Replacing Galvanized Pipes in Your Santa Rosa Home

Galvanized pipes were installed in many new Santa Rosa homes until the 1960s. They were made from steel, then dipped in zinc to prevent rust and corrosion.

Even though they were an inexpensive and resilient solution at the time, home builders began to forego galvanized piping – choosing copper or PVC instead for water supply piping systems — for good reason.

Today, galvanized pipes are only used for gas supply in rare and specific cases. When it comes to your home’s plumbing experts agree that old galvanized pipes should be replaced with piping made from a more durable, effective, and safer material.

Why does galvanized piping need to be replaced?

After decades of use, steel pipes with zinc covering will develop severe rusting and corrosion. If a home has galvanized pipes, they were most likely installed decades ago (as new home builders never install galvanized pipes for the water line).

In California homes, plumbing pipes are usually made of copper, plastic (either PVC and PEX as both are plastic), or a combination of these.  

Therefore, any piping that’s currently installed in a home could be a health risk. Years of rust and corrosion can lead to blocked water flow and even lead particles leaching into the water. If your home is more than 40 years old, you might have galvanized piping that needs to be replaced. But first, you need to know what kind of piping lays under your home’s foundation…

How do I know if my pipes are galvanized?

Galvanized pipes were originally the color of a nickel, but over time they start to appear dull in color.  To see what kind of pipes you have, grab a magnet and screw driver and find your water line. Scratch the outside of the pipe with your screwdriver, if the pipe is galvanized steel, you’ll see a gray/silver color where you scratched it. Now touch the magnet to the pipe- if it sticks, the pipe is galvanized.

Want to find out your pipe material? Try the “scratch” test:

If the pipe is copper, you’ll be able to see the copper color when it’s scratched. If it’s plastic, the color will be white or ivory in color. The magnet will not stick if your piping is made from either of these materials. Lead piping is also not magnetic, will be softer to the touch, easy to scratch, and will be a light gray color. While copper, plastic, and steel piping is OK, if you discover that your home has lead piping, get it replaced as soon as possible. Water should not flow through any kind of lead.

What are best alternatives to galvanized piping in my Santa Rosa home?

There are several things to consider when deciding what kind of piping your home needs. The best way to do this is talking to a plumber who can go through the options with you, then access and replace your pipes if need be. Want to learn more? Check out our water line replacement page.

Here are the main aspects -both good and bad- of the most commonly-used piping systems:

PVC Pipes (Polyvinyl chloride)

  • Flexible
  • Easy to cut and install
  • Glues together
  • Slightly more prone to leakage
  • Fragile material can shatter if not careful
  • Inexpensive

Rigid Copper Pipes

  • Can be bent slightly
  • Tolerates heat and intense pressures
  • Can corrode over time
  • Few leaks
  • Easy to recycle
  • Expensive

PEX Pipes (cross-linked polyethylene)

  • Pipes are color coded. Red for hot, blue for cold.
  • Very flexible. Can be bent at 90 degrees where needed
  • Easy to cut
  • Easily joined with other piping (such as copper)
  • New type of piping.  We have yet to see it’s long-term capabilities
  • Prone to leaks
  • Cannot recycle
  • Inexpensive

If you think your home might have galvanized pipes or you simply want to talk about home piping systems and options, contact Moore Home Services today!