Why Is Galvanized Plumbing Bad?

Why Is Galvanized Plumbing Bad? Time for an Upgrade

Ian Mutuli
Updated on
Ian Mutuli

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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Picture this, you’re settling in for a quiet night with a hot cup of tea when out of nowhere, a pipe explodes, transforming your peaceful abode into an uncontrollable aquatic chaos!

A complete nightmare, Right?

How can it get so bad? Well, you may find it hard to believe, but in reality, this is a common scenario many homeowners face, especially those with galvanized plumbing. These pipes are like a potential time bomb, just waiting to disrupt your perfect life!

Though galvanized pipes were once considered the ideal solution in plumbing, they have successfully earned the badge for wreaking havoc on homes. Let's take a look at why galvanized plumbing is bad for your home.

The Galvanized Plumbing Era

Galvanized plumbing was widely used from the late 19th century through the mid-20th century. It gained popularity because it was affordable, durable, and was believed to provide a long-lasting solution for plumbing needs. Galvanized pipes are made of steel coated with a layer of zinc, which was intended to protect the pipes from corrosion.

Image Credits: scotthomeinspection.com

At the time, this seemed like a great innovation. However, as the years passed, several issues began to surface, making it clear that galvanized plumbing had its fair share of drawbacks.

1. Reduced Water Quality

What if, while taking a refreshing shower after a long, tiring day or just drinking some water, you find that it has a foul smell or strange taste? It can happen if you have galvanized plumbing at home!

Image Credits: wmhendersoninc.com

As these pipes age, they not only reduce the water quality but, at the same time, pose a significant threat to health. This kind of water is extremely harmful to young children and pregnant women. 

Therefore, if you have noticed that your water has turned a shade of brown or has an odd smell, make sure to get the pipes checked with an emergency plumber. After all, it is better to be safe than sorry!

2. Corrosion and Rust

We all know that the plumbing system of our house is like its main circulatory, carrying water to all the essential parts as needed. 

Now, all of a sudden, the arteries are starting to become rusted from the inside. Quite scary, right? Well, that's what you will get to experience when you have galvanized plumbing in your house any time in the near future! 

Image Credits: paragonwater.com

In the past, they had a considerable reputation and were thought to be the ideal pick for plumping as they come with a coating of zinc. Now, isn't the zinc layer supposed to protect them from rust and corrosion?

Yes, they do so. But with time, this protective zinc coating starts to wear out, eventually causing the iron to get exposed to the components.

This exposure is a disaster for the iron, as that's how the pipes' journey of getting corroded and rusted from the inside out begins! This rust is not just an orange grimy layer; they are pretty severe. It weakens the pipes, causing them to degrade and leading to leakages.

3. Frequent Leakages

When the galvanized pipes are all new, there is simply no problem. But as they age, the real trouble starts to kick in. One of the top five reasons why galvanized plumbing is bad for your home is frequent leaks.

With time, they become more prone to corrosion and rust buildup, eventually weakening them from the inside and creating those tiny little cracks and holes. And guess what?

These tiny cracks and holes are the ultimate culprits that make the pathway for the water to escape and wreak havoc in your house. 

Image Credits: ricksplumbing.com

Leaks cause water damage and need expensive repairs. They also promote the growth of mold, posing health risks that can get pretty serious.

Besides, it is like a never-ending game of hide and seek with the leaks because once you fix one, another may start from an unexpected part.

Hence, if you are getting tired of being the referee in this match, it may be the right time to call in the experts. So, they can save you from the constant headaches of always having to keep an eye on your pipes.

4. Low Water Pressure

Is the water dripping from the faucets, or maybe the shower head spitting out a weak drizzle? Well, this is what will happen when you are using the galvanized pipes in your house for a long time.

With time, they will start accumulating rust and corrosion on the inside, narrowing the water passageway. As a result, the water will have a hard time flowing freely through these pipes, eventually causing low water pressure. 

Image Credits: thespruce.com

Weak water flow can be pretty frustrating, especially when you rush! It can make doing a simple task, like washing dishes or taking a relaxing shower, more time-consuming than it needs to be. But it's not just annoying, as you end up wasting more clean water than you should!

5. Maintenance Headaches

Let's be honest: Who likes constant maintenance or even has so much time for it, right? We are all busy with our tight schedules; however, with galvanized plumbing, you may constantly have to make time to get the pipes fixed. It's like having a high-maintenance friend you don't even need!

Image Credits: expressssewer.com

Consider replacing them with top-grade copper pipes, and make sure you pick a professional plumbing service for the job! You will not only get rid of those galvanized pipes you don't want, but you will also ensure the new plumbing is well-installed!

Better pipes that are installed properly will ensure the optimal condition of your plumbing system, which means you don't have to worry about maintenance for not only months but maybe even years!

6. Limited Lifespan

Image Credits: structuretech.com

Despite initial claims of durability, galvanized pipes have a limited lifespan. The corrosion process eventually weakens the lines to the point where they become prone to leaks and failures. This results in costly repairs and water damage to your property.

Why Galvanized Plumbing Is Bad for Your Health

Beyond its structural issues, galvanized plumbing can have a significant impact on your health. The release of harmful metals into drinking water distribution systems can lead to various health problems, including:

  1. Lead Pipes: Lead exposure can cause developmental issues in children, cognitive problems, and a range of health problems in adults. Even low levels of lead exposure over time can be detrimental.
  2. Gastrointestinal Problems: Contaminated water can lead to gastrointestinal issues, including nausea, vomiting, and diarrhea.
  3. Skin and Hair Issues: Poor water quality from a drinking water distribution system can affect your skin and hair, causing dryness, irritation, and other dermatological problems.
  4. Reduced Immunity: Prolonged exposure to contaminants can weaken your immune system, increasing your vulnerability to illnesses.
  5. Long-Term Health Risks: The cumulative effects of drinking water with elevated levels of lead and other toxins can lead to long-term health risks, such as cardiovascular problems and neurological disorders.

How to Spot Galvanized Pipes in Your Home

Identifying galvanized piping in your home is crucial if you're concerned about their potential issues or considering a plumbing upgrade. Here are some human-friendly tips on how to spot galvanized pipes:

  1. Check the Color: Galvanized pipes often have a distinctive grayish-silver color. However, this color can change over time due to corroded pipes, so pipes might appear rusty or discolored.
  2. Inspect the Pipe's Surface: Look closely at the surface of your pipes. Galvanized pipes usually have a layer of zinc coating that may show signs of wear, such as flaking or peeling. If you notice exposed steel underneath, it's likely a galvanized pipe.
  3. Age of Your Home: If your home was built before the 1960s, there's a higher likelihood of having galvanized plumbing. This type of plumbing was prevalent in older construction.
  4. Magnet Test: You can perform a simple magnet test to identify steel pipes. If a magnet sticks to your plumbing pipes, they likely contain steel and might be galvanized.
  5. Look for Threaded Fittings: Galvanized pipes often have threaded fittings at the joints. If you see threaded connections on your plumbing, it's a sign that galvanized pipes may be in use.
  6. Water Flow and Pressure: Corrosion and mineral buildup within galvanized pipes can reduce water flow and pressure. If you consistently experience low water pressure or flow, it could be due to galvanized pipes restricting water passage.
  7. Inspect Pipes Near Water Heaters: Water heaters are often connected to galvanized pipes because they are commonly used for hot water distribution. Check the pipes near your water heater for signs of galvanized materials.
  8. Consult a Professional: If you're uncertain or can't quickly identify the type of plumbing in your home, it's a good idea to consult a plumbing professional. They can inspect your plumbing system and provide expert advice on its composition and condition.

Image Credits; angi.com

Upgrading Your Plumbing: A Safer and Smarter Choice

Given the numerous drawbacks and health risks associated with galvanized plumbing, it's clear that upgrading your plumbing system is a wise decision. Here are some alternative options to consider:

1. Copper Plumbing

Image Credits: blacktieplumbing.com

Copper pipes are a popular choice since they are durable and resistant to corrosion. They have a long lifespan and are less likely to introduce harmful contaminants into your water supply. While the copper pipe can be more expensive upfront, it saves you money on repairs and health-related costs in the future.

2. PEX (Cross-Linked Polyethylene) Plumbing

Image Credits: waypointinspection.com

PEX pipes are a flexible and cost-effective alternative to galvanized plumbing. They are rust-resistant, easy to install, and have excellent water flow characteristics. PEX plumbing is gaining popularity for new construction and retrofitting existing systems.

3. PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride) Plumbing

Image Credits: radiantplumbing.com

PVC pipes are commonly used for wastewater and drain lines. They are affordable, lightweight, and rust-resistant. While not suitable for all plumbing applications, PVC can be an excellent choice for some regions of your plumbing system.

4. Regular Maintenance

If replacing your entire plumbing system isn't feasible, regular maintenance can help extend the lifespan of your galvanized pipes. This includes periodic inspections for signs of corrosion, leaks, and rust, as well as addressing any issues promptly.

Wrapping Up 

Galvanized plumbing, once considered a durable and reliable option, has revealed its numerous drawbacks over time. Corrosion, rust, reduced water pressure, water quality issues, and health risks associated with lead exposure make a compelling case for upgrading to a modern plumbing system.

Now that you know why galvanized plumbing is terrible for your home, it's high time that you talk with a professional plumber to assess the plumbing system and take the necessary steps. This, in return, will ensure the safety and comfort of your house.

Investing in safer and more efficient plumbing materials, such as copper, PEX, or PVC, not only improves your quality of life but also protects your health and property. While the upfront costs of replacement may seem daunting, the long-term benefits far outweigh the initial expense. Ultimately, the peace of mind with a dependable and safe plumbing system is priceless. Don't wait until your galvanized plumbing causes irreparable damage – switch to a healthier and more reliable plumbing system today.

Ian Mutuli

About the author

Ian Mutuli

Founder and Managing Editor of Archute. He is also a graduate architect from The University of Nairobi, Kenya.
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