If your home was built in the 1950s or 1960s, there's a good chance that galvanized steel pipes were used for its plumbing. You may even have them if your home was built in the 1980s, since they were still in use in some areas at that time.
Galvanized steel pipes are actually quite durable and can last for upwards of sixty or seventy years. The problem is that they haven't been common in new home construction for sixty or seventy years, either. Galvanized steel pipes have a layer of zinc on the inside that protects the steel from rust. Over a long period of time, this layer of zinc wears down and causes the pipe to corrode.
There are a few factors that determine how fast this corrosion process happens. High water pressure in your home can wear down the zinc layer quicker, and hard water in your home can speed up the corrosion process significantly.
If your home has galvanized steel pipes, how can you tell if they're corroded? Read on to learn some signs.
1. Rust in Your Drinking Water
When the zinc layer inside the pipes wears off, rust begins to accumulate on the inside of the pipe first. When you don't use the water in your home for a long period of time, it sits in the pipes and picks up some of this rust.
Check the water coming out of your kitchen faucet in the morning. If it tastes metallic, has a large amount of sediment, or has a rusty brown color, it's likely picking up rust from corroded pipes.
2. Low Water Pressure
The vast majority of homes that have galvanized steel pipes also have a supply line that's made of galvanized steel. The supply line is what brings water from the municipal water system into your home.
When significant amounts of rust build up on the inside of old galvanized steel pipes, it reduces the volume of water that can move through it. If this happens to your supply line, your entire home will have a reduced water flow, and this will result in your fixtures having low water pressure.
You can sometimes spot this problem more easily by turning on multiple fixtures at once. If you can't run the kitchen faucet and take a shower at the same time without encountering issues with water pressure, it might be a result of reduced water flow due to corrosion in your galvanized steel supply line.
3. Small Leaks
When a galvanized steel pipe is heavily corroded, the rust eventually begins to eat through the steel itself. Eventually, the steel pipe will rust through entirely and develop a pinhole leak.
You can sometimes tell you have a pinhole leak in your plumbing when you hear the sound of water dripping coming from inside of a wall cavity. Your monthly water bill may also be higher for no discernible reason due to the extra water usage from the leak.
In some cases, the leak may close up on its own. This happens when rust spreads slightly into the pinhole leak and closes it up. If you have intermittent leaks in your home, it may be due to corrosion in your galvanized steel pipes.
If you've got signs of corroded galvanized steel pipes, call a plumber in your area for an inspection. When your galvanized steel pipes are severely corroded, it's best to have a plumber replace your home's entire plumbing with either copper or plastic pipes. With new plumbing, you won't have to worry about low water pressure, rust in your drinking water, or leaks developing.