problems with older home plumbing

Why do older homes have trouble with pipes?

Question: What types of pipes are found in older homes? Why is older plumbing problematic? Will I need to repipe my entire older home?

Answer: Galvanized steel pipes were commonly installed in the 1930s through the 1980’s. While galvanized steel pipes were the best pipe choice of the time and were certainly a much better choice than lead pipes, they now have problems related to age. As time passes, the zinc coating erodes, and the exposed steel begins to corrode. As corrosion gets worse, problems with water sanitation, pipe integrity, and clogs increase.

Galvanized steel pipes erode faster or slower depending on several factors. The following are factors that negatively affect galvanized steel:

  • Relative humidity above 60%
  • Sodium chloride (salt)
  • Wet or soaked environments
  • Increase in temperature combined with corrosive factors like humidity and industrial pollution
  • Acids; particularly sulfur acids produced by:
    • (1) hydrogen sulfide from volcanoes, hot springs, natural gas, and sewer gas, and
    • (2) sulfur dioxide pollution in the urban atmosphere
  • Strong alkalis
  • Plasters and cements containing chlorides and sulfates
  • Acid rainwater runoff from roofs with wood shingles
  • Moss and lichen
  • Contact between galvanized items and copper, pure iron, or steel causes galvanic corrosion. Galvanic (electrochemical) corrosion is an electrolytic corrosion reaction between the zinc coating and dissimilar metals when in the presence of an electrolyte such as rain, dew, fog or condensation.

The zinc coating of galvanized steel typically lasts 35 to 50 years, although in less corrosive conditions, it can last 75 years or more. If your home is over 50 years old, you probably need to invest in repiping before you have a massive pipe burst, causing tens of thousands of dollars of water damage to your home. This is especially true if you have plumbing in which copper and galvanized steel pipes meet (fittings, joints) due to galvanic corrosion, as described above.

What You Can Do

If your home is over 50 years old, you probably need to have your pipes replaced. We work with you to minimize cost and inconvenience, putting our 30+ years of expertise to work for you as we find ways to modernize your plumbing system in a cost effective manner.

Learn More

Learn about pipe materials so you understand why older pipes are problematic.

Learn about repiping options so you know your options.

Learn about trenchless technology to minimize property damage.