Not all types of plumbing are made equal. Galvanized plumbing is an old type of piping that shouldn’t be installed in your home or used with a plumbing appliance. While galvanized plumbing was an improvement over the old standard, lead pipes, modern piping options are superior. Here’s what you need to know about galvanized plumbing.
Before galvanized plumbing was invented, most homes and cities used lead pipes for their water lines. However, lead has several drawbacks. There was the potential for lead exposure and these pipes were easily damaged by force. The plumbing industry’s solution was to use stronger, safer galvanized steel pipe instead.
Galvanized steel has a zinc coating that protects it from rust. Just as steel does, zinc corrodes when it touches moisture. However, it takes much longer to corrode than it takes steel to rust. Thus, galvanized steel pipes last much longer than untreated steel pipes would.
However, the zinc coating does eventually wear out, especially when galvanized steel is used in plumbing as it is virtually always in contact with water. When it does wear out, homeowners have a problem because it’s not possible to tell the pipe is rusting on the inside when you’re looking at it. Instead, you need to look for signs like red water, reduced water flow, and leaks to tell you that the pipes need to be replaced.
These pipes can develop other problems before they begin to rust. For example, galvanized steel can pick up lead from old lead service lines if both were in use at the same time. For all of these reasons, galvanized pipe should no longer be installed in any home’s plumbing.
What are the Alternatives to Galvanized Plumbing?
Galvanized plumbing has been out of favor since the 1960s. So, what should your plumber be using instead? Copper and plastic are the two main options.
- Copper: Copper is an incredible material that lasts significantly longer than galvanized steel and has several other properties that make it an excellent choice for plumbing. However, copper is also relatively expensive and takes some skill to install.
- Plastic: There are several types of plastic pipes that are suitable for plumbing available. PVC was once the most common plastic piping, but it too is falling out of favor for newer types of piping, such as CPVC and PEX. While weaker than copper, plastic is easier and safer to install. It will last a long time and, so long as your plumber is using an approved type of plastic, not cause any water safety issues.
What Type of Pipe Should I Use For New Installations?
Almost no one will still have galvanized pipes in their home. Instead, they might have small sections of galvanized pipe connecting their plumbing appliances to the home’s water supply. This is a problem because galvanized pipes can reduce the lifespan of and create other issues with water heaters and other plumbing appliances. Be sure to speak with a local plumber who understands the unique plumbing problems in your area to see if it’s worth replacing your connections with more modern piping.