How & Why Outdated Galvanized Pipes Cause Leaks In Older Homes

Staff MgmtPlumbing

Getting ready to leave her house one Sunday morning to go to church, Ann Hays heard a strange sound coming from upstairs. She went to check it out and saw that her whole upstairs study was flooded. Unfortunately, this was not the first time a thing like this happened, and she immediately went to shut off the water.

“This was the third time a part of my home had flooded, and ironically enough each time it happened on a Sunday,” said Hays. “I knew from the previous two times that I needed to patch up the pipe that was leaking. But when it happened this last time I decided to call in a professional to figure out why my pipes kept on bursting and flooding different parts of my home. I didn’t think this was something that should happen as often as it was happening to me.”

By the next morning, John Moore Services was at her home and had already figured out the problem – galvanized pipes. See, the piping system that the majority of homes were built with before 1981 were galvanized, and Hays fit right into that category because her home was built in 1970.

“Galvanized pipes are a supply system that carries hot and cold water to all your fixtures, faucets, toilets, and tubs. On the outside, a lot of times galvanized pipe looks like it’s good, and the reason for that is because it deteriorates from the inside out,” said John Moore Services Senior Operations Manager Joe Bany. “The water we have in Houston slowly eats away the inside of the pipes. Rust then builds up and will eat holes through the outside of the pipe, which will lead to cancer marks that can end up flooding your house.”

To break it down, galvanized pipes are steel pipes that are covered with a protective layer of zinc. And yes, the zinc does protect it for a while, but after many years it erodes from the pipe which causes corrosion to build up on its inside walls. With galvanized pipes, there are several big issues to watch out for:

  • You lose pipe size. Mountains of rust form inside the line of pipe reducing the volume of water that goes through and also the pressure that you will receive at the end use.
  • You get discolored, unclean water. Your water supply flows through the corroded pipes to reach your faucets. As it travels, it collects the rust that it has to flow through. This is bad for water quality in general, but is really bad when you have not used a particular faucet in a day or two because the water is just sitting in the pipes collecting rust and other debris.
  • You will get leaks. Over time, your galvanized pipes will develop cancer spots. These are weak spots on the pipe’s outer layer that will leak. You can always patch up a cancer spot, but as long as your whole piping system is made of galvanized pipe, you will continue to develop more and more cancer spots until all the pipes have been replaced.

“The true solution to galvanized pipes that are starting to cancer and leak in your ceiling is to re-pipe your house,” said Bany. “It sounds like a big chore, and yes it is a big job, but it is not the way it used to be 20 years ago. We don’t have to gut your house and we don’t have to tear it apart.”

Bany and the other plumbers at John Moore Services use a new type of pipe called PEX piping to replace galvanized pipes. It is flexible and can work into spots where rigid, solid pipe can’t go. Now instead of cutting a whole wall open to make a repair all that has to be cut is a small access hole where the piping needs to come out of the wall.

“The plumber cut a few small holes into my walls and went to work putting in the new pipe,” said Hays. “That part took a few days and when he was finished a different technician came to repair and patch up the small holes that were made. The job only took four days and when they left my house looked as good as new. I could have had the plumber patch up the leak like I had done before, but I knew leaks would keep happening so I made the decision to re-pipe everything and it turned out great.”

Galvanized pipes can cause a lot of problems. If you are having reoccurring leaks or are not sure the type of piping system your home is equipped with, call the expert plumbers at John Moore Services. We will come and evaluate your home and help you come up with a plan of action for fixing yourplumbing problem.