DIY Know-How: How Well Do You Know Your Pipes?

You might well question the relevance of how good your knowledge of pipework in your home needs to be but if you have trouble distinguishing a galvanized pipe from a black iron one, it could turn a simple repair into a damaging experience.

Here is a quick run-through of the different types of pipework you might find in and around your home, some pointers on how to identify them, and why it matters to know what you have got.

 

Looking for clues

Constructions methods and materials change over time and the most obvious thing to point out about your pipework is that if you are living in a home that is less than about twenty years old, there is a high chance that the majority of your plumbing pipes are going to be made of plastic or copper.

If that applies to your house you can maybe relax a bit about how well you know your pipes as it shouldn’t be too much of an issue, but if you are living in a property older than that you really should get to grips with the different types and their functions and features.

If you are replacing pipework or other materials you can order online and upgrade to some of the latest materials, but if you are carrying out repairs or want to renovate what you have to maintain the character of your home, here is what you need to know before you start.

Working with galvanized pipe

If your home dates back more than 30 years it will have been built during a period where galvanized pipe was regularly used.

Galvanized pipe is iron pipework that has been treated with zinc. It is noticeably narrow (about 1” wide or less) and has a silver-gray appearance. If you identify that you have a problem with this type of pipework, such as clogging or leaking, it is normally advisable to call a professional for help with the repair.

The reason for this is that corrosion is a major issue and weakens the structure so it is rarely a simple matter of replacing a section of pipe in isolation, as other parts of the pipe might subsequently become compromised too.

You could easily create a bit of a DIY disaster if you try to repair galvanized pipe yourself if you don’t have the know-how to contend with the effects of corrosion.

Easy to spot copper

Copper is distinctive and easy to identify. Repairing a section of copper pipe should be fairly straightforward but you will need to possess some soldering skills to solder the pipe to fitting.

Another one to leave to a professional

Finally, black iron pipe is another type of pipe you need to be wary of if you have this in your home.

Its distinctive black finish makes it easy to spot but if you suspect a pipe has been painted black, check to see if the fittings are threaded or welded. If they are threaded, it is black iron pipe and as it is used to carry natural gas or propane, you would be wise to call in expert help to fix a problem.

Knowing your pipes is always handy and if you have an older property, you could argue that it’s essential information.

 

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