Updated September 2021
Classic, century-old homes grace nearly every neighborhood in Portland. They’re often coveted for their charm, location, and style. If you live in an older home in Portland or the greater Pacific Northwest, you’ve no doubt done your fair share of remodeling.
Maybe you’ve put on a new roof, refinished the floors, and updated the color scheme. But, what about your home’s pipes? Is your home more than 50 years old? Galvanized pipes were popular choices with home-builders then, but have recently been shown to pose potentially serious health risks.
Due to their age, older Portland homes are especially prone to having galvanized pipes in the plumbing. Lead in Portland’s drinking water is one major health risk. And while the city’s water is safe, the plumbing in many of our older public schools and historic homes poses potential health risks.
What Is Galvanized Pipe?
Galvanized steel pipes have been coated with zinc in an attempt to prevent rust and corrosion. Unfortunately, the galvanized pipe lining corrodes and rusts on the inside after years of exposure to water. This rust finds its way into your water lines and, eventually, to you.
Why is Galvanized Plumbing Dangerous?
Plumbers and builders used these types of water pipes in Portland-area homes built before the 1960s. As galvanized pipes age, the zinc coating erodes and pipes corrode. Lead, a dangerous toxin, may build when the pipes corrode. Galvanized plumbing could pose a dangerous health hazard if not replaced with updated, safer pipes.
How Do I Tell if I have Galvanized Plumbing?
The danger of continuing to use galvanized pipes is that old, corroded pipes can begin to release accumulated lead into the tap water. How do you know if you have galvanized pipes? When it’s first installed, galvanized steel is similar in color to nickel, but as it ages, it can change color depending on its environment.
It can become lighter or darker and duller. To determine if your pipes are galvanized, start at the location where the pipes enter your home to find the waterline. If you scratch your pipes with the screwdriver and they’re the same color as a penny, they’re most likely made of copper.
Additionally, your magnet shouldn’t stick to copper pipes. If your pipes are white, capped in places, and a magnet doesn’t stick to them, you’re probably already aware they’re plastic. If you scratch the surface of your pipe revealing a grayish-silver color and a magnet does stick to them, your pipes are galvanized steel.
On the other hand, if your pipe scratches easily due to a soft metal, is gray in color, and a magnet doesn’t stick to it, you may be dealing with lead pipes. We recommend a pipe replacement as soon as possible in these cases. If you’re unsure or have questions, the team at Meticulous Plumbing will come to your home and assess the pipes.
Test your Portland Home for Lead
If you discover galvanized or lead pipes in your home, the major concern is the possible release of lead into your drinking water. To learn how to test your water for lead, please read our blog on the topic. The city of Portland has taken steps to make the water safe, including checking for lead in the service pipes to residences.
However, homeowners are responsible for plumbing in their homes. You may be thrilled to be moving into a home that’s been around for 100 years, filled with all the charm and quirks you’re looking for. But it can also be filled with plumbing that could potentially affect your health.
Other Plumbing Issues Galvanized Pipes May Cause
While galvanized pipes may pose a health hazard to you and your family, they can also cause plumbing problems that are less severe, but still frustrating. Because of the breakdown in your pipes, the water pressure in your home could be significantly lessened, or uneven in certain places.
Some taps may have more pressure than others due to inconsistent erosion. Additionally, you may have discolored — often a brownish-reddish color — water flowing through your hot water and cold water taps. The erosion may eventually lead to full-blown leaks in your pipes and water damage in your walls and ceilings.
Make Your Portland House Safe With a Repipe
The only way to ensure your home is free from lead-related health hazards is to replace galvanized household pipe and lead-containing fixtures. Contact the experienced technicians at Meticulous Plumbing and we can help you identify the types of pipes in your house and repipe your plumbing system to ensure that you and your loved ones stay healthy at home.
We use the most up-to-date materials available, such as PEX piping, and newer technology that improves the whole-home repipe experience. But we also stay true to standard best practices that have been tried and true for years. This includes overall inspections of your system, transparency in all phases, and friendly professionalism.
In addition to whole-home repipes, we also install water heaters, replace fixtures, help with kitchen and bathroom remodels, and more. If you want to know more about your plumbing system, or are having immediate problems with leaks or poor drainage, contact Meticulous Plumbing today. We look forward to hearing how we can help.