What Causes Corroded Pipes—And How to Spot Corrosion in Your Home

Corroded Pipes - While older homes certainly have their charm, they can also come with a laundry list of problems. Older piping systems are typically high up on this list.

Many old houses have galvanized (zinc-coated) pipes or copper pipes. Unlike newer homes with corrosion-resistant PVC (polyvinyl chloride pipes), galvanized and copper pipes are prone to corrosion. Corroded pipes can lead to costly plumbing issues—and ingesting water from corroded pipes can be harmful to your health.

Learn more about the causes and effects of corroded pipes, and how to spot corroded pipes in your home.

What causes corroded pipes?

  • The pH levels of the water
  • An excess of oxygen in water, since this leads to rust
  • Minerals in the water, especially calcium because it leads to a mineral buildup
  • Very hot water can exacerbate corrosion
  • Chemical drain cleaners (they cause a whole lot of problems for your plumbing!)

What are the effects of corroded pipes?

  • Decreased water pressure
  • Less efficient water heaters
  • Leaks
  • Clogs
  • Burst pipes
  • Health risks from metals like copper and lead leaching from the corroded pipes into your water

How can you spot corrosion in your plumbing system?

  • In galvanized pipes, look for mineral deposits that are thick and chalky—they can turn a rusty orange
  • In copper pipes, look for green oxidation and mineral deposits
  • Restricted water flow will cause weak showers and a trickling hose
  • Keep an eye out for stains behind the sink, bathtub, or toilet tank
  • Corroded galvanized pipes leave behind a rusty brown stain
  • Corroded copper pipes cause blue-green stains
  • The water itself might also be discolored; for more information on this issue, check out our handy guide to discolored water
  • Your tap water might taste odd
  • If you have galvanized pipes, the water can taste sweet

Suspect your pipes might be corroded?

Take action right away. Because this corrosion can lead to costly repairs and serious health issues, it should be addressed immediately. Even if you haven’t seen any signs of corrosion yet but you know you have galvanized or copper pipes, call in an experienced plumber to take a look.

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