What You Need to Know About Galvanized Pipes

We inspect a lot of homes. Some are as old as… ok, they’re just really old. Naturally, a common question we get from homebuyers and sellers is around galvanized pipes in older homes.

Should you get rid of them?

Yes. 

Let’s figure out why.

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Why Are They Bad?

Prior to 1960, galvanized water supply piping was common in homes to provide potable (drinking) water and was designed as a way to prevent corrosion and rust on these steel metal pipes.

These steel pipes were dipped in a zinc coating, also known as galvanizing. It performed fine for years. However, after decades of wear and tear, this galvanized/zinc coating diminishes, and corrosion sets in.

Over time, we’ve learned that galvanized pipes corrode and rust, often first unseen from the inside. The pipes also can collect small deposits of lead particles, which can enter your drinking water.

You can see where that’s a problem.

Aside from the potential health concerns, corroded pipes can also cause leaks, discoloration of water and lower pressure.

To make matters worse, this can also impact insurance rates because these pipes can increase your likelihood of a damaging leak. In fact, some insurance companies may not even offer you insurance when they’re present.

Make sure to consider this and do further research during your inspection period.

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How Can I Tell if I Have Galvanized Pipes?

Find where your piping enters the home.

This could be where your water meter is, or near the shut-off valve, usually outside. Take a look at the pipes – upon lightly scratching, do they look like plastic or a copper penny? If so, you’re good!

When your pipe looks like a silver or grey metal (and it has threads), it’s made of galvanized steel. Aka you have galvanized pipes.

If it looks like plastic, then you probably have a PVC/CPVC or PEX piping system.

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The Bottom Line

If you’re recently moved into an old home check your home inspection report to see what type of water supply pipes you have. If it’s a home built before 1960 chances are you might see a plumber in your future.

This is one of those hidden issues in homes that you may not want to roll the dice with. We’re not saying galvanized pipes are all necessarily “bad,” but they are no longer installed and are probably nearing the end of their life at this point.

We suggest if galvanized pipes are present, you consider having them replaced by a qualified plumber.

Not only will you sleep better at night knowing you and your family are drinking safer water, but you might also save a lot of headaches, property damage, and money by replacing any galvanized pipes with proven, modern materials.

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