Plumbing pipes can last a long time. Copper pipes are made to last for up to about 70 years, and CPVC varieties can last for 75 years. However, galvanized steel pipes do not last as long, and they usually begin to deteriorate around the 40- or 50-year mark.
Steel pipes were the standard for plumbing before the 1960s. If your home was built in or before the 1950s, then you may start to experience problems with your steel pipes now.
If you are concerned about a potentially dire situation caused by old steel pipes, keep reading to learn about some signs of disaster you should look out for.
1. BROWN OR RED WATER
Occasional water discoloration is not usually a concern. Rust, mineral deposits, and dirt can be dislodged from your pipes if you turn your water on and off at the main line. You may also see the debris if your town updates some of the municipal water lines.
If you see debris, it is wise to run your water until it is clear before using it. However, if you see brown or red flakes in your water on a daily basis, this is not normal, and running your water will not help the situation. The flakes are rust and pieces of steel that have flaked off from inside the plumbing lines.
Galvanized steel that was once used to create water pipe is covered in a layer of zinc that keeps the iron from deteriorating. The zinc breaks down over time, though, and this deterioration leaves the metal underneath exposed to moisture.
When steel comes into contact with water, the metal oxidizes. As oxygen interacts with the steel, the metal turns into iron oxide, or rust. This material is extremely weak and flakes off into your water.
At first you may see only small bits of rust. Iron oxide will accumulate more and more over time, though, and larger amounts of rust will break free. This is a sign that your steel pipes have deteriorated a great deal internally.
You may not always see the red or brown bits of rust when running your water. You might notice other signs, such as red stains on your towels after running them through your washer or brown spots around your sink drain.
2. LOSS OF WATER PRESSURE
Your main water distribution pipes will be a combination of one-inch, three-quarter-inch, and half-inch pipes. The largest one-inch pipes are attached to your main line, and the pipes reduce in size as they get closer to your sinks and appliances. This pipe size distribution helps water pressure to stay consistent throughout the home.
However, as rust accumulates inside the pipes, they start to narrow, and water flows more slowly through the pipes. As the water flow slows down, you will notice water pressure dropping, especially as oxidation builds in the main pipe.
Water pressure also drops as rust works its way through the entire thickness of the steel. Steel pipes are thick, with four millimeters of metal forming the edges of every one-inch pipe. It can take quite a while for rust to work its way through the metal, but eventually the rust will create holes in the pipe.
Small pin holes will develop first. These holes allow small amounts of water to leak from the pipes. As water escapes, water pressure inside your home drops. And the larger the holes, the larger the loss of water pressure.
Inspect your pipes closely for condensation or dripping water if you suspect steel pipe deterioration. Even pin holes in steel pipes will become bigger very quickly, so contact us at Vets 4 You Plumbing Heating & Air as soon as possible if you suspect that you home has old steel pipes.