How Long Do Galvanized Pipes Last

old house plumbing

I’ve bought a house with galvanized pipes, and I was curious about how long I can expect them to last. I asked some plumbers, and here’s what I found.

Galvanized pipes can last as long as 50 years. However, exactly how long they last vary widely and is based on how well they were installed and the quality of the galvanized pipes. Some galvanized pipes can only last 10 to 20 years or less.

Galvanized pipes are quite remarkable in their ability to remain intact as long as they aren’t disturbed even when they almost fall apart. However, there are some telltale signs that they should be replaced.

This article will explain how to know when you need to replace galvanized pipes, how much it costs, and whether you should avoid buying a house with galvanized pipes.

When Should Galvanized Pipes Be Replaced?

Galvanized pipes will typically show signs that they need to be replaced, but you also may choose to replace them before they need replacing for your peace of mind. Here are the warning signs that you should replace your galvanized pipes.

The entire plumbing system can be replaced or, in some cases, only the damaged sections. As a general rule, you should replace galvanized pipes when:

  • there are pinhole leaks
  • the pipes are ruptured
  • you are getting decreased water flow
  • the water is coming out discolored

Leaks and the water, being a funny color, are the easiest to spot. However, it can be trickier to work out if the decreased water flow is being caused by the galvanized pipes being blocked or a separate issue. 

As it is very time-consuming to inspect your entire plumbing system. And you can’t see inside your plumbing system without testing the parts that are affected.

Galvanized Pipes Can Cause Low Water Pressure

But, a pipe that is blocked with rust and stopping enough water from getting through can be identified when you notice the water pressure gets worse over time as it gets more and more clogged. Initially, the pipe's interior begins to rust, creating a rough edge where tiny bits of gunk and dirt catch and then build up.

It is possible to clear clogs in galvanized pipes. However, generally, it’s best to replace them as the problem is likely to happen again since the pipes are at a point now where the problem will likely occur again in other areas.

Galvanized Pipes Can Leak & Rupture

If you have any leaks or pipe ruptures, it’s a good time to replace galvanized pipes. But, you can typically get away with only replacing the section of the pipe that’s leaking or ruptured.

Most plumbers agree that if you have one leak, then it’s likely that other leaks will soon develop, and it may be a good time to replace the whole galvanized section with copper, PVC, CPVC, or PEX pipes. That’s a lot of acronyms!

CPVC, PVC, and PEX are much cheaper than copper to both buy and install. PEX is generally preferred as the cheapest and easiest option because it’s bendy. 

With copper, PVC, and CPVC pipes, it’s more challenging to get the pipes where they need to be as you can’t easily bend them to fit into tight spaces. As a result, you also need to make more joins. Which overall, it takes more time and, as a result, costs more in additional labor. 

I recently wrote about this topic in length in an article which discusses what kind of pipes are the best to use for plumbing. Read it [here: link: is copper pipe better than pvc].

Rust Inside Galvanized Pipes Can Cause Reddish-Brown Water

As you get a build-up of sediment in a galvanized pipe, small particles of the rusted galvanized pipe and sediment can be taken up by the water as it flows through the pipe. The result is that the water that comes out of the faucet, shower head, or toilet will be reddish-brown.

Reddish-brown water a clear sign you’ll want to replace your galvanized pipes. When the water is discolored, the main issue is that it’s tough to know exactly where the deteriorated ares are, and therefore, it’s hard to replace only the part of the galvanized piping.

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Cost To Replace Galvanized Pipes?

If you do need to replace your galvanized pipes you may be wondering how much they cost. I looked around for some estimates and here’s what I found.

On the whole, it will cost around $5,000 to $10,000 to re-plumb galvanized pipes with PEX pipe in a 1500 sq ft home. Labor costs might be higher or lower depending on where the house is located and other factors that could make the job more complex, such as how easy it is to access the existing pipes.

As you may know, the cost of living in a state like New York or California is higher than in other parts of the country, but people also earn higher salaries. Therefore, the price to replace your galvanized pipes can be higher in places like New York and California.

But, replacing galvanized pipes in a state like Atlanta can be a bit cheaper. It can also vary depending on the company. Therefore, it’s generally recommended to get three quotes from different companies. 

That way, you can get an idea of how much it will be based on your location and the complexity of your particular home.

Should I Buy a House With Galvanized Plumbing?

Generally, older homes have galvanized pipes, and nowadays, it isn’t used so much. Largely because PEX and plastic pipes last around the same amount of time or longer than galvanized plumbing and are much easier to install, but if a house already has galvanized plumbing, should you buy it?

Overall, it is OK to buy a house with galvanized plumbing. However, it would be best if you plan on replacing the galvanized pipes sooner rather than later. Galvanized plumbing can hold up for a very long time, but it isn’t easy to know when it will need to be replaced.

But, you can visually inspect the plumbing before purchasing it to get an idea of how good a shape it is in. You can also hire a home inspector to assess the condition of your galvanized pipes.

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Hubert Miles

I've been conducting home inspections for 17 years. I'm a licensed Home Inspector, Certified Master Inspector (CMI), and FHA 203k Consultant. I started HomeInspectionInsider.com to help people better understand the home inspection process and answer questions about homeownership and home maintenance.

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