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Thread: Rust in bathtub water, precursor to trouble?

  1. #1

    Default Rust in bathtub water, precursor to trouble?

    I have a combo bathtub/shower unit in my condo in which I guess was probably installed in 1986 when the building became apartments. When I run the water in the tub to warm up before switching to the shower, there's a fair amount of rust present that eventually dissipates. I don't see this problem in the bathroom toilet, sink or any other water orifice in the unit. Is this a precursor to some plumbing damage, a pipe possibly rusting through? The volume of water that is allowed thru the tub spout is much greater then any other water orifice as well.

  2. #2
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    They may have used galvanized or iron pipe fittings to hold the tub spout on. If so, you will get rust from them, even the galvanized, since the coating is often damaged during installation and transport. It would be rare to have galvanized supply pipes in something built in 1986. Iron fittings are cheaper than copper or brass. If you are lucky, you could remove the tub spout, and see if the nipple is iron and replace it with a brass one and probably solve the problem (unless there is more back in the wall). Spouts generally are either push on or screw on. If it is a push on, there will be a set screw underneath. If it is screwed on, there won't be a set screw. If it is a push on, the pipe is probably copper, as the o-rings won't seal well to galvanized (it's too rough).

    This is more of an annoyance than a serious problem, but is typical of either ignorant or cheap construction practices.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

  3. #3

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    Thank you Jim (I'm a Haverhill guy myself). That seems to make sense. I did another experiment and if I bypass the tub and have the water first run straight thru the showerhead, I don't seem to see the rust. Also when I stick my hand inside the bathtub spout, I can peel off chunks of metal. It's an annoyance I can live with, I just wanted reassurance, I didn't have a pipe that was about to develop a rust hole leak.

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    Forum Admin, Expert Plumber Terry's Avatar
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    Jim is right, in the effort to save a few bucks, the homeowner gets a dash of rusty water everytime he runs the tub.
    Pull the spout and replace the galvanized nipple with a brass one.

    We always carry brass in our trucks.
    That kind of thing has always bugged the heck out of me.
    For a few bucks, in a job that was sold for thousands.
    Dooh!

  5. #5
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    The "precursor" is that the threads on the galvanized pipe may be rusting and WILL eventually start leaking. IF you wait until that happens, removing the defective piece may NOT happen easily. Do it NOW while it still has enough structural integrity to unscrew. Spouts connected to steel piping ALWAYS screw on. There is NO slip on spout made to fit over a steel, or brass, pipe.

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