Does your Chicago building still have galvanized plumbing pipes? Galvanized plumbing pipes were extremely popular prior up until the 1960s, and it was still used for water supply pipes until the 1970s. These plumbing pipes are comprised of steel with a zinc coating. The steel is used due to its durability. The zinc coating provides a barrier between the water and steel in order to prevent rusting. Initially, galvanized steel plumbing pipes were expected to last up to 50 years, but in practical applications, some galvanized pipes started to corrode and fail after as few as 20 years.

Why Galvanized Pipes Were Popular

Galvanized pipes were extremely popular due to their low manufacturing and installation costs combined with their durability and improved safety when compared to lead pipes. They were also more affordable than copper pipes. Prior to the 1960s and 70s, they were used to replace lead pipes and to plumb new homes and businesses without dramatically increasing the overall cost to build.

Understanding Why Galvanized Pipes Corrode

Zinc coatings are extremely useful when it comes to preventing rust and corrosion on steel surfaces. Unfortunately, zinc coatings aren’t as effective when it comes to protecting the insides of plumbing pipes because the dissolved solids in the water can interact with the zinc coating, resulting in a buildup of corrosion, which is sometimes referred to as plaque. Additionally, the zinc coating wears away over time, which allows the water to come into direct contact with the steel. This causes additional corrosion and even rust.

What Happens When Galvanized Steel Pipes Corrode

Most galvanized steel pipes located inside Chicago buildings are between 50 and 60 years old, which means they are near or past their expected useful lives. As galvanized pipes age, the layer of corrosion on the inside of the pipe increases. This slowly starts to affect the internal diameter of the plumbing pipe, reducing it and causing low water pressure. The pipes can also become completely sealed by corrosion. They can burst, and they can start to leak if the metal completely rusts through.

How to Determine if Your Galvanized Pipes Have Corroded

Since galvanized steel plumbing pipes tend to corrode on the inside, it can be extremely difficult to detect. Thankfully, there are still a few ways to determine if your galvanized pipes are ready to be replaced or lined with an epoxy coating.

  • Some water fixtures do not have any water flow.
  • You can visibly see white or scaly buildups around joints and seams.
  • You have low water pressure at multiple water fixtures.
  • You’ve experienced numerous leaks in your galvanized steel plumbing pipes.
  • Your water smells or tastes terrible.

Making the Decision to Replace or Line Galvanized Steel Pipes with Epoxy

Since most galvanized steel plumbing pipes are at or near the end of their useful lives, it’s important to have a plan of action when it comes to repairing or replacing them. If you are having trouble deciding whether your pipes need replaced or lined, our pipelining technicians at NuFlow can help you. We offer building pipe assessments that involves examining your plumbing pipes, recommending either replacement or lining and providing you an estimate for pipelining.

Replacing Your Galvanized Steel Plumbing Pipes

One option for dealing with your Chicago building’s old galvanized steel plumbing pipes is by completely replacing them with another type of plumbing pipe, like copper, brass, PVC, CPVC and PEX.

Plumbing Pipe Lifespans

  • Brass – 40 to 70 Years
  • Copper – 50+ Years
  • CPVC – 50 to 70 Years
  • PEX – 40 Years
  • PVC – 75+ Years

Installing New Plumbing Pipes

The pipe replacement process involves completely removing all of your existing galvanized steel plumbing pipes. In order to reach your existing plumbing pipes, the Chicago plumber may need to remove some finishes and cut large holes in your drywall, floors and ceilings. This can be undesirable due to the mess it creates and the need to hire additional contractors to replace and repair drywall, floors and ceilings. Once your pipes are replaced, you’ll get the entire expected useful life from them. However, it can take longer and cost more than having your pipes lined with an epoxy coating. Not to mention, if you choose another type of metal plumbing pipe, it could corrode in the future, resulting in low water pressure and pinhole leaks.

Lining Your galvanized Steel Plumbing Pipes with an Epoxy Coating

The second way to rehabilitate your galvanized steel plumbing pipes is with an epoxy coating, which is a type of cured-in-place pipe (CIPP) lining technology. This is a trenchless way to remove corrosion and prevent future corrosion while extending the useful life of your existing plumbing pipes.

Epoxy Coatings for Potable Water Pipes

Epoxy coatings for galvanized plumbing pipes are safe to use and approved for potable water systems in Chicago, and epoxy coatings do not affect the smell, taste or appearance of your drinking water. This is because the epoxy coating systems that are used for drinkable water have been extensively tested for safety in order to ensure chemicals are not leached into the water. In fact, your water may even appear cleaner and smell better when compared to the water that was being delivered via your corroded galvanized pipes.

The epoxy coatings that are used for plumbing pipes are a type of adhesive polymer that consists of the epoxy resin and the hardening or curing agent. The two-part epoxy is mixed on-site. Then, a special delivery system, consisting of pressurized air is used to blow the epoxy through the potable water pipes. The consistency of the epoxy mixture ensures that it rolls over itself, which provides a consistent, even coating.

Many residential and commercial businesses prefer this method because it does not involve cutting large holes in the drywall, floor and ceilings in order to reach the existing plumbing pipes. Instead, existing access points are used or a new access point is created in order to access the pipes that need to be lined. The process is also faster than traditional pipe replacement and tends to be less expensive.

Pipelining with NuFlow, Serving Chicago

Here at NuFlow, serving Chicago and the greater Chicago area, we provide pipelining services for commercial and residential buildings, including those with galvanized steel plumbing pipes. The process of lining galvanized steel plumbing pipes starts with an inspection and cleaning. The pipe cleaning removes all the existing corrosion down to the original pipe wall, which maximizes its diameter in order to improve water flow and pressure. Once the pipes are completely clean, liquid epoxy is blown through the pipes. Once the epoxy coating is in place and cured, water can no longer come into contact with the galvanized steel. This prevents future corrosion and can increase the useful life of your existing plumbing pipes by as much as 50 years. Not to mention, all of our pipe lining services come with a 10-year warranty.

To get an estimate to have your Chicago building’s plumbing pipes lined and to learn more about the pipelining process, give us a call at 815-790-9000.