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Question DetailsAsked on 3/11/2014

Does a house built in 1971 with galvanized plumbing need a whole house repipe and what is the cost?

This is my first home purchase and have lived here for 3 years. Occasionally see rust colored water in kitchen or bathrooms sometimes after a very cold night, but seems to go away. Also sometimes hear pipe sounds in the walls when water being used in laundry room or toilets flushing. I know copper is the best, but have heard about PEX. Being plastic is it safe for hot water to run through it. I also need to know how to choose a plumber for this work if I need it. I watch This Old House on PBS, maybe they have some answers for me too??

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2 Answers


Since you see rust colored water, one would assume you have significant buildup of iron deposits or rust in the pipes. This would be expected to be most pronounced after sitting for awhile without water running. However, it could also be due to iron in the water itself if you are on a well system. Could also be due to buildup in bottom of hot water heater, or corrosion in the incoming water line.

Couple of easy ways to tell if you have heavy buildup in your pipes or heater or from well - try these in order, as applicable for your case regarding well water, running fuacet full force to test

1) if on well, open flushing valve (usually one right on the house side of the pump) and see if rusty water comes out - if so, likely dirty well water settling and mixing with the water overnight - either fromyour source formation, or from rusting well screen. Does not mean house pipes are any better, but does not mean they are bad, either.

2) if on well, if above is clean, then try flushing valve on the large pressure tank (or right after it) if yours looks like a water tank as opposed to basketball size - could be accumulating sediment and rust in that tank

3) if not on well water, if you have a faucet on the incoming water line - maybe right after the meter, or right where the line comes into the house, whereever your first faucet is try running that - if rusty in AM, then your incoming service line is likely the source, or possibly even the water main -check with neighbors if they have same issue, could be water main needs flushing.

4) try running, in the AM before any other water has run, cold water and hot water separately and see if only one is rusty - if hot only, especially if takes a few seconds to a minute to turn rusty (depending on distance from hot water heater), then likely cause is buildup in the hot water heater, which you can flush somewhat using the drain valve at the bottom of the tank (turn to pilot or vacation and let cool off first so you don't risk burns if you splash or hose you hook on it has a loose fitting or whatever).

5) if cold water is rusty or both are, check if at all faucets or only a few - may only be certain lines with rust buildup

6) if you have a water softener, have checked or check yourself using instruction manual to be sure backflushing is working right and it has appropriate salt or resin - may be it is building rust overnight due to lack fo flushing, or flush cycle is not cleaning it all the way out. Other possibility, if it uses rusty incoming water for flushing, is you are seeing rusty water from the flushing cycle at first use. First thing in morning before using any water, run some water at first faucet on house side of the large water softener tank - usually has a drain valve right there - if rusty there, could be softener not working right or you are just getting the 5-20 gallons or so of rusty water in the tank from the (typically) overnight flush cycle, where it automatically backflushes accumulated sediments and such out of the filter media into the sewer, but in the process the tank is filled with untreated water on the outbound side of the tank. This means the first 5-20 gallons you use after the flush cycle is untreated water, in most systems, unless it has a flush cycle reserve tank.

7) if clean or relatively so after all those, while running faucets try taking a hammer or wrench and tap soundly (like rapping on a door) but without really hitting hard on the pipes a few places while water is running and someone is watching the outflow. Don't hit near fittings or at rusty or lime stained spots or on bottom of pipe. If you have heavy buildup in the pipes this will knock some loose and you will see significant discoloration and probably even flakes come out at the faucets. You may need to flush the lines for a minute or two afterwards everywhere in the house to clean this debris up. If this comes out dirty, thenn you do have noticeable corrosion or buildup in the pipes.

8) you can also have a plumber turn off the water supply valve, drain the lines and check drained water for rust and debris, and open up a few joints and look inside the pipe to see how bad the buildup and corrosion is and how much the diameter has been reduced, if any. I have seen galvanized lines go out or get completley blocked by buildup in 5 years in highly corrosive or iron or sulfide contaminated water, and have also seen 100+ year old iron or galvanized steel pipe with only a thin blackened corrosion film inside it and no signs of corrosion - depends on what your water chemistry is.

9) For input from a number of people on types of pipe for replacement, copper versus PVC/CPVC versus PEX, typical cost, etc click on the Home > Plumbing link in Browse Projects, at lower left, and look for recent (last year or so) questions on replacing house piping.

10) Pipe sounds in walls probably water hammer or pipes expanding and contracting - unless loud or a serious thumping or clanging that sounds like it could lead to pipes breaking, not a concern. There are several prior questions in referenced link to water hammer and banging pipes too. Right off the bat, if you do not have a surge of rusty water from a faucet right after the pipes leading to that faucet thump, then I would say the odds of a real heavy corrosion issue in your pipes is less than would be expected for your age pipes.

11) As you have probably figured, 43 year old galvanized, in many areas of the country, is at or past its useful service life, so be mentally prepared to find it is time to think replacement, but depends on your water. Usually you start getting leaks every 3-12 months at various places in the system years before you start getting major failures, except with water heaters which of course you should replace immediately if the tank (as opposed to fittings) is leaking.

12) If you are not up to the above type of tests yourself, a plumber can do them in an hour or two for about $125-250 and give you an idea of how bad your situation is, and also drain and flush hot water heater and, if you have hot water or steam heat, heating system boiler and lines at the same time.

Answered 6 years ago by LCD


A short answer to your question is as follows ;

YES , your pipes are 40+ years old . Galvanized pipes that are older than 10 years

tend to show discoloration in water that set's in them overnight and the discoloration fades as the water is used , but the discoloration will only get worse over time as the water pressure fades from the rust build up in the system.

PEX is approved for Hot water use , but many do not like PEX !

We have used Both PEX and Copper, the only drawback with PEX can be the fittings, they

can be be difficult to work with , especially getting the fittings to seat properly.

However , copper can be difficult to work with as well , and requires more labor

Personally , I always recommend COPPER . YES , It is more expensive , but worth it as

Copper has anti-microbial properties .

However , The choice is yours to make , especially when You are the one spending the money and living by a budget .

Contact several plumbers , get 3 prices , check their references and then choose the one

whose advice you trust !

Be certain that He pulls a Permit , gets the project inspected and cleans up after himself.

I am certain that ANGIES LIST has numerous plumbers in your area , check the list and start calling your next plumber !

Answered 6 years ago by BentheBuilder

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