Your galvanized drain pipes are past their expected life.

By
Home Inspector with Charles Buell Inspections Inc.

 

     Galvanized water supply pipes were the most common method of providing water to homes and inside homes from the early 1900’s until the early 1950’s.  While there are a lot of factors that can contribute to how long these pipes will last, it is generally recognized that these pipes have a life expectancy of 40-50 years.  By these guidelines there is likely none of this piping that is not past its expected life.

     I have to say “likely” because I inspected a home 4 years ago where all of the original plumbing had been replaced with brand new galvanized piping----very unusual. 

     At the same time period that these supply pipes were being used, the same type of piping was used for drains as well.  One should conclude that these pipes are also at the end of their expected life.  When I find them I usually recommend replacement of both supply pipes and drain pipes for cost efficiency.  Once the plumber is there why not have them replace both.  Here is a picture of a drain line that has reached the end of its expected life.  The stalactites of corrosion are where the pipe is leaking and re-sealing itself through a process called Auto-genic healing.  This process will go on until the pipe can no longer seal itself and total failure will occur with much leaking/flooding being the result.Galvanized drain that is well past its expected life

     When your pipes look this bad on the outside it is a safe bet they look much worse on the inside.

 

Charles Buell

 

 

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Rainmaker
719,613
Barbara S. Duncan
RE/MAX Advantage - Searcy, AR
CRS, GRI, e-PRO, Searcy AR

Charles, I assume this is the same piping that runs to the sewer.  In our fair city, you have to replace it yourself even if it goes under the street and 14 feet down in the neighbor's yard to get to the sewer main.  I'm being specific because I lived that experience.  I see doing the replacement on your own property but when it gets to going under the street and in the neighbor's yard, that's a big "Ouch."  I threw a fit but it did no good.  Cost was about $4750.  The city felt their share was about $400. 

Jan 24, 2009 04:58 PM #12
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Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

Barbara, actually this pipe is different from the main sewer pipe.  This galvanized type of pipe should never be buried in the ground and in some jurisditions it was not even allowed to be used for drains---only venting.  Here in the NW plumbers never got that memo so we see it just as much for drains as for venting.  Pipes buried in the ground at the time this was used would have been cast iron type pipe, clay or concrete tiles.  You are right that it can be very costly to deal with.

Jan 24, 2009 05:07 PM #13
Rainmaker
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Steven L. Smith
King of the House Home Inspection, Inc - Bellingham, WA
Bellingham WA Home Inspector

Charlie,

Years back I had such a pipe in my basement. I looked down the length of it, did not see holes....only partial view was possible. But then I replaced it and it was full of pin holes.

Jan 24, 2009 05:12 PM #14
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Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

Sure Steve---but you have Nutsy the pipe cleaner at your disposal:)

Jan 24, 2009 05:20 PM #15
Rainmaker
84,067
Simon Mills
Mills Realty - Toluca Lake, CA

Do the the trenchless repipes work?

Jan 24, 2009 05:33 PM #16
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Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

Simon---sure.  If the pipe is too damaged or there has been differential settlement then it becomes more problematic.  The net size is going to be smaller----but so much more efficient that it would have to be better:)

Jan 24, 2009 05:36 PM #17
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Lenn Harley
Lenn Harley, Homefinders.com, MD & VA Homes and Real Estate - Leesburg, VA
Real Estate Broker - Virginia & Maryland

Mmm.  If we saw that before writing a contract, replacement would be a condition of the contract.  Why wait for a home inspection??

 

Jan 24, 2009 05:38 PM #18
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Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
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Lenn, I am sure you know there are actually people that would look at that picture and not know what it meant:)

Jan 24, 2009 05:51 PM #19
Rainer
122,061
Jim Albano
Prudential Damiano Realty - Little Falls, NJ
Team - Jean-Marie Vantuno / Realtors North Jersey Real Estate

Can't believe that the homeowner could look at the pipe and not know that there was a problem.

Jan 24, 2009 09:40 PM #20
Rainmaker
179,204
Jack Gilleland
Home Inspection and Investor Services, Clayton - Clayton, OH

Born and raised in a family full of plumbers I look at that picture first the way they would.  Learned how to cut and thread galv. pipe and pour lead in a hemp joint before I was ten.  Now you come and tell me that the stuff I installed as a kid is past its usefulness.  The bad thing about it is I agree with you.  Feeling older everyday.

Jan 24, 2009 09:50 PM #21
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Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
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Jim, these pipes were way inside a crawl space where no man dared to go:)

Jack, same here.  It is weird to think about how so much of the stuff I built in my early career is now slated for remodel.

Jan 25, 2009 12:25 AM #22
Rainmaker
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Jay Markanich
Jay Markanich Real Estate Inspections, LLC - Bristow, VA
Home Inspector - servicing all Northern Virginia

Oh no!  They aren't supposed to look like that?!!  Ever try a little of that powder in your drink?  Or soup?  Now, THAT'S good eating!  Auto-genic seasoning...

In that picture, the tubing almost looks like an uninsulated HVAC vent!

Jan 25, 2009 05:21 AM #23
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Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

Jay, lots of things think Galvanized pipe is good food:)

Jan 25, 2009 07:49 AM #24
Rainmaker
719,613
Barbara S. Duncan
RE/MAX Advantage - Searcy, AR
CRS, GRI, e-PRO, Searcy AR

Charles, I thought of the name of what has been used all over our town and is now being replaced.  It's orangeburg pipes. Wikipedia says this.

Orangeburg pipe was made in sizes from 2 to 18" ID out of wood pulp sealed with hot pitch. Joints were made in a similar fashion and, due to the materials involved, were able to be sealed without the usage of adhesives. Orangeburg was lightweight, albeit brittle, and soft enough to be cut with a handsaw. Orangeburg was a low cost alternative to metal for sewer lines in particular. Lack of strength causes pipes made of orangeburg to fail more frequently than pipes made with other materials. The useful life for an orangeburg pipe is about 50 years. It has been taken off the list of acceptable materials by most building codes.

This is the stuff that we're having to worry about replacing all over Searcy AR.  And you know, 50 years for a house goes by in a flash!!

Jan 25, 2009 08:15 AM #25
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Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
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Barbara, I know the stuff----have installed the stuff (in the old days:)  It never should have been used for sewers and was a poor choice for any application as it crushed too easily over time.  When I first started building it was mostly used for footing perimeter drains----I can still remember the smell of the pipe.  When you are 20, you can't possibly have any idea how short 50 years is:)

Jan 25, 2009 08:24 AM #26
Anonymous
Anonymous
Accurate Home Inspection of Atlanta

I would not like to drink from that supply! Good articale Charles.

 

C.Petty

Jan 26, 2009 08:34 AM #27
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Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
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Thanks for the comment C.

Jan 26, 2009 08:38 AM #28
Rainmaker
633,100
James Quarello
JRV Home Inspection Services, LLC - Wallingford, CT
Connecticut Home Inspector

Auto-genic healing, isn't that what some salamanders do when they loose a limb. Now if someone could come up with an auto-genic pipe that could grow a new "limb" when you needed to put in new sink or shower. That would be something.

Jan 27, 2009 06:51 AM #29
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Charles Buell
Charles Buell Inspections Inc. - Seattle, WA
Seattle Home Inspector

James, I think if you can figure out a way to accomplish that you would be a very rich man:)

Jan 27, 2009 08:35 AM #30
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