Pipe Life Expectancy

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice, Tips & ' started by rckowal, Jul 9, 2009.

  1. rckowal

    rckowal New Member

    Messages:
    24
    Location:
    Michigan
    What is the reliable life span of galvanized &/or copper pipe?

    I am looking to buy an older (lower priced) home in a suburban area near Detroit. I am running into many of them which have galvanized pipe. I don't want to buy into potential plumbing problems or the expense of re-piping. So, I am trying to get a better idea whether to reject homes with galvanized pipe altogether or am I being overly cautious?

    Second question: When did wide spread use of galvanized pipe end & when did wide spread use of copper pipe start? This will help me to define the age cutoff of how old a home I should consider - as well as which to reject.

    Richard
  2. FloridaOrange

    FloridaOrange Plumbing Designer

    Messages:
    1,317
    Location:
    SW Florida
    Galvanized could last a while but it will corrode and restrict your flow. The older it is, the more corrosion. I personally would not like galvanized piping...

    Copper is awesome with only few exceptions. My town's city water seems to eat copper. Houses that are 20+ years are on borrowed time and ready for a repipe.
  3. austintx

    austintx New Member

    Messages:
    27
    Location:
    Houston, TX
    My home (along with the rest of the neighborhood) was built in 1950 and still has most of the original galvanized piping. I do have some water flow issues, but no leaks yet (knock on wood).

    My brothers house here in houston was built in the late 70s and was built will all copper, but my folks place in California was built in the late 80s with galvanized and have already had a couple of leaks. As far as the cutoff, I think it is hard to say. An older home might surprise you with updated plumbing and a not so old home might have been built with galvanized. Best bet is to inspect each potential home as it seems there was no clear cutoff time.
  4. Ian Gills

    Ian Gills Senior Robin Hood Guy

    Messages:
    2,777
    Location:
    USA
    Yep, my 60 year old house was plumbed in copper and some of the original pipe remains with no issues.
  5. Gary Swart

    Gary Swart In the Trades

    Messages:
    7,349
    Location:
    Yakima WA
    Galvanized pipe is just steel pipe with a protective coating to slow corrosion and rust. Operative word there is "slow". Although the mineral content in the water will affect how long the corrosion will take to destroy the pipe, it eventually will. Forty years is a rough figure that I have heard as an approximation. Replumbing costs can vary widely. For example my home's pipes were all overhead in a full basement. Piece of cake. However, if the home is multi-storied with pipes concealed through and behind walls and studs, it can be quite costly. If I was looking at a home to buy that had galvanized pipes, I would figure on replacement very soon since galvanized pipe has not been used in so many years that any still in use would be highly suspect.
  6. Thatguy

    Thatguy Homeowner

    Messages:
    1,459
    Location:
    MD
    True/false?

    For each 10°C rise above ambient pipe lifetime is halved so hot water pipes last way less than cold water pipes.
  7. rckowal

    rckowal New Member

    Messages:
    24
    Location:
    Michigan
    Thanks to all for your very helpful replies - they're appreciated.

    Would some one care to offer a "guesstimate" of the possible expense to re-pipe a small house to PVC (from galvanized). I know you would have to see the job to be able to do so but even a "cost range" will be helpful.

    Assume the job would be a small, single story, 1000 ft. sq. home with a basement. It would have one each - bath, kitchen, washer/wash tub in basement & 2 outdoor spigots. Only the pipe inside the house, beginning at the inside water meter/shut off, would be done.

    Are we talking about $1000, $2000, $3000 or much more?

    Best regards, Richard
  8. Thatguy

    Thatguy Homeowner

    Messages:
    1,459
    Location:
    MD
    From 2004
    "I have a house in Phoenix, AZ built in 1920. . . . I should have the house repiped. I got 3 estimates today ranging from $2900 to $3500 without any patching after the job."
  9. rckowal

    rckowal New Member

    Messages:
    24
    Location:
    Michigan
    Thanks for the information Thatguy. Is the house built on a crawl space or slab? I could be wrong but I don't believe homes in Arizona have basement.

    "Without any patching after the job". I don't understand - please clarify.

    Richard
  10. jimbo

    jimbo Plumber

    Messages:
    8,997
    Location:
    San Diego
    I would say if you want some numbers, galvanized easily lasts 50 years+, but over 30 it will be showing its age. Copper, except in those area with special water conditions, 75 years.
  11. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,641
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    pipe

    IN Phoenix, the pipe would almost always be in the attic of a slab house. And some "attics" are very shallow.
  12. Thatguy

    Thatguy Homeowner

    Messages:
    1,459
    Location:
    MD
    Here's the link

    http://en.**********.com/q/Plumbing-Home-1735/repiping-house-2.htm
    or remove the xx and cut and paste.
    xxhttp://en.**********.com/q/Plumbing-Home-1735/repiping-house-2.htmxx

    I thought he meant patching the drywall.

    This search can probably be refined
    http://www.google.com/search?client...ipe house copper galvanized&ie=UTF-8&oe=UTF-8

    Here's some evidence of a temperature/lifespan link
    "The disadvantage of Copper pipes is that they sometimes fail when water temperature is above 180 degrees."
    and another opinion

    and

    "The disadvantages of galvanized pipes are that they contain lead, and corrode quickly. The average life span of a galvanized pipeline is 40 years."

    Our copper pipes got one pinhole leak at about the 40 yr. mark but that pipe was buried. We were losing a gallon in 3 minutes.
    Last edited: Jul 9, 2009
  13. Gary Swart

    Gary Swart In the Trades

    Messages:
    7,349
    Location:
    Yakima WA
    Regarding the cost to replace the pipes. Two points. First, you can not use PVC inside the house. You could use CPVC, but that is a far distant second choice. PEX is a possibility although my choice would still be copper. Next, it is impossible to even guess the price. Even a professional plumber would have to be on site to examine the job. In addition, labor rates vary widely from place to place.
  14. Sparty007

    Sparty007 New Member

    Messages:
    33
    Good question, and I actually did this myself recently.

    I bought a 1000 Sq Ft bungalow in Royal Oak in 2006, with a basement 1 bathroom, kitchen, and 1 outdoor hose spout. ALL galvanized.

    House was built in 1939 and the galvanized was still going strong, but pressure was low, and uneven, so decided to replace. So, I mapped everything out, had someone who could solder help me, and ripped out all galvanized and replaced with copper.

    My advice:
    1.) Bring someone along who knows how to solder, this is not a good project to learn on if you plan on doing a whole house.

    2.) Don't cut out all the old pipe without mapping it out, or going piece by piece. Worst thing would be to rip it all out and then try to do a layout on your own, generally you can replicate the same layout, use the same holes etc.

    3.) Don't use your old LP Benzo-Matic, buy a tank of Mapp gas and you can move a little quicker.

    4.)It's been a while since I did it, but it would not be that hard to figure out how much it would cost to do it yourself, just measure all your lengths and elbows, T's etc. See if it's worth paying someone who knows what they are doing.

    5.) Enjoy the new piping, I love that I have nice consistant flow of water.

    6.) Forgot to mention, make sure your shut-off's work on each side of your meter. I shut off both knobs and the shut-off on the city side of the meter was dead, so I had to have them shut it off at the street and move quickly. Plan ahead for this, as I had to send my wife away to fill up 5-gallon buckets at the neighbors so I could flush my toilet since it took me 2 days to complete.

    Good luck!

    PS - What city in metro detroit? I may know someone who can offer their assistance, as I know lots of people looking for work in this area (as I'm sure you do as well) :)
    Last edited by a moderator: Jul 13, 2009
  15. Thatguy

    Thatguy Homeowner

    Messages:
    1,459
    Location:
    MD
    RS Means publishes books on labor rates, corrected for ZIP codes. You might take a peek at one at your local Border's or Barnes & Nobel.
  16. rckowal

    rckowal New Member

    Messages:
    24
    Location:
    Michigan
    SpartyRules, I have done a lot of copper pipe soldering, etc. so that isn't an issue. However I am 75 years old & find such work to be too taxing for me. Since I can afford to pay for the work that's what I prefer to do.

    Regardless, I'm going to be buying a home for a daughter so I was just curious to see if getting one with galvanized pipe & re-piping was worthwhile. In light of the cost, I can now see that this isn't a good option. In todays real estate market it's too easy to buy a home with copper or plastic pipe at an attractive price - so that's the way I'm going to go.

    By the way, I'm in Warren. Many years ago we lived in Royal Oak - in fact we just drove through there this afternoon.

    Richard
  17. seaofnames

    seaofnames DIY Senior Member

    Messages:
    162
    Location:
    Mission, BC
    Copper(type L), Pex A, Pex B or wirsbo are the only pipes I'd use in my own home.

    Make sure if you are buying a house with new piping, its passed plumbing inspection and you have a home inspection done to address any issues(PRV not working, expansion tank etc). Good luck!

    If you do buy a single story place with a crawlspace, it would be the easiest labour wise to repipe the place. Easier to access and you dont have to rip out drywall and replace it after.

    Good luck!
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