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Replacing Galvanized Piping

American houses contain different types of piping, and some of it is better than others.

A very common type of piping in older houses is galvanized piping. Here we will explain what that is and why it can cause problems for homeowners.


What Is Galvanized Piping?

Galvanized pipes are steel pipes that have gone through the process of galvanization. Most commonly this means that the pipes are dipped into molten zinc. The resulting coating protects the steel from corrosion and rust. Older houses have a lot of galvanized piping, particularly those built before 1960. They were a much better and safer option than the cast iron or lead pipes that were used before.


Does Your Home Have Galvanized Piping?

Galvanized pipes are metal pipes that will turn dull and gray with exposure to air. Some houses have painted pipes, so it can be harder to tell if they are galvanized steel. One way to check is by scratching the pipe with the flat head of a screwdriver. If it’s galvanized steel, the scratch will be silver gray in color. A strong magnet will also stick to galvanized steel. A magnet will not stick to copper, lead, or plastic piping.


Why You Should Replace Galvanized Piping

Unfortunately, galvanized pipe corrodes on the inside when it is exposed to water over time. It also fills up with sediment and mineral deposits. Galvanized pipes can release iron. If you see brown stains on porcelain fixtures like sinks or bathtubs, that’s evidence of iron. From a health perspective, bringing clean water in through rusted, dirty pipes is not ideal.

Sediment buildup also reduces the free flow of water. Less and less water can get through the remaining space as the pipe corrodes over time. The water pressure in houses with galvanized steel piping will lower, sometimes until it’s so low that you can’t take a shower and run the dishwasher or washing machine at the same time. You may notice that the water pressure in your house is uneven, and that the farther away from the main water source you get, the less water comes out when you turn on the tap. This is common with galvanized pipes.

Corroded pipes also leak more, especially at the joints. A broken water pipe can cause a great deal of damage in a short amount of time. Replacing galvanized piping is a good way to avoid both this possibility and improve both water pressure and water quality.

Plumbers today replace galvanized piping with either PEX or copper piping. PEX, or cross-linked polyethylene) piping is plastic piping. Both options are much better than galvanized steel, but PEX has several advantages over copper piping. The first is that it’s cheaper. PEX piping costs about a third of the price of copper pipe. That’s a huge cost difference. The second advantage is that PEX piping is faster for your plumber to install. Because it’s easier and quicker to install, your plumbing job will be more affordable when your plumber uses PEX piping.

PEX piping does not have to be soldered and it will not corrode over time like copper does. Corrosion is an issue for metal pipes in areas that have acidic water. Unlike copper pipe, PEX piping remains chemically stable over time.

If you have questions about what kind of piping your house has, call us at Lake Michigan Mechanical. We will be glad to discuss options for replacing your galvanized piping with healthier and safer piping.