Upgrading Your Pipes

Older Homes And Galvanized Pipes

If you are thinking of moving into an older home -- one built in 1960 or before -- one thing you should look at very carefully is the plumbing. Today, most homes are plumbed with copper or sometimes PEX pipes, but prior to 1960, a lot of homes were plumbed with pipes made from galvanized steel. This has some important implications that you'll need to consider before you buy such a home.

1. Galvanized steel tends to rust.

Galvanized steel is initially coated in zinc. The zinc protects the steel and prevents it from developing rust. The problem is, over time, the zinc wears away, leaving the underlying steel exposed to the water. It does not take long, then, for the pipes to start rusting. You'll see rust in the water, and the rust will leave stains in any white or light-colored sinks. Although rusty water is not a health hazard, it's an inconvenience. Before you buy a home with galvanized pipes, make sure you turn the water on at a few taps and see whether it has that tell-tale orange color when it first comes out.

2. Galvanized steel is also prone to mineral buildup.

Depending on the mineral concentration in the water in your area, galvanized pipes may also become laden with thick mineral deposits. These deposits slowly take up more and more room inside the pipe, causing the water pressure to drop as less water can fit through. If the water seems to be flowing slowly in a home with galvanized pipes, mineral deposits are probably to blame.

3. Galvanized pipes are expensive to replace.

Once galvanized pipes begin having problems, the only thing you can really do is replace them with pipes made from copper or PEX. This is an expensive endeavor, often totaling around $15,000 to $20,000 depending on the size of your home. So, if you are looking at an older home with galvanized pipes that need to be replaced, take the price into account. You could make a low offer and plan on putting the extra money into new pipes. If the pipes are still functioning well currently, you may be able to put off the pipe replacement for a few years until you notice more rust or signs of mineral deposits.

To learn more about galvanized pipes and the struggles they present in an older home, reach out to a local plumber.