Why Metal Pipes in Older Homes Corrode

Pipe Under Bathroom Sink

As plumbers, we frequently get asked why pipes in older homes corrode. The simplest explanation is that the materials chosen for plumbing before the 1960s just cannot handle the stress of daily water delivery. Unfortunately, that's all builders had at the time. We have much better materials today.

Lead Pipe Corrosion

It is getting harder and harder to find older homes that still have original lead pipes. That's a good thing because lead is dangerous. If lead pipes start corroding, serious health concerns are automatically in play. Corroded lead pipes are as potentially harmful to families as peeling lead paint.

We strongly urge people with lead plumbing to have it replaced as soon as possible. In the meantime, understand that the water is not fit for consumption. Go ahead and use it to wash your clothes and bathe, but do not drink or cook with water from corroded lead pipes.

Galvanized Iron Pipes

Galvanized iron is nearly identical to standard iron except that it has been coated with a thin layer of zinc. It is a much better option for indoor plumbing than lead, but certainly not as good as copper or PVC. Its biggest weakness is that the zinc layer doesn't play well with some of the minerals found in municipal water supplies. Over time, a reaction between the zinc and minerals can lead to corrosion.

Galvanized plumbing systems, like lead, are getting harder to find. Homes re-plumbed after the sixties generally have no galvanized iron remaining in them. New builds from the sixties will have either copper or PVC.

If your home has galvanized plumbing, any bit of corrosion in the pipes will leave you with water displaying a rusty brown color. You are not an imminent danger from that water, but it certainly won't taste all that good. Your best bet is to have the pipes replaced as soon as you can.

Copper Plumbing

Although copper pipes do not corrode nearly as easily as iron and lead, they still can. You should also note that corrosion in a copper system is harder to detect. That's because water flowing through copper pipes doesn't discolor so easily. Corrosion will not appear as reddish-brown stains in the water. Instead, it turns the water slightly bluish in color. The discoloration may be so slight as to be hard to notice.

PVC Pipes Don't Corrode

PVC's primary benefit is that it doesn't corrode. PVC is a plastic material, so corrosion is a nonissue. However, improperly applied PVC cement can dry out, crack, and cause leaks. Such problems do not pose a danger to human health. However, leaky plumbing is always a serious concern.

As plumbers in Salt Lake City, we have extensive experience dealing with pipe corrosion. If you are concerned that your pipes may be displaying signs of corrosion, do not hesitate to give us a call. We can inspect the entire system and give you a good idea of what needs to be done to bring it back into good shape.

Note that we also can help with water heater repair, sewer repair, and complete re-plumbing projects. Even clearing out clogged drains is something we can do. No job is too much for our experienced team.

Contact us today to learn more about how our team at Salt City Plumbing and HVAC can help!

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