4 Options for Replacing that Galvanized Old Plumbing

Shannon Lee

At some point, almost every old home will have a serious plumbing problem. Much of that problem can be traced back to galvanized pipe, which was a popular option for homes built between 1900 and 1965. Over time, the minerals flowing in with the water react with the zinc and iron inside the pipe, and a scaly plaque builds up on the inside of the pipe. The eventual result is decreased water flow to all faucets in your old home.

If you choose to replace your galvanized pipes, you have four major options:

  • Replace the old galvanized pipe with new galvanized pipe. Replacing a portion of your galvanized pipe could easily solve the problem for only a few hundred dollars. Because galvanized hot water pipes build up residue faster than cold water pipes, you might have to replace only the pipe leading from the hot water heater. On the other hand, if your pipes are truly ancient, you run the risk of damage during the replacement process, which can lead to a higher price tag.
  • Replace a portion of the old pipe with copper. Plumbers quickly tell you that copper is easier to work with, and because the work goes faster, the job is less expensive. However, replacing only part of the galvanized pipe with copper pipe can cause more problems when the zinc, iron, and copper react with the minerals in the water. The resulting corrosion can quickly wear out your pipes, leading to another round of replacements.
  • Replace all of the old pipe with new copper pipe. Replacing the entire plumbing system is expensive, but copper adds to the resale value of the home. As a bonus, copper pipe is durable enough to keep your plumbing running smoothly for a very long time.
  • Replace it all with plastic pipe. Using plastic pipe is a bit easier than using other types of pipe, and might be a bit cheaper, too. Some plastic pipe is meant to expand with temperature changes, eliminating the problem of burst pipes during freezing weather. On the other hand, the jury is still out on whether plastic pipe leaches harmful chemicals into your water.

Whichever method of replacement you choose, keep in mind that you might find more than just a few areas of problem pipe--and your small repair job could turn into a full-scale plumbing replacement. Plan for such a possibility in your final repair budget, and keep your fingers crossed!


About the Author

Shannon Dauphin is a freelance writer based near Nashville, Tennessee. Her house was built in 1901, so home repair and renovation have become her hobbies.

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