Buying A Home Built Before 1960? Check The Pipes
Today, most plumbing supply lines are either made from copper or PEX, but that was not always the case. Prior to 1960, supply pipes were often made from galvanized steel. At the time, plumbers thought it to be a good alternative to lead. It did not poison anyone, and it was sturdy. However, galvanized plumbing does not age well. If you are buying a home built prior to 1960, make sure you take a look at the pipes. And read on to learn more about what you can expect from older pipes made from galvanized steel.
How can you tell if the pipes are made from steel?
Head down into the basement, and locate the main supply line, which is the pipe that brings water into the home. Follow this pipe as it branches into other supply pipes. What color are those pipes? If they are the color of a penny, they are made from copper -- in which case, you don't have to worry since copper pipes age very well. In the pipes are the color of steel, on the other hand, you know that you're dealing with potentially troublesome galvanized pipes.
What problems do galvanized pipes develop?
These pipes were originally coated in zinc. That's what galvanized means. The zinc initially kept the pipes from developing rust inside. However, as the pipes age, the zinc wears away -- and then the pipes start rusting. Though rust in water is not a health hazard like lead in water would be, the rust does not taste good, and it can stain your sinks.
Galvanized pipes are also prone to developing mineral deposits, particularly in areas where the water is hard -- which is most of the U.S. The deposits can grow so large that the slow down the water flow through the pipes, leading to low water pressure in your shower and faucets.
How long do galvanized pipes last?
Galvanized pipes usually last about 50 years before they start having problems. Since these pipes were not really installed after 1960, that means that almost every home with galvanized pipes is on its last legs, in terms of plumbing. If the pipes are not causing issues now, you can bet that they will within the next few years.
Should you buy a home with galvanized pipes?
The answer to this question really depends how much money you're willing to put into the home and whether or not you can get a good deal on it. The only permanent solution for failing galvanized pipes is to have them replaced with new, copper pipes. That can be a costly endeavor, and it will require you to go without water for at least a few days. If you get the home at a steal and don't mind putting some money into it, then by all means, buy the home.
On the other hand, if the home is already having plumbing problems and the homeowners are not willing to give you a great price, you might be best off walking away. There are plenty of nice homes out there with copper plumbing, including many built between 1940 and 1960. You'll save yourself a lot of headaches if you go with one of these homes instead.
Should you have a plumber look at the pipes before you buy?
If the home has galvanized pipes and you are serious about buying it, then by all means, have a plumber come inspect the pipes more closely. They can tell you whether you can squeeze a few more years out of the pipes, or if you really need to replace them ASAP.