Taking good care of the plumbing in your Richmond, Virginia home is one of the best things that you can do to preserve the value and integrity of your investment. Plumbing backups, overflows, and burst pipes can cause a tremendous amount of building damage. Whole-house plumbing inspections and yearly plumbing maintenance can stave off these and other common issues. However, if you’ve recently purchased existing construction or if you’ve lived in your home for quite a while, now may be the time to replace your pipes altogether. Certain pipe materials aren’t likely to stand the test of time. Should you replace your copper plumbing with galvanized pipes? Keep reading to discover the answer.

Why Periodic Pipe Replacement Is Important

Like all things in your home, your plumbing pipes have an expected lifespan. As they near the end of this lifespan, they become increasingly likely to develop faulty seals, ruptures, cracks, and countless other issues. Depending upon the type of pipes that your home has, they may even begin leaching toxic chemicals into your drinking water. In fact, problems with leaching can occur even if your pipes remain at a respectable age. As a homeowner, it pays to know which plumbing materials will provide the best performance and the highest levels of safety.

The Benefits of Copper Pipes

Copper pipes have been the standard choice for residential plumbing for more than six decades. Since the 1960s, copper pipes have been lauded for their durability, heat resistance, and overall safety. Made from pure copper, they’re naturally resistant to corrosion. Best of all, the likelihood of copper leaching toxins into your drinking water is virtually non-existent. Copper pipes are not currently believed to degrade drinking water at all.

In fact, according to some schools of thought, copper piping may actually add to water’s beneficial mineral content. Just like cooking food in a cast iron skillet is believed to add more iron to a person’s diet, having your drinking water flow through copper may provide a more abundant supply of this important mineral as well. Whether nutrients are bioavailable when encountered in this fashion is a matter of debate. However, at the very least, drinking water that comes from copper pipes won’t hurt you.

Copper pipes also have natural antimicrobial properties. This means that they’re less likely to harbor harmful bacteria and other micro-sized pathogens. Because of this, when compared to galvanized pipes, they’re also less likely to develop mineral deposits.

Copper pipes are even structurally superior to galvanized piping in a number of ways. For instance, given their smaller diameters, these pipes can be installed in tight and hard-to-reach spaces. At reasonably high temperatures, copper pipes can expand to avoid rupture. In earthquake-prone areas, copper proves more resilient during ground-shaking events.

The Benefits of Galvanized Steel Pipes

Galvanized steel was the primary choice for residential plumbing before the 1960s. If you live in an older home that has yet to be renovated, your pipes are probably made from galvanized steel. Galvanized steel has a protective coating of zinc to prevent corrosion. These pipes entered the scene as a replacement for lead pipes after the dangers of lead exposure were known.

New galvanized pipes have a bright nickel color. As these pipes grow older, they tend to darken and grow dull. If you have pipes in your home that are painted, the best way to tell whether they’re copper or galvanized steel is by performing a magnet test. A magnet will adhere to galvanized pipes, but it won’t adhere to copper.

As far as benefits go, galvanized pipes are durable and relatively low in cost. Most galvanized pipes used in plumbing applications will last about 40 years.

The Drawbacks of Copper

The major drawback of copper piping is its cost. Using copper throughout a home’s plumbing system is a choice that comes at a remarkable price. However, there are other disadvantages of copper piping that are important to consider as well. These include the fact that copper pipes:

  • May fail when water temperatures exceed 180 degrees Fahrenheit
  • Have a tendency to form condensation in their interior
  • May give water a slightly metallic taste over time

Condensation at the interior of copper pipes is problematic when outside temperatures fall. If this condensation freezes, it can inhibit the flow of water and cause other issues.

The Drawbacks of Galvanized Pipes

Although galvanized steel is treated with zinc for the express purpose of preventing corrosion, this preventative measure doesn’t always work for as long as intended. This is especially true in applications where galvanized pipes are constantly exposed to hard water. The minerals in hard water gradually break zinc coatings down. Once this breakdown has occurred, the development of rust and other forms of corrosion can be rapid and extreme. In fact, mineral buildups in aging galvanized pipes can be so severe that they block the flow of water.

Which Option Is Superior?

In almost every sense, copper pipes are the clearly superior choice. However, it’s important to note that the drawbacks of both copper and galvanized steel aren’t guaranteed to be relevant in all locations. For example, if you live in an area that doesn’t have hard water or water with a high mineral content, you can expect the protective zinc coating on galvanized steel pipes to remain intact for many decades. When this is the case, homeowners can take advantage of the significantly lower cost of galvanized pipes without experiencing mineral-related blockages, problems with leaching, or other serious issues.

In extremely cold areas or in homes that keep their water heater settings high, the drawbacks or limitations of copper pipes can sometimes outweigh their benefits. These and other considerations make it best to work with a plumber who can help you determine which option is right for you. For some households, the extra costs that copper pipe installation entails prove more than worthwhile. In others, using copper pipes causes more problems than it resolves.

Do Your Pipes Need to Be Replaced?

If the time has come to replace the pipes in your home, a good plumber can help you make the most of this opportunity. You may need new pipes if leaks, ruptures, and other issues have been happening with increasing frequency. Pipe replacement is also recommended for homes that haven’t had this work performed in more than four decades. Your plumber can assess the look, integrity, and overall functionality of your pipes during your next plumbing inspection. If switching from copper to galvanized pipes is the best choice based on your budget, water quality, and other factors, your provider will let you know.

At Davis & Green, we proudly serve residents of Richmond, Virginia and the surrounding area. We provide heating, cooling, plumbing, and electrical services. We also offer sump pumps, ceiling fans, water heaters, and preventative maintenance agreements. If the time has come to replace the pipes in your home, we can help. We can also assist you in choosing the best pipe materials for enduring value and safety. Call us today to schedule an appointment.

Davis & Green

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