Corrosion at galvanized steel pipe is entirely dependent upon the quality and strength of the zinc galvanized finish in combination with the aggressiveness of the local water supply. Older pipe has been shown to have long service life approaching 100 years in some examples, but generally about 50-60 years for most areas of the country.
Where the galvanized finish holds, the pipe will remain in virtually new condition. Failures occur as the zinc finish is corroded away or fails; thereby allowing all corrosive forces to focus their attack at one localized area similar to the sun's rays through a magnifying glass. Over decades, the entire finish fails leaving widespread corrosion and high rust deposits as it essentially is unprotected carbon steel pipe. Severe constriction of the pipe is common, and often the first sign of a corrosion problem.
Far lower quality of today's galvanized piping products, and a large contribution of low quality foreign product, has greatly impacted this market - with failures now common at domestic water systems within 2-3 years. For this reason, Type L copper has become the material of choice for smaller domestic cold water installations.
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