Clogged Galvanized Water Pipes May Be the Cause of Your Slow Flow

Jim Mallery

Do you try to get some flow out of your old galvanized steel pipes, but there's just nothing there?

Old houses were built with galvanized piping, which was considered just fine for the times. But it doesn't look so good now that it's all clogged up and has to be ripped out. Eventually, those old galvanized water pipes will have to be replaced.

You're probably in the same boat as millions of Americans with old homes and galvanized steel piping. The stuff just clogs up--scale deposits build up on the inside of the pipes and cut your water flow to nothing.

What to Do?

In a perfect world, all your piping would be accessible and easily replaced, but of course that seldom is the case. Fortunately, scale is worst in horizontal pipes, and if you're extra lucky, those pipes are in the crawl space under your house or in an unfinished basement ceiling. The scale also will be worst in hot-water pipes and in pipes used the most. Replacing only some pipes is only a partial, and undesirable, fix.

Do You Need a Plumber?

If you aren't into DIY, prepare to pay through the nose to get water through your pipes. For the joy of having a professional plumber re-pipe your house, your cost could approach--or even surpass--five figures. Of course, you might be willing to pay that just to avoid going into the nasty crawl space.

What to Use?

Your most viable options for replacement pipe are copper, chlorinated polyvinyl chloride (CPVC), or cross-linked polyethylene (PEX). Copper is the old standby, though the plastics are gaining popularity. If you are considering copper, be sure you don't have acidic water, which corrodes copper. Also, you must have a special fitting (dielectric) when joining copper and steel pipes--if the dissimilar metal pipes touch, rampant corrosion occurs.

CPVC and PEX do not corrode or gather scale, and they're easy to work with. CPVC is a rigid pipe, and PEX is flexible and can bend around corners.

Can You DIY?

If you really are into DIY, you can do this yourself. If you haven't plumbed before, there's not that much to it--water runs downhill unless it's under pressure, in which case it sprays everywhere. Soldering copper joints is not too difficult.

CPVC joints are glued, an easy process, but it cannot be undone if you mess up. Instead, you have to cut your joint out and start over. PEX joints use either compression or clamped fittings that require special tools. But because it bends, PEX requires far fewer joints than copper or CPVC.

So whichever way you cut it, blocked galvanized pipe needs to go, and you should get rid of the whole problem all at once. A plumber would be happy to do it for you, but a true DIYer can handle the job.


About the Author

Jim Mallery, a semi-retired journalist and onetime registered contractor, has extensive experience remodeling, repairing, and rebuilding homes.

Search Improvement Project