The Problem with Galvanized Steel Pipes in Older Houses

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Was your home built before 1960? If so, there’s a good chance you’ve got galvanized steel pipes, and that means trouble about now. That’s because galvanized steel pipes—steel pipes that were coated with zinc to delay rusting— are now past their prime. The zinc coating has worn off, and the steel pipes are corroding, causing plumbing problems.

What Happens When Galvanized Steel Pipes Age?

drain maintenance tips, how to keep drains clean, need a drain uncloggged Charlotte

This is what the insides of a corroded pipe look like. Water and waste no longer flows cleanly through the pipe, but instead gets stuck and collects on the sides.

As the zinc coating wears down, the inside of the pipes begin to rust and corrode. Take a look at this picture of a corroded pipe. As you can see, the inside of the pipe has become rough and rusted. That results in restricted water flow and problems with contaminants.

What Causes Corrosion?

Corrosion is caused by:

  • Harsh drain cleaners
  • Constant water pressure
  • Places where the steel pipes are connected to copper or brass fittings.
  • Time/age

How Long Do Galvanized Steel Pipes Last?

Most galvanized steel pipes remain functional for about 40 to 50 years. Water supply lines, which are under constant pressure, have a shorter life span than waste lines, which has less frequent pressure.

What are the Signs my Galvanized Steel Pipes are Corroded?

Before you notice a water line break, you may see signs of corrosion such as the following:

  • Rusty colored water
  • Rust around pipe joints
  • Pitted rust spots on pipes
  • Low water pressure

Not Sure What Kind of Pipes You Have?

If you aren’t sure what types of metal your pipes are made from, find an exposed pipe where it enters your home and scratch it. If the scratched piece of pipe looks like a penny, it’s copper. If it’s galvanized steel, it will be silver-gray in color. If it’s plastic… well, then it’s plastic, not steel (but you already figured that out).

You can also use a magnet to tell what kind of pipes you have. A magnet will stick to galvanized steel pipes but will not stick to copper or plastic pipes.

Concerned About Your Pipes in an Older Home?

Give us a call at 704.846.5371 to discuss the type of pipes you have and how to tell if there’s a problem or not. We’ll help you determine what the best next steps may be.

Article Summary

Quick question & answer: Are there signs that my galvanized steel pipes are corroded?

Yes, you can see signs of corrosion from galvanized steel pipes before you notice a water line break. Signs include rusty colored water, rust around pipe joints, pitted rust spots on pipes, or low water pressure. Corrosion results from harsh drain cleaners, constant water pressure, places where the steel pipes are connected to copper or brass fittings, and time/age.

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