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What Is Galvanized Piping?

Updated: | Published:

A collection of old rusty galvanized pipes
A collection of old rusty galvanized pipes

Want to learn more about galvanized piping and what it is? You've come to the right place.

If you still have galvanized pipes, it is time to consider replacing your outdated piping with modern materials like PEX tubing or copper pipes.

In this article, we will discuss what galvanized piping is, why it was used in residential plumbing, common problems with galvanized steel, why you need to replace outdated galvanized pipes, and what the best repiping alternatives are.

What Is Galvanized Piping?

Galvanized steel plumbing consists of steel pipes and fittings coated with zinc through a process known as galvanization. The zinc serves as a protective layer, designed to prevent the rusting of steel (or iron).

As the zinc coating gradually wears off, the underlying steel (or iron) becomes exposed to oxygen and chemicals in the water, leading to the onset of rust that may appear in your drinking water. In cases where the galvanized pipes are not situated in a damp environment, the exterior of the pipes may remain in excellent condition, even if the interior experiences significant corrosion and rusting.

rusty water from old galvanized pipes
Rusty water from old galvanized pipes

How To Tell If You Have Galvanized Pipes

Among the various plumbing materials used, only galvanized steel and cast iron (often used for drain and vent piping) are magnetic. If a strong magnet sticks to a pipe, and it is a water supply line, you are dealing with galvanized steel piping.

Another method is to conduct a scratch test using a screwdriver. If the exterior of the pipe is rusty, galvanized plumbing should reveal a dull gray when you scratch off the rust. If the exterior is already gray, it will remain dull gray.

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Why Was Galvanized Piping Used?

Galvanized steel pipes were introduced as a safe replacement for lead pipes in fresh water plumbing systems in the early 1920s and 1930s. This was due to an increased awareness of the health hazards associated with lead.

Galvanized pipes became a more common choice due to their lower cost, greater durability, and ease of installation and handling compared to the copper tubing available at the time.

Galvanized plumbing was very common in the United States until the 1960s when it gradually fell out of favor as a preferred plumbing material. It was replaced by copper piping or various types of plastic tubing ( PEX, alongside outdated CPVC and polybutylene).

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What Are Common Problems With Galvanized Plumbing?

Due to the likelihood that most galvanized steel pipes used for residential hot and cold water plumbing are at least 40 years old (and possibly many decades older), it is highly likely that these pipes have reached the end of their expected service life. Outdated galvanized plumbing can lead to several problems, including:

  • Rusty and discolored water: As rust and scale within the pipes flakes off, you can often get rusty colored water (or rusty tasting water) at your water outlets.
  • Low or unequal water pressure: Internal rust and scale buildup can significantly restrict water flow, resulting in issues with unequal or low water pressure. This restricted flow is typically most noticeable at hot water outlets and outlets furthest from the water supply.
  • your old galvanized pipes look like this on the inside
    Your old galvanized pipes look like this on the inside
  • Water leaks: Corrosion can reach a point where pipes and connections start to fail. Sometimes these leaks can be slow, and go undetected for extended periods, leading to the build-up of mold in wall cavities (requiring expensive and disruptive mold remediation when discovered).

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Do I Need To Replace My Galvanized Pipes?

It's not a matter of if, but when, all your galvanized plumbing will need replacement.

Some homeowners opt for partial repiping and repairs rather than a complete galvanized repiping project. Here at Repipe Specialists, we believe that partial repairs are a short-term solution that will end up costing you more in the long run.

All galvanized piping will eventually require replacement, and doing it gradually over time will be much more expensive than completing the entire job at once. Additionally, a single leak can lead to more water damage than the cost of a full 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 Does a Whole House Repipe Cost. We also offer repipe financing options to help ease the financial burden of unplanned repiping expenses.

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What Is A Good Replacement For Galvanized Plumbing?

All of our galvanized plumbing repipes use either American L-Grade copper piping or Uponor PEX-A tubing, depending on the client's personal preferences.

Both PEX and copper have their own distinct advantages and disadvantages. You can learn more by reading our article that compares the pros and cons of copper piping and PEX tubing.

While most of our repipes utilize PEX pipes, if you're still uncertain, you can contact us to schedule a free consult with one of our local repipe consultants.

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Receive a Free Quote for Your Galvanized Plumbing Repipe

Here at Repipe Specialists, we've fully replaced galvanized plumbing in thousands of homes since 1991 using both copper piping and PEX tubing. We continually get positive customer feedback from customers about their overall home repipe experiences. We often exceed their expectations on:

  • Speed: Our repipe crews typically complete a repipe in a day, returning on another day for wall patching.
  • Convenience: Through our One-Stop Repipe™ Process, we handle everything from permits, to wall patching, to inspections.
  • Cleanliness: Our crews are trained to protect your home while working (we cover all surfaces with protective sheeting), and to clean up fully at the end of each day.
  • Peace of Mind:Repipe Specialists is a fully licensed plumber in every state we operate in, and we back all of our repipes with a lifetime warranty.
  • Financing programs: To help take the sting out of unplanned repipe expenses, we offer several financing programs.
  • Price: As a specialist that performs hundreds of repipes a week, we can deliver high-quality repipes at a lower cost vs generalist plumbers. We have an article that covers repipe cost factors in detail. Our quotes typically range from $4,500 to $15,000 depending on the size and complexity of your project.

Schedule a free in-home consult, and one of our local repipe consultants will explain all your repipe options and provide you with a written, fixed-price quote. Fix galvanized plumbing issues at the source, repipe now.

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About Repipe Specialists

Expert Repiping at an Affordable Cost

Since our founding in 1991, we've been completing residential and multi-family building repipes to the highest standard.

With over 75,000 repipes completed, we've perfected our One Stop Repipe™ process: providing you with a high quality and convenient repipe experience while offering significant savings compared to traditional plumbers - plus, our work is guaranteed for life.

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