There’s nothing like the charm of an older home, and most people purchasing an older property chose to enhance and modernize this charm with a remodel! If you’ve moved into an older home, chances are you’ve given the home’s color palette an update, refinished the floors, and perhaps you’ve even replaced the roof. But about your pipes?
Chances are, every home built in the 60s was built using galvanized pipes. Replacing your home’s pipes is probably the last thing to cross your mind once you’ve signed the papers, but it’s something you should absolutely keep in mind. To put it simply, galvanized pipes are steel pipes that have been coated in zinc in order to help guard from rust and corrosion.
Galvanized pipes were very commonly installed in homes built before 1960, and at the time of their invention these pipes were an alternative to using lead pipes for water supply lines. Unfortunately, we now know that these decades of water exposure cause galvanized pipes to corrode and rust from the inside, posing a potential health risk to you and your family.
As galvanized pipes grow older, the coating if zinc begins to wear away and the pipes corrode. This is where we have the problem with galvanized pipes. With continued use, corroded pipes may begin to release built up lead into the tap water. But how to tell if you have galvanized pipes? Generally speaking, almost every home built before 1960 will have at least some galvanized pipes. When first installed, galvanized steel has a similar color to nickel. As it ages, however, the color can change, varying with its environment.
To discover if your pipes are galvanized, start at the point where the pipes enter into your home and locate the waterline. A magnet and a screwdriver will help you to find what your pipes are really made of. In the image above the arrows are pointing to the galvanized pipe. The image also shows some copper water lines. The presence of the copper indicates that some of the old galvanized has already been replaced. Give the pipes a scratch with the screwdriver. If they’re the same color as a penny, chances are they’re made of copper (and if the magnet doesn’t stick, they’re definitely made of copper).
If your scratch reveals a gray/silver color and a magnet does indeed stick, your pipes are galvanized steel. However, if the metal is soft and thus easily scratches, has a gray color, and a magnet does not stick, you likely have lead piping and you may need to replace them as soon as you possibly can. If you find you do have galvanized pipes, there’s no need to panic. Replacing your pipes is often a simple process; simply call your local plumber and have them swapped out at your earliest convenience!
Just because you have galvanized pipes does not automatically mean that the pipes are in immediate need of being replaced. As stated above galvanized pipes begin corroding on the interior eventually greatly reducing the amount of water allowed to flow. An indication that it is definitely time to replace the pipes is when the water is not flowing like it use to or should be. The other indication that it is time to replace is when corrosion and rust is visible on the exterior of the pipes.