Updated April 2018

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 40 years old? Forty years ago, galvanized pipe was a popular choice with home-builders. However, galvanized pipes have been shown to pose potentially serious health risks. Due to their age, older Portland homes are especially prone to having galvanized pipe 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 pose potential health risks.

What Is Galvanized Pipe?

Galvanized pipes are steel pipes that have been coated with zinc in an attempt to prevent rust and corrosion. Unfortunately galvanized pipes corrode and rust on the inside after years of exposure to water, which is bad news for your plumbing considering how frequently water runs through it.

Why Are Galvanized Pipes Dangerous?

Plumbers and builders used galvanized pipe 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 Pipe In My Home?

Does your home have galvanized pipe?The danger of continuing to use galvanized pipe 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. Here’s how to determine if your pipes are galvanized. Start at the location where the pipes enter your home, and find the waterline. A magnet and a screwdriver work well to determine what your pipes are made of.  

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 pipe. 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, which will need to be replaced as soon as possible. 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 pipe or lead plumbing 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. You may also want to ask your doctor to test for lead.

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.

Other Plumbing Issues Galvanized Pipe May Cause

While galvanized pipes may pose a health hazard to you and your family, it 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 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.

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