homeowner education ell real estate group

Homeowner Q&A: What are galvanized pipes?

Q: I'm buying an older home, and it has original plumbing made of galvanized steel. Am I going to need to replumb the house?

A: Galvanized pipes were a popular residential plumbing material in the early 20th century, replacing cast iron and lead. It remained a popular building material through the 1960s.


If you have galvanized pipes in your home, yes, you will want to replumb the house sooner than later. There are several issues with galvanized pipes:

  1. 1. Potential for lead poisoning. Steel pipes are covered by a layer of zinc to protect the base metal from rusting and extend its longevity. Eventually, though, the zinc itself will erode, allowing the piping to rust from the inside out. Lead may leech into your water supply as the pipes corrode.
  2. 2. Low water pressure. As pipes rust, a plaque develops on the inside of the piping. This creates low water pressure. This plaque can also flake off and end up in your water glass, adding visible impurities and a metallic taste to your water.
  3. 3. Potential for pipe failure. The same rusting and buildup that causes low water pressure may eventually cause pipe failure in the system, increasing the risk of water damage.

Galvanized systems have a life expectancy of 50-70 years, but proactively replacing the plumbing as soon as you can may protect you from health and maintenance hazards. If you aren't sure whether you have galvanized pipes or not, use the following test to determine:

  1. 1. Locate where your pipes enter your home.
  2. 2. Scratch the pipe and note the color. If it's copper, you have copper plumbing. If it's silver/gray, it is galvanized. And white indicates plastic.

If you need guidance about your plumbing system, contact us for a list of reputable local plumbers.