Galvanized steel was first developed in the early 1800s, but it didn’t become popular until the 1850s and 1860s. It’s manufactured by coating steel with liquid zinc, which provides a barrier against corrosion and extends the useful life of the pipes. Because of its corrosion resistant properties and improved health safety, galvanized pipe was used as a replacement for lead pipes until the 1960s. Today, if a home or business has galvanized steel piping, it’s at the very end of its useful life or past its useful life. Thankfully, you do have some options when it comes to dealing with your old galvanized steel pipes.

Galvanized Steel Plumbing Pipes

While galvanized steel plumbing pipes are considered better than lead pipes, they don’t necessarily reduce the risk of lead exposure. Not to mention, when galvanized steel plumbing pipes are used for water supply lines, the reaction between the zinc coating and the minerals in the water forms scale, which can dramatically reduce the expected lifespan.

Galvanized Steel and Lead

Early galvanized steel was dipped in natural zinc that was not purified and contained lead. Another course of lead was the existing lead plumbing pipes in homes and businesses. As the lead pipes failed, homeowners and building owners would replace the sections of failed pipe with galvanized steel, which did not decrease the lead hazard because particles from the existing lead pipes would often be caught in the corrosion that developed inside the galvanized steel pipes. This is also true if the municipal plumbing system also contains lead pipes because the lead particles can travel with the water flow.

Galvanized Steel and Scale Build-Up

Galvanized steel is also prone to scale build-up when it’s used for plumbing pipes. The zinc coating, whether pure or impure, interacts with the chemicals and minerals present in the tap water. This interaction creates a layer of scale that becomes thicker with time and reduces water pressure and water flow. This can become severe enough that it completely seals the inside of the pipe, preventing water from reaching the water fixtures.

Making the Decision to Reline or Replace Galvanized Steel Plumbing Pipes

If your home, business, apartment complex or condo building still contains galvanized steel plumbing pipes, you may be wondering if you should replace the entire system, due to the potential hazards and water pressure problems, or if those pipes can be relined with an epoxy coating or liner. The truth is that it depends on the condition of the pipes.

Replacing Your Galvanized Steel Plumbing Pipes

The first option that often comes to most building owner’s minds is replacing all the galvanized steel pipes with another type of pipe, like PEX, PVC, CPVC and copper. Entirely replacing your galvanized pipes removes any possible lead issues within your pipes and solves water flow, pressure and leak problems.

Plumbing Pipe Expected Lifespans

When it comes to replacing your galvanized steel with pipes made from a different material, you can expect the pipes to last anywhere from 20 to more than 100 years, depending on the type of pipe you choose. However, if you only plan to replace some of your galvanized steel pipes, you should not use copper because copper and galvanized steel used in the same plumbing system can accelerate corrosion.

  • Brass  50 to 75 Years
  • Copper  50 to 100 Years
  • CPVC  50 to 70 Years
  • Galvanized Steel  20 to 50 Years
  • PEX  More Than 40 Years
  • PVC  50 to 80+ Years
  • Stainless Stee 100 Years or More

Pros of Replacing Galvanized Steel Pipes

  • Every Plumbing Pipe in Your Building Can Be Replaced.
  • New Plumbing Pipes Are Rated to Last for Decades.
  • Water Flow and Pressure Will Be Fully Restored.
  • You’ll Reduce the Chances of Lead Contamination in Your Potable Water.

Cons of Replacing Galvanized Steel Pipes

  • The Cost to Replace Can Be Much Higher than Lining Your Pipes.
  • Holes May Need to Be Cut in Your Walls in Order to Reach the Pipes.
  • It Takes Longer to Replace Pipes than to Line Them.
  • You May Need to Hire a Second Contractor to Replace Removed Drywall and Finishes.

Lining Your Galvanized Steel Plumbing Pipes

Instead of replacing every galvanized steel plumbing pipe in your building, you may be able to line your pipes with epoxy. Lining your pipes with epoxy can be a more cost-effective way to restore your plumbing pipes and eliminate leaks, lead and future corrosion.

Pipelining Lifespans

Pipe liners and coatings have lifespans that are similar to new plumbing pipes when the proper preparation and installation techniques are used

  • Potable Water Pipe Coating  35 to 50 Years
  • Sewer and Drain Liners  Up to 80 Years
  • Parts and Labor Warranty  10 Years

Pros of Lining Your Galvanized Steel Pipes

  • Internal Pipe Diameter is Restored.
  • It Takes Less Time to Line Your Pipes Than Replace Them.
  • Large Holes Do not Need to Be Cut into Your Walls.
  • Lining Costs Less than Replacing Your Pipes.
  • Pipelining Is Environmentally Friendly.
  • Prevents the Leaching of Lead into the Building Water Supply.
  • There Is No Risk of Future Corrosion or Scale Build-Up.

Cons of Lining Your Galvanized Steel Pipes

Epoxy Coatings for Galvanized Steel Plumbing Pipes with NuFlow

Epoxy coatings are very effective at restoring galvanized steel water supply lines and preventing future corrosion, lead leeching and scale build-up. This is because the coating prevents water from coming into contact with the galvanized steel host pipe. The process of lining your plumbing pipes starts with a thorough cleaning that removes all of the corrosion and scale from inside the plumbing pipe down to the pipe walls.

Once the pipes have been cleaned, a camera inspection is performed to ensure that all of the pipes are in good condition and that there are no huge holes or leaks. If there are pipes with extremely thin walls, holes or cracks, those pipes will need to be replaced by our licensed plumber, who remains on-site during the pipelining process. After the severely damaged pipes are replaced, the entire system is lined with epoxy, which is blown through the pipes.

As the epoxy moves through your plumbing pipes, it rolls over itself, ensuring a thorough and even coating. Then, the coating is left to cure for a certain amount of time, usually 24-hours. After the coating has cured, a second camera inspection is performed to make sure the installation was a success.

To learn more about restoring your galvanized steel plumbing pipes with an epoxy coating and to schedule an estimate, give us a call at 815-790-9000. We line plumbing pipes in homes, commercial buildings, apartments, condos, municipal buildings, sports arenas and entertainment venues.