Galvanized Pipes in homes

Galvanized piping is still very common in homes in the NW and around the country.  After the mid 1950’s galvanized piping was for the most part abandoned as the primary means of plumbing homes.

It’s life expectancy was typically anywhere from 40-50 years, depending on the type of water in the area and other conditions that might affect its life.  I have seen it in houses over 100 years old (although it may have been installed after the original construction of the home).

The pipes tend to corrode from the inside out.  This corrosion builds up on the inside of the pipe reducing flow over time—eventually closing the pipe off entirely.  Given the life expectancy of the pipe, and the latest date of its installation—-most of this piping is considered to be at the end of its expected life.  Replacement should always be anticipated when buying a house with this type of piping.

Early signs of its demise are rusting pin holes that show up on the surface of the pipe like in the following two pictures.

Rusting from a pin hole leak in a water pipe

Rusting from a pin hole leak in a water pipe

Pin Hole leak in a water pipe

Pin Hole leak in a water pipe

These pin holes leak and then rust and seal themselves—over and over—until they no longer seal and start to leak continuously.  This process of “healing” themselves is called “Autogenic Healing.”

Here is one that was actively leaking at the time of inspection.  If you look on the floor under these locations you will often find rust stains—or actual standing water.

Leaking galvanized pipe

Leaking galvanized pipe

The same sort of thing happens with galvanized drainage pipes too.  Since both the drains and the supply piping were installed at the same time they will generally need replacement at the same time.  The additional corrosive nature of what drain pipes have to carry often makes these pipes fail even sooner.

Pin hole leaks on the underside of a galvanized drain

Pin hole leaks on the underside of a galvanized drain

Typically duct tape and electrical tape are not successful in stopping these leaks.

Electrical tape covering a leak

Electrical tape covering a leak

Or if that fails there is always the coat hanger/coffee can repair. Perhaps a new approach to “drip” coffee?

Coffee can collecting a drip

Coffee can collecting a drip

When we have to resort to coffee cans and electrical tape it is past time to replace the pipes.

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