Galvanized pipes were the pipe of choice for fresh water in homes built before 1960 mostly because that was the best option at the time. (Before galvanized pipes, most fresh water systems used lead pipes.)
But as with everything in life, new and better choices became available and home builders started building fresh water systems with pipe made from copper and most recently, PEX.
What are Galvanized Pipes?
Galvanized pipe is a steel pipe coated with pure zinc to prevent corrosion and rusting.
But over time that coating wears off as it constantly comes in contact with the minerals in the water. This then leaves the pipes susceptible to rust buildup which could end up clogging the line completely.
And in many cases, these steel pipes were coated with impure zinc which means there could be traces of lead coating the pipes that could leach into your tap water.
Should I Replace Galvanized Plumbing?
Absolutely, yes. Replace it today. It is junk. It pits and has a lot of build up on the inside of it. It’s just no good.
Aside from the potential poisonous lead that could be leaching into water supply, there’s also the issue of rust and buildup inside the pipe. Enough buildup and you’ve got a clogged line which could easily burst if it’s rusted through.
Not to mention the age of the pipe at this point. Even if you somehow lucked out and the pipe hasn’t corroded, just like with cast iron sewer pipes, it’s well past its due date and will soon.
How Long Do Galvanized Pipes Last?
If I’m being very generous here, these pipes could potentially last between 80 and 100 years. But most estimates put it at 40 to 50 years.
To have galvanized pipes that haven’t corroded and rusted after 40 or so years, the pipes would have had to have the most ideal, perfect conditions and maintenance. (And even then, I’d doubt they’d last much longer.)
And if you aren’t the original owner of the home, you have no idea how well everything was maintained.
Should I Buy a House with Galvanized Water Pipes?
If you are looking at a home with galvanized pipes, either have the seller replace the pipes or be prepared to replace the whole system yourself
I explain something similar in this post about buying a house with a cast iron sewer system. If you do buy a home with a galvanized pipe fresh water system and the seller won’t replace it, you are assuming all of the risk and responsibility.
Because of this, I often recommend that the buyer request a significantly higher amount than what the cost to replace is estimated to be.
Either way, don’t think you can buy a house with galvanized pipes and not expect to replace them.
How Much Does It Cost to Replace Galvanized Plumbing?
It’s impossible to say how much something is going to cost without seeing your specific system.
However, I can give you a general idea of what it MIGHT cost based on the jobs we’ve done in the past.
If we’re talking galvanized pipe in just the yard, you’re looking at anywhere from $2,000 to $8,000 to replace it.
And for inside the house, $3,000 to $15,000 depending on the house and how much water line is in the house and where it is.
It might sound like a lot but it’s better to go ahead and get this taken care of before it gets worse. (Think burst pipes and your home flooding.)