Replacing Galvanized Pipe- 1927 house

lisa02June 7, 2012

We just bought a 1927 house in the San Francisco Bay Area and it has galvanized pipes. It also needs a lot of other work (electrical, floors, kitchen, etc). We decided to do some minimal things in each area so we can move in and then continue to upgrade over time as energy & money are available.

The first call was to the plumber as there was no hot water to the kitchen sink or a downstairs bathroom and the upstairs bathroom had very low water pressure (took a long time to get the hot water flowing).

Given that we couldn't put $4K towards replacing all the galvanized before we moved in- the plumber suggested blowing out the lines. He did that for the kitchen and upstairs bathroom but he was worried about the pipes breaking in the downstairs bathroom. We had hoped that maybe he could replace SOME things with copper (kitchen ; upstairs bath) but he said that wasn't possible.

I have used him in the past and generally trust him- but trying to figure out if there are other options available to us... The house is pretty small (1400 s.f.) and the downstairs bathroom is immediately adjacent to the hot water heater.

Also, we had discussed replacing with copper but I see many mentions of PEX on this forum... is that a better choice? Is it okay in california? anything else I should ask?

Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

From your description, I would suspect total re-plumb should be on your platter somewhere, probably with some priority. Blowing out the lines will gain you next to nothing. Maybe temporary reprieve, but not much more.

Household water supply is in BASIC! (notice what a gentleman I am....did not print that in bold/italic/36-point...which I was tempted to do.) Galvanized lines of this age are nuisances today and time-bombs for tomorrow. I suggest putting re-plumb high on your list of things to do.

    Bookmark   June 7, 2012 at 10:15PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

PEX can be useful in remodel applications but only your local building code folks can tell you if it is approved for use in your area. I would also suggest making sure your plumber has worked with it before.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2012 at 8:26AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

PEX and type L untempered (in coils) are going to be your friend.

There is no reason to even remove the old galvanized any more than necessary, just run new lines in the easiest path.

Just like fishing electric wiring, supply lines can be fished into closed spaces (you just have to plan access to make joints).

If you have more than one story, plan on using a single stud bay for electric and plumbing on the lower floor.
This minimizes wall damage and repair costs.

Blowing out old galvanized is not going to do anything.
The pipes are well past their useful life and likely almost (if not actually) clogged with hard scale almost completely.

    Bookmark   June 8, 2012 at 10:21AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

thanks for all the info. I'm a bit frustrated as we had asked for a quote from the plumber during the inspection phase of the purchase process and he did not mention replacing the pipes at that point. He had included the 'blow out' only in his quote (which we used in making a decision about a price reduction to the sellers).

It looks like we'll be upgrading the piping within the next several months even though it wasn't in our original budgeting plans.

I will be getting another quote and asking questions re: PEX. There's decent access from the crawl space and also to the upstairs bathroom via a closet which was already opened up inside for plumbing access...

    Bookmark   June 11, 2012 at 4:41AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

"I'm a bit frustrated as we had asked for a quote from the plumber during the inspection phase of the purchase process and he did not mention replacing the pipes at that point."

Incompetent would be one way of describing anyone who thinks 1927 galvanized pipes are still viable.

Just about any galvanized lines still in use are well past their life.
They stopped being used around the 1950s in most places, and that makes them at least 60 years old (let alone 1927 pipes).

Even galvanized drain lines that old are pretty much shot.

Cast iron DWV often lasts much longer than originally thought, but still needs a careful inspection for leaks and cracks.

Buried cast iron is on its last legs.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2012 at 10:51AM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

Seriously ... get quotes from SEVERAL plumbers, not the current one, because "blowing out the pipes" is more like blowing smoke up your nether regions.

If you are not planning to move any fixtures, they can abandon the galvanized (cut it back so it's out of the way) and run either PEX or flexible copper with very little hassle.

If you are planning to move a fixture, or add one, having them leave a connection stub during the re-pipe would save money later.

    Bookmark   June 11, 2012 at 3:55PM
Thank you for reporting this comment. Undo

I replaced the galvanized pipe in my 1952 house in the 1990's. If you tried to look through a 10 foot section of the removed pipe, you couldn't see light at the other end. Think of clogged arteries, only the clogging is caused by nodules of rust and mineral deposits...which is not going to be dislodged by the voodoo notion of "blowing them out." Take the advice of others here and get the pipes replaced as your first upgrade to the house.

    Bookmark   June 12, 2012 at 3:45PM
Sign Up to comment
More Discussions
toilet flapper closes too fast
a 5 y.o. AS 4396 w/Fluidmaster guts. The flapper is...
Garden Hose iced over
Ok, I know I was stupid. I'm new to home ownership...
troubleshooting thermostatic valve for shower
troubleshooting thermostatic valve, no hot water and...
LaToscana Novello Thermostatic Shower Valve
Trouble with LaToscana Novello Shower Valve- no hot...
Help with smelly well water
Just a little background. We bought a house 3 years...
People viewed this after searching for:
© 2015 Houzz Inc. Houzz® The new way to design your home™