What Is Galvanized Steel Plumbing?
Galvanized steel plumbing is steel pipes and fittings coated with zinc, through a process called galvanization. The zinc is a protective layer, intended to prevent rusting of steel (or iron).
Galvanized plumbing was very common in the United States, up to about 1960, where it was gradually phased out as a preferred plumbing material, replaced by copper pipe and other plastic plumbing systems. Galvanized piping is intended to last 30-50 years: but that can vary widely based on water hardness, as well as the quality of the galvanized piping itself (thicker zinc coatings would last longer).
When the zinc coating eventually wears off, the underlying steel (or iron) will become exposed to oxygen and chemicals in the water, and start to rust and corrode. Unless galvanized pipe is located in a damp area, the pipe exterior may be in very good condition, even though the interior is heavily corroded and rusty.
What Are Common Problems Caused by Old Galvanized Piping?
Any galvanized steel pipe used for residential hot and cold water plumbing, is likely to be at least 40 years old, possibly many decades older. It will almost certainly have reached the end of its expected service life, and started to corrode significantly on the inside.
Signs of internal galvanized plumbing corrosion:
- Rusty and discolored water: as rust and scale in the piping flakes off, you can often get rusty colored water (or rusty tasting water) at your water outlets.
- Low or unequal water pressure: the internal rust and scale will build up and can significantly restrict water flow.
- Water leaks: corrosion can become serious enough, that pipes and connections start to fail. Sometimes these leaks can be slow, and go undetected for long periods, resulting in build up of mold in wall cavities (requiring expensive and disruptive mold remediation when discovered).
What Are My Options For Replacing My Galvanized Piping?
If you want fast flowing, clean water - and no leaks from corroded galvanized piping: you need to replace the galvanized piping with a modern plumbing system like PEX tubing or copper pipe.
Some homeowners choose partial repiping and repairs, over a whole home galvanized replumb. Here at Repipe Specialists, we believe that is a short-term perspective, that will cost you more in the long run. All the galvanized piping will eventually need replacing: and doing it in a piecemeal fashion over time will cost much more than doing it all at once. Furthermore, a single leak may cause more water damage than the cost of an actual repipe.
Most of our repipes are priced between $4,500 for a smaller home, and up to $15,000 for larger more complex projects. Read more in How Much Should A Repipe Cost. We also offer repipe financing options to take the sting out of unplanned repipe expenses.
Most repipes are now done with either PEX tubing or copper piping (we offer lifetime warranties for copper repipes and PEX repipes). Read our article about PEX repiping: it is the most commonly chosen option by our customers here at Repipe Specialists.
A Repipe Specialists local estimator would be happy to explain all your options, either in person or in a remote consult session - schedule a free repipe quote.