid properties with galvanized and cast iron plumbing unless the seller is ready to repair all the pipes or the buyer is willing to replace the whole galvanized plumbing system themselves. Investing in a house that contains galvanized pipes is a dangerous gamble.

Problems with water pressure, leaks, and even pipe bursts are all possible if the pipes are rusty and corroded, leading to a hefty repair bill.

Do galvanized pipes need to be replaced? As a buyer, you take on a lot of responsibility if you agree to purchase a property with galvanized plumbing that the seller refuses to fix. Eventually, you will need to replace all of the plumbing in a house with galvanized pipes with newer, more dependable pipes if you decide to buy one.

How much to change galvanized pipes? At a minimum, you can expect to spend about $5,000 to $10,000 to completely replace the water supply pipes in certain parts of the country. During this process, the old galvanized pipe will be left in place, and the new pipes will be routed through the attic and down to the faucets in the bathroom and kitchen.

Conclusion

Galvanized piping was often utilized in the past but is seldom used currently.

Replacing galvanized pipes with PVC and CPVC pipes, galvanized pipes to PEX, and other plastic pipes are more straightforward to install and may last as long as or even longer than galvanized pipes. You might wonder if it’s worth purchasing an older home with galvanized pipes.

Generally, a home with galvanized pipes could still be a good investment depending upon the house’s other features. However, it would be best if you replaced the galvanized pipes as soon as possible. Although galvanized pipes may last for decades without deteriorating, determining when the homeowner should replace it can be difficult.

However, you can tell a lot about the condition of the plumbing before making a purchase just by looking at it. Your galvanized pipes may be inspected by a professional home inspector as well.

To answer your question: should I buy a house with galvanized plumbing? Beautiful, well-kept houses abound, and many still use galvanized pipes for their plumbing. There is no point in passing up a property with galvanized plumbing still in good shape as long as you are ready to have the home repiped when the time comes.

In the future, you might consider repiping if you want to get more money when you sell your house. Repiping may increase the value of your home and make it more marketable.

Should you buy a house with a history of foundation repairs? Read here.

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