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You are in Phoenix. We also have a Tucson site.

Is Your Galvanized Pipe for Water a Ticking Time Bomb? Risks & Replacements Explained

When it comes to water supply in many older homes, galvanized pipes for water has long been the system of choice. Yet, with time, the once-reliable zinc-coated steel piping might now be raising concerns. Are your house’s galvanized pipes still safe for your drinking water, and how do you know when they require replacement? This article examines the lifespan, issues, and indications for updating galvanized pipes, equipping you with knowledge to make informed decisions about your household plumbing.

Key Takeaways

  • Galvanized pipes have a protective zinc coating that can deteriorate over time, leading to potential rust, corrosion, and health hazards like lead contamination.

  • Regular maintenance of galvanized pipes can prolong their lifespan, which can vary from 20 to 70 years depending on various factors, but they may need replacing if signs of corrosion such as low water pressure, discolored water, or leaks are observed.

  • Several options are available for replacing galvanized pipes, with PVC, copper, and PEX pipes offering different advantages; replacement costs can range from $2,000 to $15,000, influenced by property size and materials used.

Understanding Galvanized Pipes

Galvanized pipes are essentially steel pipes that have received a protective layer of zinc to avoid the perils of rust and corrosion. This protective zinc coating serves as a barrier against corrosive elements, which can extend the lifespan of your pipes significantly. However, this protective shield isn’t invincible. Over time, it begins to deteriorate due to a variety of factors, including moisture and environmental conditions. Galvanized piping, therefore, requires regular inspection and maintenance to ensure its longevity.

The protective armor wears thin and the steel underneath is left vulnerable, paving the way for rust and other related issues.

The Hidden Dangers of Galvanized Pipes

Corroded pipes, particularly galvanized pipes, are more than just a plumbing issue. They’re a health hazard. When the protective zinc coating wears off, lead contamination in the water supply becomes a real risk, which can lead to developmental delays and behavioral problems, especially in children.

The corrosion in galvanized pipes also leads to leaks, reduced water pressure, and potential property damage. The rust and mineral buildup in these pipes can result in discolored water, which can stain household appliances.

Identifying Galvanized Pipes in Your Home

Spotting galvanized pipes in your home isn’t as difficult as you might think. Rust on galvanized steel pipes typically manifests as leaks, clogs, or brown residue mixed with water. You can also conduct a scratch test on the pipes using a flathead screwdriver. If the scraped area reveals a shiny and silver surface, it indicates that the pipe is galvanized.

To confirm, use a magnet. Steel is magnetic, and the galvanized coating doesn’t interfere with this property. So, if the magnet sticks to the pipe, it’s galvanized.

Lifespan and Maintenance of Galvanized Pipes

The lifespan of galvanized pipes is influenced by several factors such as:

  • Water quality

  • The pH of water

  • Environmental conditions

  • The level of maintenance the system receives

It can vary from 20 to 70-80 years based on these factors. However, if your galvanized plumbing was installed in the 1960s, you might be looking at a lifespan of 40 to 50 years.

To extend the lifespan of your galvanized steel plumbing, regular maintenance is crucial. This involves:

  • Periodic inspection

  • Clearing of debris or sediment

  • Protecting pipes from environmental elements

  • Promptly addressing clogs and slow drains

Due to the average lifespan of galvanized pipes, it is important to regularly check and maintain them. However, some pipes may show signs of corrosion in less than 25 years, requiring more frequent checks.

Signs It's Time to Replace Your Galvanized Pipes

One of the most telltale signs that it’s time to replace your galvanized pipes is low water pressure. This is usually due to corrosion and accumulation of rust within the pipes, hindering water flow. Another sign is uneven water distribution. This inconsistency in water flow is also a result of corrosion and rust buildup inside the pipes.

Furthermore, there are several signs that indicate the need for pipe replacement:

  1. Discolored water, especially if it is brown or rust-colored

  2. Varying water pressure

  3. Rust around pipe joints

  4. Leakage, especially when coupled with discolored water and varying water pressure

If you notice any of these signs, it is important to address the issue promptly and consider replacing the pipes.

Replacement Options for Galvanized Pipes

When it comes to replacing galvanized pipes, there are several options to consider. Copper pipes, for instance, offer enhanced durability, prevention of rust and corrosion, and improved water flow. However, they carry a higher cost compared to galvanized pipes and may impart a metallic flavor to the water.

Another option for piping material is PVC pipes. While they are lightweight and easy to install, they are less strong, durable, and versatile in handling temperature variations than metal pipes.

PEX pipes are also an alternative, offering flexibility, durability, cost-effectiveness, and heat resistance, making them suitable for both hot and cold water supplies. With proper installation and maintenance, a piping system can last for over 50 years, ensuring a reliable solution for your plumbing needs.

Costs Involved in Replacing Galvanized Pipes

Replacing galvanized pipes can be quite an investment, with costs varying from $2,000 to $15,000, depending on the property’s size and the type of pipes used. The type of replacement pipes will impact the total cost. Typically, copper piping is more costly than PVC pipes, primarily due to the higher cost of copper as a raw material.

There might also be additional expenses during replacement, such as the cost of supplementary repairs or alterations, which can further increase the total cost.

Preventive Measures to Protect Your Plumbing System

Preventive measures can go a long way in maintaining the longevity of your plumbing system. Regular checks for indications of corrosion, such as discoloration, rust, flaking, and leaks, can help identify potential issues before they escalate. Regular maintenance, including flushing the surface with clean water and a sponge or cloth, is also crucial.

To detect leaks in galvanized pipes, consider installing flow sensors or remote wireless leak detectors. If you’re installing a leak detection system, place it at the earliest point of entry in the household plumbing using standard unions, sweat adapters, or threaded pipe. This is especially important if you have lead pipes or lead piping in your plumbing system, as they can be prone to leaks.

Call Parker & Sons for Plumbing Help

If you’re dealing with corroded galvanized pipes or need assistance with replacement, don’t hesitate to reach out to professional plumbing service, Parker & Sons. Offering a wide range of services, including drain cleaning, toilet repair, and installation, as well as sink and faucet installation, we have the expertise to tackle any plumbing issue. Call us today at 602-344-9027 for assistance with your galvanized pipes.

Catering to the Phoenix, Arizona metro area, we offer skilled and extensive plumbing services for individuals facing challenges with galvanized pipes, lead service lines, and water supply lines. Schedule an appointment today for your plumbing needs!


In conclusion, galvanized pipes, while once a popular choice for plumbing, come with their own set of challenges. From corrosion and rust to health hazards and property damage, they require regular inspection and maintenance. However, when it’s time for replacement, there are several options to consider, each with their own benefits and drawbacks. Remember to factor in the costs and potential additional expenses when planning for replacement.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is galvanized pipe good for plumbing?

No, galvanized pipes are not good for plumbing as they can eventually corrode and pose a hazard for drinking water due to the presence of lead and cadmium in the zinc coating. It is not safe for drinking water in the long run.

When did they stop using galvanized plumbing?

Galvanized plumbing was still in use as late as 1990, but its use has since declined due to the corrosion it can cause in the water supply.

What metal pipe is safe for drinking water?

Copper pipes with lead-free joint materials are the best choice for safe drinking water. It's durable, long-lasting, and won't leach chemicals into the water. However, keep in mind that copper pipes can be more expensive and have environmental trade-offs.

What are the signs that it's time to replace my galvanized pipes?

If you are experiencing low water pressure, uneven water distribution, discolored water, and leaks, it's time to replace your galvanized pipes.

What are the possible replacement options for galvanized pipes?

You can consider replacing galvanized pipes with copper, PVC, or PEX pipes for more modern and reliable plumbing options.

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