If you are considering buying a house that was built before the 1960s, it's important for you to understand the challenges you may face with the plumbing and sewer systems. Before the 1960s, galvanized steel was popular. The problem today is that galvanized steel pipes typically only last about 40 years due to corrosion. Ask the seller if the pipes have ever been replaced. Here's what you need to know if they haven't.
What are galvanized pipes & why do they corrode?
Galvanized pipes were made from steel and coated with a protective layer of zinc. However, zinc erodes over time, which reduces the effectiveness of the coating. Without a suitable coating, the steel can corrode from water exposure. This forms rust, which can flake off and settle in the pipes. At some point, the corrosion can be so extreme that there's not enough left of the steel, which causes water to seep out of the pipes. Of course, this could lead to water damage inside the structure of your home.
Galvanized pipes used in the sewer lines underground can cause sewage and contaminated water to ooze into the soil, which could explain why there's a long straight line of lush green grass in the yard of the home you are thinking about buying. Should this corrosion continue to occur, the sewage and water could contaminate the yard and make it stinky and unusable.
Are there any other concerns to worry about?
Another thing to be concerned about is whether or not there is lead in the pipes. If lead service lines were ever used, lead from those lines can release and attach to the zinc coating. Researchers have also discovered that the lead can release from the zinc coating at a greater rate when copper piping is later used for service lines. Therefore, it's important to determine what types of piping were used not only in your home and the sewer system, but for the water main service lines as well. It's also important to inspect the interior of the plumbing and sewer systems.
How can the interior of the pipes be inspected?
The best way to have a look inside the pipes is to insert a sewer camera into them. This is a device that has a monitor attached to it so the interior of the pipes can be visually inspected. You can rent a sewer camera to do the inspection yourself or hire a plumber to do it for you, after approval from the current homeowner, of course. Alternatively, ask the homeowner to have all plumbing and sewer lines inspected. Companies like USA Borescopes can help with this.