“What’s the Cost to Replace Galvanized Pipes in a House?” Asks Hal in Sacramento
Our friend Hal owns a house in Sacramento that was built way back before 1960. Hal has been having some problems with low water pressure and discolored water lately, though, and he suspects that this may be due to old galvanized pipes. Hal asks:
“I’m one of those old-school guys who does everything he can to try to fix a problem with his house himself before seeking out help from residential plumbing experts like yourselves. It’s nothing personal, probably just a little bit of foolish pride on my end. Anyway, that’s my way of telling you that when the water pressure in my house dropped noticeably lately, and the water started to look a little bit discolored, I did my DIY due diligence.
I took to Internet forums, questioned the guys at the Sacramento Home Depot, and had conversations with my neighbors over the hedges between our yards, all trying to find the source of my problem. I’ve dealt with low water pressure in the past, and it’s been as simple as just swapping out an old gunky showerhead for a sleek new one. This time is different, though. None of my old tricks have worked and none of my usual sources for home repair information knew exactly what to do. They all just kept wanting to know if I had galvanized pipes, like that would solve all my problems.
So, my question for you now is what are galvanized pipes, could they be causing these problems, and if so, how much does it cost to replace galvanized pipes in a house built before 1960? My house was built in 1956. Thanks for your help.”
As one guy who can be a bit stubborn about asking for help to another, let me tell you, Hal, that I know reaching out for advice wasn’t easy, but that it was the right move. Given the age of your house and the conditions you’ve described, I think it’s pretty likely that you do have galvanized pipes—and that replacing them may be the answer to your problem. In general, though, homeowners should expect it to cost anywhere from $1,500 on up to $15,000 (or more) to replace galvanized pipes in their old house. Quite a range, right?
So, for your benefit and for the benefit of other homeowners in Sacramento who likely have the same plumbing situation as you, let me first explain the nature of your issue, before helping you calculate how much it costs to replace galvanized pipes in a house built before 1960.
When You Should Replace Galvanized Pipes in Your House
Hal’s instinct to reach out to a plumbing expert here is a good one because updating plumbing in an old house with aging pipes is tricky business. The pipes in a home are one of those things that most folks don’t give a second thought to until something goes wrong. Most folks, like Hal, don’t even know what their pipes are made of. So, let’s start by going over the three most common pipes, as well as the lifespans for each:
- Brass pipes: Between 40 and 70 years
- Copper pipes: Around 50 years
- Galvanized steel pipes: Between 20 and 50 years
Now, the vast majority of the older houses like Hal’s in our area have galvanized pipes, which were the defacto choice for residential plumbing dating back to the 1930s all the way on up through the 1980s. It was only recently that it became standard for contractors to build homes with longer lasting brass and copper pipes. And as you can see from the lifespan above, if your home has these pipes, they basically all need to be replaced now.
Signs Your Home’s Galvanized Pipes Should Be Replaced
I’ve talked in the past about the most common signs that pipes in a historic home are failing, but let’s go over them again because they’re pretty much right in line with the problems that Hal described:
- Low water pressure: If the water pressure when you’re taking a shower or washing dishes has dropped significantly, this could be a sign that it’s time to replace aging pipes. When galvanized pipes get old, corrosion sets in. Sometimes this also means a buildup of corroded materials in your pipes that inhibits water flow and makes it hard to get the pressure you’d like. An experienced plumbing professional can do a video inspection of your pipes to tell you definitively whether or not this is happening.
- Water color: Galvanized steel pipes are likely to have less protective coating against rust, so they get corroded over time. That’s why it’s important to watch the color of the water coming from your faucets, like our friend Hal has done. If it becomes milky or reddish in color, it’s time to call the plumber.
- Water and sewage leaks: Hal didn’t mention this last one, so he’s lucky, but pipes that need to be replaced can lead to leaks in a home’s walls and underground. Signs of leaks in these cases might be slow running faucets, slow draining tubs or toilets, and stains on ceilings or walls. These leaks can indicate piping damage, clogs, or corrosion. They definitely require the expert care of a licensed plumber—especially with the type of wet winters Sacramento and the rest of our region typically has.
Hal, and anyone else who has seen the signs of plumbing troubles listed above, should make it a priority to get their pipes fixed. As a professional plumber for decades, I’ve seen it all, so I know this can be costly, but will only get more expensive the longer you wait to address the problem.
A Cost Estimate to Replace Galvanized Pipes in a House Built Before 1960
Your cost to replace galvanized pipes in your house can vary a great deal based on the size of the house, which is almost always directly proportional to the size of the plumbing system.
The prices we’re about to discuss are an estimate. Hal and anyone else in a similar situation should have a trained plumbing professional out for a unique estimate for their individual homes to get exact numbers. As I’m sure everyone has noticed around town, it’s rare for any two homes built in Sacramento before 1960 to be exactly the same, so plumbing replacement costs will vary as well.
…homeowners should expect to spend anywhere from $1,500 on the very low end all the way up to $15,000—or even more.
As I mentioned above, the size of your home, the number of stories, and the number of bathrooms—as well as the amount of existing piping that needs to be demolished—will all play a role in the total cost of updating old pipes. The number of fixtures (sink, bathtub, shower, toilets, dishwasher, water heater, etc.) also plays a part, as does the type of pipes you choose to have installed. Copper, for example, has gone up a bit in recent years. In general, though, homeowners should expect to spend anywhere from $1,500 on the very low end all the way up to $15,000—or even more. An experienced plumber, though, can help you pick the type of piping that will work for your budget and be a long-lasting choice for your classic home.
The cost to replace old, worn out galvanized pipes is not a glamorous expenditure, to be certain, but it’s vital to the long-term health of your home. The damage that even just one leaky pipe in a wall can reap is much more costly—and can have an impact on your family’s well-being, such as mold growth and weakened structures.
My strong advice is to have a professional plumbing repair company take a look, preferably with a video inspection like the type we’ve been doing here at Bell Brothers for many years. Hal was right to know that this sort of job requires an expert. Make sure you pick one that has years of experience doing this kind of work in old Sacramento houses—one like the expert a d local team at Bell Brothers.
Stop wondering about the galvanized pipes in your old Sacramento house and have a professional plumber out to take a look at them today. Contact the experienced plumbing professionals at Bell Brothers.
Wondering how to finance a new plumbing system in your old home? HERO is a unique financing option that helps California homeowners afford energy efficient upgrades to their home. Contact Bell Brothers, a HERO-approved contractor, to learn more. Our local HVAC, plumbing, and window specialists will walk you through the entire process, from applications to installation.
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