Ask the Plumber – Galvanized Pipe, Repair or Replace?
Q: I have an older home from the 1950s and most of the piping is in galvanized steel. But, where the pipes attach to the faucets, water heaters, and appliances they pipe material changes to copper or plastic. Is this okay?
A: That depends. It’s very common to see older homes plumbed in steel piping. Without boring you on the details, the different materials can react differently with one another when they are attached in the same line. This can lead to problems in some cases, especially when galvanized and copper are joined.
The most common is severe corrosion caused by “electrolysis,” a reaction between the two different metals when exposed to water. This makes the better metal (copper) damage the inferior metal (steel). When copper and galvanized are joined, the corrosion is usually limited to the joint itself. I see a lot of burst pipes and slow leaks are a result of connecting dissimilar metals. This can mostly be avoided with the use of what we call a di-electric union or a brass fitting. If you know of points in your plumbing system that have different metals in contact you should have them corrected immediately.
Another issue that we frequently see with galvanized pipes is clogged faucets, shower valves, fill valves, and internal parts to tankless water heaters and boilers. The reason for this is that the interior part of the galvanized pipe rusts and then flakes over time. These flakes get caught up in the smaller working parts of your plumbing system.
Assuming your connections were made by a licensed plumber who not only knew which fittings to use but also what local plumbing code demands, you shouldn’t have to worry. That may be a large assumption, however. To know for sure, just give us a call and we’ll conduct a thorough inspection to make sure everything’s up to code.
Bellows Plumbing, Heating, & Air is the licensed professional for all water piping projects. From small pin hole repairs to full house pipe replacement. Give us a call to have your water pipes inspected for possible leaks and or corrosion.