Curious About Yellow Water From Your Faucets? It’s a Sign to Replace Old Rusty Pipes

Tom Hartelby Tom Hartel
Water tap with running yellow water in a sink

Chicago has no shortage of old homes. It’s part of what gives the city its character and provides some personality to the surrounding municipalities that also have old homes. Many of these old homes were built with plumbing systems made up of cast iron and/or galvanized pipes. But the fact is, your home doesn’t have to be a century old to have problematic pipes.

What leads to corrosion?

Rusty (oxidized) sediment builds up inside of pipes over time as tiny minerals in the water pass through them, in some cases drastically reducing water pressure and eventually cause the pipe to corrode. As is often the case, rusty sediment will shed off, giving the water a yellow or reddish tint.

If you notice more discolored water coming from your hot pipes, there is a reason for that: Hot water has more oxygen in it, which can affix itself to metal, causing it to oxidize more dramatically than what you’ll see in a cold water pipe.

However, if you are just now noticing the discolored water, like it came on really quick, it might not be your pipes. The city water supply can be affected by oxidized pipes outside your home. Just run the water for a few minutes and if the water turns clear, it’s likely a city issue.

Reaction to affected water may differ

Iron actually occurs naturally in water, and it’s something the body needs to be healthy. However, too much of it can have a negative effect. For example, showering in it will irritate the eyes of some people. However, most can agree that it’s unattractive to see and not something that’s exactly pleasant to smell. Yellow water can also stain your clothes, your sinks and completely clog the water lines to smaller systems, like those found in your freezer’s icemaker.

Contact with water that has too much iron is rarely a big health concern. However, for people with a disorder called hemochromatosis, which is when excess iron accumulates in the body, living in a home where rusty water is present is definitely something that needs to be quickly addressed.

Bigger concerns with rusty pipes

While we can all agree that we’d like our water to be clear and unscented, we can also agree that we would like our water to remain in the pipes until we open a spigot. Unfortunately, rusting is a major concern because it will lead to blockage or leaks, which can go unseen for quite some time, allowing dangerous bacteria and mold to grow inside your walls.

If your home has galvanized pipes, a lot of the rusting will occur in the threading where the pipes are joined. This isn’t supposed to happen as galvanized pipes are made of steel and dipped into a protective zinc coating, which is supposed to prevent corrosion. However, years of use will strip away the zinc, allowing corrosion to occur. Some plumbers will alleviate this issue with a temporary steel clamp replacement in the affected areas. However, this is indeed a temporary fix that puts off the inevitable – complete replacement of the piping system.

Cast iron pipes, generally used in drain lines, will usually rust at the top of a seam and/or within the seam. Cast iron pipes will corrode just as galvanized pipes will, but it will eventually crack, which leads to flooded areas of you home.

Replacing old pipes

As a homeowner, you know that nothing lasts forever, and this is the case with your pipes. Fortunately, plumbing contractors are replacing these old systems with new ones that you probably won’t have to replace in your lifetime.

Plumbers today use pretty much any material you want, from copper to brass to galvanized. However, one material that gained a lot of popularity is PEX, which is polyethylene tubing that is flexible, light and won’t burst should the water inside them freeze. One of the other advantages of PEX is that you don’t have to remove all the old piping – you can just install it alongside the existing material.

Whatever materials you choose, make sure you bring in a qualified plumbing contractor to do the job. At Old World Plumbing, we specialize in residential plumbing services, including replacing old pipes. Contact us today and let’s talk about your options, from temporary and permanent repairs to emergency services to complete pipe replacement.

Tom Hartel
President/Author
Tom Hartel

I acquired my expertise by directing day-to-day operations of the business for over 20 years. Continuous hard work helped me become a nationally recognized speaker and expert on plumbing and fire protection systems. In this blog, I share my knowledge that will hopefully help you make better decisions for your homes.

Let’s get connected: Linkedin