Published onJuly 27th, 2020
Should Galvanized Pipes in Apartment and Condo Buildings Be Repaired or Replaced?
Do you have galvanized pipes in a New York City apartment or condo building you own or manage? If so, you may have wondered, “Should I replace galvanized plumbing?” Here is some essential information on the question, so you can make the best decision for your property.
What Is Galvanized Plumbing?
Old-fashioned steel piping
Galvanized plumbing is a type of steel piping that was first introduced in the early 19th century. It became popular in the mid-1800s because at the time, it extended the life of pipes used in residential structures. The steel is coated with liquid zinc, making it less susceptible to corrosion than older materials.
Many older dwellings still have galvanized pipes in place. However, it’s no longer considered the gold standard for residential plumbing.
Some early galvanized steel pipes were coated with unpurified zinc that contained lead. Lead in drinking water has since become highly regulated for safety, which means that older galvanized pipes may violate potable water standards.
Also, over time, galvanized piping is prone to the buildup of scale. The zinc element binds with minerals in tap water. As scale develops in the pipe, its diameter decreases — and so does the water volume produced by the pipe.
In many cases, we also see rust accumulating on the pipe’s interior, which is obviously undesirable. Pipes that are barely producing water and are on their way to becoming completely clogged are a disaster waiting to happen in your building. If your galvanized pipes were installed in the 1940s, you may be decades overdue for repair or replacement.
How Do I Know If I Have Galvanized Plumbing?
A simple test
There is an easy way to tell if you have galvanized piping. Simply scratch the pipe with a screwdriver or other sharp tool to remove any paint or debris stuck to the outside surface. If a strong magnet attaches to it, you have galvanized steel pipe.
There are a few other warning signs of galvanized pipes:
- Water volume is greatly reduced and barely flows (scale buildup).
- Water from some pipes flows at a trickle, while in other locations it’s normal (some pipes galvanized, some likely replaced).
- Drinking water tastes off.
- Water testing reveals lead or other unwanted elements in drinking water.
- You notice a brown stain on white porcelain sinks and tubs (iron from rust).
- Pipes have developed leaks (though these leaks could also be attributable to other causes).
If you’re still not sure after trying the methods described above, you may want to consult with Sanitary Plumbing. We can check your pipes, examine the water quality and flow, and provide our professional evaluation.
What Are the Alternatives to Galvanized Pipes?
Newer, safer options
There are alternatives to galvanized plumbing that are safer and more durable. Whenever possible, we recommend copper piping as the best choice.
PEX piping or PVC may also be options, depending on your location and the size of your property. However, plastic piping is not allowed in NYC for properties over a few stories in height.
Should I Replace Galvanized Plumbing?
As a general rule: yes, we recommend replacing galvanized piping when possible. Many buildings require galvanized risers replaced whenever an apartment renovation takes place and the walls are opened up. We agree with this type of building rule. There’s a lot to consider when deciding to replace galvanized plumbing. The age and size of your building will come into play, particularly if tenants need to be disturbed. And of course, your budget is important too. Completely replacing piping is a major job that can entail ripping out walls — which then have to be repaired and repainted.
If you need to replace galvanized plumbing in your property, there are a few possible ways to go.
- Replacing part of your piping with copper: Be careful! This is not so ideal because the mix of metals may still promote hazardous conditions. Ensure that a dielectric fitting is used to connect the new copper and the existing galvanized pipes.
- Replacing all of your piping with copper: As mentioned, this is the best solution. Copper is the longest-lasting solution.
Need Help with Your Galvanized Pipes?
Call Sanitary Plumbing
If you think your galvanized piping may have to be replaced and need assistance with next steps, reach out to Sanitary Plumbing today. We’re experts at helping owners and managers of New York City buildings evaluate and fix their plumbing problems.
Don’t wait until you have serious problems with your property’s plumbing due to old pipes or undrinkable water. Call us at 212-734-5000 or use our easy online form to let us know how we can help bring your plumbing up to date.