On Galvanized Pipes – On the House

On Galvanized Pipes

By on March 20, 2016

If your home is more than thirty years old chances are that it contains some galvanized pipe. While this type of pipe was used primarily for residential water systems, it was also employed in the construction of many residential drain, waste and vent systems.

Actually, galvanized pipe is iron pipe which has been coated with zinc to protect it from rust and as a method of extending its life. Unfortunately, nothing is forever or at least such is the case with galvanized pipe as many folks have no doubt discovered.

Copper pipe has been in wide use in the last three decades for residential water systems and is by far the leading product used nationwide. Various types of plastic have replaced iron pipe for the drain, waste and vent systems in most modern homes. Although not in wide use, plastic pipe is also being used in lieu of galvanized and copper for residential water systems.

Non-galvanized iron pipe or “black” iron pipe continues to be widely used for residential natural gas and propane gas systems.

Still, with all of the modern alternatives to iron pipe, a majority of homes in this country still contain galvanized pipe. Whereas many people have opted to replace galvanized water piping with modern alternatives, due to the often disruptive process, many wait to combine the task with impending remodeling projects. Others neither have the budget or don’t see the value in replacing the pipe and would simply prefer repairing an occasional leak. It is to the latter that we direct today’s discussion. If you need to install a new pipeline in your property, a Drone pipeline inspection may be needed to ensure that there won’t be any obstructions where the pipes will be laid out.

Copper pipe is joined by “sweating” or soldering the connections. Plastic pipe is either glued or clamped depending upon the specific material being used. Both of these methods are in sharp contrast to iron pipe wherein the connections are made via threaded ends and fittings.

Replacing a section of threaded pipe is not nearly as difficult as one might imagine thanks to the wide assortment of threaded sections of pipe that are now standard inventory at most hardware store or home improvement centers. This material is offered “pre-fab” in various diameters and lengths. Furthermore, many stores will custom cut and thread a section of pipe in the event a stock item is not available. This prevents the do-it-yourselfer from having to rent or purchase a costly set of iron pipe cutting and threading tools.

The first step in replacing a section of damaged water pipe is to turn off the water and open a faucet at the lowest point in the home to allow the line to empty. Next, cut through the damaged section using a hacksaw or a sawzall. This will allow each of the two pieces which remain to be unscrewed from its adjacent fitting.

That brings us to the single most difficult aspect of replacing a section of threaded pipe; the removal of the existing pipe from the fittings to which it is attached. Over time these connections can become “frozen” making them virtually impossible to separate. Using two medium pipe wrenches in opposing directions (one gripping the pipe and the other the fitting) will enhance the leverage needed to “break” the connection.

If at first you don’t succeed in loosening the connection, spray the area with a penetrating oil or lubricant such as WD-40. This will act to break down some of the rust and corrosion which is likely preventing the pipe from budging.
Once the pipes have been removed, spray the threads within the fittings with more of the penetrating oil. Allow the oil to sit for approximately fifteen minutes and use a small wire “bottle brush” to remove any residue which may remain and prepare the area for a new leak-free connection.

In order to put things back together two sections of pipe and a union will be needed. The total length of the two pieces of pipe and the union must be equal in length to the damaged pipe. When calculating the overall length of material needed, measure from the face of one fitting to the face of the opposite fitting and add one inch. This accounts for one half inch of threads at either end which will overlap into the fittings.

The union is a fitting which consists of three components; two union nuts and a ring nut. The union nuts attach to the replacement sections of pipe at the location where they are to be joined. The ring nut is inserted over one of the sections of pipe and acts to join the two pieces together.

Prior to assembling the pipes, apply a pipe joint compound to the threaded ends and the threads located within the fittings. Press the compound into the threds with a fingertip. Just as with the removal process, using two pipe wrenches will make reassembly easier and safer.

Complete the process by turning the main water supply on and checking for leaks.

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