When a pipe has been galvanized, it means that the steel or iron has been coated with zinc. Galvanized pipes are silver when they are new, and will dull to gray as they age. This will eliminate any potential rusting of the pipe. However, galvanized pipe will corrode.
If you have galvanized pipe installed, it will only be in working condition for about 40 years. The reason for the limited usage is that the corrosion, which will eventually fill the entire pipe, will restrict the water flow in the pipe. For this reason, if you have a home that is 30 years old or older, you will likely have to replace the pipes at some point.
Problems With Galvanized Pipes
One problem with this type of pipe is that the corrosion can be more rapid whenever a steel galvanized pipe meets any brass or copper. This often happens when the valves are made of brass. One way to combat this effect is to use dielectic unions between copper and steel pipes. However, some of these can close off the flow.
The problem occurring is that it can break the grounding if a live wire and a pipe come into contact with each other. Corrosion in galvanized pipes can usually not be cleaned out without causing water leaks.
Galvanized pipe was once often used for piping insides homes and other buildings, but today it is most popular in making handrails, or for replacing existing pipes that have corroded. Because of its corrosive tendencies, plastic and copper pipes are most often used for underground installations.
Many homeowners of older homes are looking to replace their galvanized pipes with pipes made with other materials. One way to check for corrosion of your pipes is to run three or four faucets all at the same time. Watch the first tap- if the flow decreases significantly when the other taps are turned on, the pipes are most likely corroded. Another way to tell is that the water may be discolored when you first turn on the tap.
Working With Galvanized Pipe
A process that involving heating the zinc coating that is on the steel pipe will releases zinc fumes. These fumes are not as toxic when compared to a lot of other metal fumes, but they are dangerous, and can affect someone who is inhaling even a small amount.
When doing any work that will involved galvanized pipe, be sure to wear a respirator. It should be one that is designed for stopping particulate. It is also advisable to work under an exhaust hood if that is possible. If it is not, then the area you will be working in should be as well ventilated as possible. Outdoors is likely the safest place to do this type of work.
OSHA studies have shown that the fumes are a toxic gas that can damage the mucous membranes and nasal tissues. The vapor is toxic enough that it is now illegal for any employer to have such work performed without supplying fresh air for the worker.
If you do inhale some of the zinc fumes, drinking about half a gallon of milk is often said to be a good remedy. But in many cases, working with galvanized pipe may be something that should be done by a professional.