How to Fix Broken Galvanized Pipes Behind the Wall in the Bathroom


Prevalent in older homes, galvanized piping was around long before the use of PVC in residential construction. The steel piping connects by threading the pipe onto applicable fittings for drains and supply lines. As the galvanized pipes age, they are prone to rust, corrosion and developing leaks that require repair. Replacing damaged fittings or sections of galvanized pipe with PVC is straightforward since the size and type of threads are the same in both types of pipe. When a bathroom wall conceals the leak, the trick is to access the damaged pipes while creating the least amount of damage.

Things You'll Need

  • Stud finder
  • Razor knife
  • Angle grinder with diamond blade
  • Pipe wrenches
  • PVC fittings
  • PVC pipe
  • Wire brush
  • Pipe dope
  • Adjustable pliers
  • PVC glue
  • PVC cleaner
  • Fittings
  • Locate the leaking pipes. Common signs of leaking pipes are wet walls, floors, mold and mildew.

  • Locate the wall studs on each side of the suspected leak using a stud finder. Mark the center of the stud locations with a pencil.

  • Cut away a section of wall using the stud center marks made in Step 2 to expose the pipes. A razor knife is sufficient when cutting drywall; however, an angle grinder with attached diamond blade is best when cutting through ceramic tile. In either scenario, keep the damage to a minimum to avoid unnecessary repair.

  • Identify the area of the pipe that is leaking. Most likely one of the pipe's fittings has developed a leak or corrosion has damaged the pipe.

  • Remove the damaged section of pipe or fittings and replace the parts with PVC. Place pipe wrenches on the pipe and an adjacent fitting and unscrew counterclockwise to remove. It is a good idea to replace all the galvanized piping in the wall section while it is open. Once the pipes start to leak, it's only a matter of time before other sections of galvanized piping develop a leak. You will need a threaded end of the galvanized pipe to attach the PVC adapters.

  • Purchase the appropriate PVC fittings and pipe if applicable. For example, if the galvanized pipe is 3/4-inch in diameter, purchase 3/4-inch PVC fittings that fit the pipe.

  • Clean the threads of the galvanized pipe with a wire brush to remove dirt, debris and rust. Coat the threads with pipe dope. The pipe dope seals the threads between the pipe and adapter, preventing a leak. Tighten the adapter using a pair of adjustable pliers while securing the pipe with the pipe wrench. Connect sections of PVC pipe to the new adapter by cleaning the contact points on the pipe and adapter with PVC cleaner. Apply PVC glue and twist together.

Tips & Warnings

  • When the pipe is located behind a ceramic tile wall, try to gain access on the other side of wall. It is much easier to cut through drywall.
  • Use CPVC, or chlorinated polyvinyl chloride, and applicable glue when replacing hot water supply lines. CPVC is formulated to withstand the high temperatures associated with hot water, while standard PVC is not.

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