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Thread: Can softener cause old galvanized pipes to start leaking?

  1. #1
    DIY Junior Member pinkoos's Avatar
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    Default Can softener cause old galvanized pipes to start leaking?

    Hi,

    Newbie here. Found this site from googling. Excellent resource. I searched for my question here, but couldn't find any posts, so I hope this hasn't been covered elsewhere.

    Anyway, we've moved into a house in Houston built in 1982 and remodeled/additions made in the 90s and again in 2003. I believe the plumbing to be galvanized steel.

    The water here is very hard (had a guy from Hague do a demo yesterday and found the hardness to be "8.5" - though I didn't need a demo to know the water is hard).

    We moved from a relatively newer house (built in 2000) for which we had a softener installed (Culligan Platinum) in 2004. So, we are very used to and accustomed to soft water now.

    I don't believe this new house has ever had a softener installed, so the pipes have been exposed to this hard water for almost 30 years (at least the original parts of the house). I can see some deposits around fixtures and inside one of the original toilet bowl tanks, etc.

    I spoke with a highly regarded plumber who has been working on this house for years and he is of the opinion that it would not be a good idea to install a softener at this point. His concern is that right now, many of the hard water deposits are probably actually acting as a SEAL for possible leaks in these old pipes. If a softener is introduced, these deposits may be slowly "melted" away, exposing these leaks and causing problems.

    When talking to the softener sales people, they (of course) don't think it's a concern. They say the softener won't take off any of the pre-existing deposits that are bound to the pipe, but will prevent any new deposits from being laid down.

    My wife and I really want the soft water, but not at the risk of exposing leaks that have been long sealed up by the very deposits we are trying to get rid of!

    Any thoughts?

    Thank you from hot and humid Houston, TX!

  2. #2
    In the Trades Akpsdvan's Avatar
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    The plumber is correct in that the treated water would be cleaning out the pipes that are in the house and with the deposits that are with in the pipes.
    Galvanized Steel? There might be some as in nipples but the whole house? metal detector time...

    Now the question would be how much of the plumbing is still of the older style.
    You say that the house had some work done in the 90's and then around 03' was any of that the plumbing?
    If the pipes are with in walls that are not open then there could be a challenge.

  3. #3
    DIY Junior Member pinkoos's Avatar
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    The remodeling done was mainly changing of the flooring. Additions were a new wing of the house that added a couple of bedrooms and a private study off the master bedroom. I'm totally ignorant when it comes to plumbing, so I guess I can go up to the attic in the different areas of the house (there are 3 attics) and check the pipes out. Anything particular to look for to be able to tell what we're dealing with? This is a single story house.

  4. #4
    In the Trades Akpsdvan's Avatar
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    What did the plumber say was used?
    You could go up in the attic and see what was used, either copper or some other pipe....
    Have you seen any blue green?

  5. #5
    DIY Junior Member pinkoos's Avatar
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    Galvanized steel pipes. I need to check out the pipes in the attics. By blue-green do you mean discoloration of the exterior of the pipes?

  6. #6
    In the Trades Akpsdvan's Avatar
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    Blue green stain at the tub, sink, and dishwasher..
    But if you are talking about the exterior then it sounds like you have copper pipes already..

  7. #7
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    Galvanized pipe has threaded ends, and uses threaded couplings to join two sections make turns. It is greyish on the outside and a magnet will be attracted to it. Copper, well, looks like copper - think penny. There are several different plastic pipes that could be used. Depending on the house layout, if you have a basement, you'd see some of the piping there - it doesn't always go through the attic. One place to start is at the water heater and maybe where the washing machine is hooked up. Much of the rest of it is likely burried in the walls.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

  8. #8
    That's all folks! Gary Slusser's Avatar
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    In 23 years as a water treatment dealer, including 13 years on the internet talking to many thousands of people, I've never heard of softened water removing hardness scale from pipes and causing leaks. If you think about how thin hardness scale is, and how weak it is to cracking, how could a thin layer of it stop the main line water pressure from breaking it and allowing a leaking fitting?

    Galvanized pipe and nipples used for potable water plumbing should be outlawed. It rusts and that adds iron to the water that stains everything rusty while reducing the pressure rating of the plumbing system.

    The softener guy is wrong though. Softened water will dissolve any scale build up inside the plumbing system, including the water heater. It will not remove rust.
    Gary Slusser Retired (= out of business)
    Click Here to learn how to correctly size or program a water softener.
    CAUTION, as of Nov 12 2013 all YouTube videos showing how to rebuild a Clack valve have an error in them that can cause damage.

  9. #9
    In the Trades Wally Hays's Avatar
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    There is no way that softened water could cause that problem and even if it did, if the only thing keeping your pipes from leaking is scale deposits then it's time to re-pipe the house
    Perception is 3/4 of reality

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