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How Rust Forms in Water Pipes Over Time

Rust formation in your sewer lines can occur and do significant damage over time due to material degradation. As inside pipe coatings like cast iron or galvanised steel age, the protective zinc or enamel layers begin to break down when exposed to moisture and oxygen.

Under these conditions, rust or iron oxide forms, As the metal flakes due to rust, the resulting buildup narrows drain walls, restricting water flow. In some cases, older homes with ageing pipe infrastructure are more susceptible to these issues, compromising structural integrity.

PVC pipes have a lifespan of 50-70 years, outlasting clay pipes which are prone to cracking and leaking within 20-50 years. Tree root penetration in joints can lead to substantial damage, and is one of the most common causes of cracks in these pipe types.

Irrespective of the pipe material in your home, it’s crucial to monitor for rust build-up, as it can cause significant damage if not addressed by proper water treatment. Neglected rust can lead to restrictive water flow, leaks, and other costly plumbing issues. Regular inspections and replacing severely corroded sections prevent changes in water taste or high-pressure issues that could damage your plumbing over time.

Chemical Process Causing Rust to Form on Pipe Interiors

Rust arises from oxidation, an electrochemical reaction where iron in steel or iron pipes interacts with oxygen and moisture.

Cold water in itself rarely causes rust, but certain conditions mean your pipes can succumb to corrosion as they interact with electrolyte-rich fluids. Various factors including salinity, pH levels, and water temperature can also accelerate the corrosion process. Dissolved salts and minerals in harder water can provide electrolytes that speed up iron oxidation, impacting the taste your water.

Moreover, temperature increases where hot water is present accelerate the reaction. Hot water systems that consistently exceed 50°C are prone to faster corrosion, necessitating close temperature monitoring. Stagnant water can also promote interior rusting as oxygen penetration levels rise, so ensure your water main and water supply is appropriately circulated.

The resulting iron oxide buildup flakes off the metal surface over time. This rust debris travels down sewer lines and accumulates, eventually restricting water flow. Should you see any of the aforementioned signs, it might be prudent to call plumber as rust buildup also harbours bacteria, causing further blockages.

Any pre-existing breaches in pipe protective enamel coatings allow widespread internal corrosion, subsequently spilling over drain boundaries too. Ultimately, a chain reaction occurs in your front yard plumbing: corrosion leads to pipe blockages, allowing more water penetration and exacerbating degradation.

How Rust Buildup Leads to Drain Blockages and Clogs

Corrosion inside your drain pipes leads to the accumulation of flakes and debris, setting the stage for plumbing issues. In certain instances, materials can get stuck in the drain, causing a blockage as they journey further down, becoming lodged in drain bends, joins, and exits. As more debris and oils lodge within your house’s piping, they hinder water flow, causing clogged drains or blockages.

Typically, other substances like buildup hair, soap residue, wet wipes, and toilet paper combine with rust flakes, creating drain-clogging masses. In your kitchen sink, food waste and grease clogs are a frequent nuisance. Meanwhile, buildup of hair and fibres can often clog the sink bathroom drain, affecting drainage significantly.

Partial clogs may present as gurgles in sink and toilet drains, eventually escalating to complete blockages. When water cannot pass through, it’s a clear indication that an emergency plumber should be called. Backed up water and sewage from your main sewer line may even flood inside if left unattended.

Rust debris removal requires mechanical usage of a drain cleaner down drain affected pipelines. This involves using a jet blaster, special augers, plungers or water jets to detach and get flushed down the blockage. Clearing a clog provides only a temporary fix unless the underlying rust issue is also treated.

For long-term prevention, replacing metal pipes, including steel or iron sections, with PVC alternatives may be necessary. Professional annual CCTV drain inspections are crucial to minimize debris buildup.

Warning Signs Your Rusty Pipes Require Inspection

If you suspect corrosion and want to know how to detect if your pipes may be suffering from internal rust, watch for these common warning signs:

  • Discoloured water with brown, red, or yellow hues suggests that the pipes are corroded and may require replacement.
  • Reduced water flow from your taps or shower heads - This may indicate rust accumulation in the pipes, which can lead to imminent blockages.
  • Strange noises - Hissing, clanging or gurgling sounds point to leaks, air pockets or debris buildup caused by corrosion.
  • Dripping taps or wet pipe joints - Rust holes around pipe joints also lead to external water leakage.
  • Higher utility bills - Persistent small leaks and the extra energy needed to pump water through buildup add to your energy consumption.
  • Foul odours - Stale, rotten egg or sewage smells can indicate rust, organic matter, or mildew growth harbouring bacteria inside your drains.
  • Slow draining fixtures - Baths, sinks or toilet cisterns draining gradually hint at internal rust or partial clogs.
  • Low water heater pressure - Rust accumulating in your hot water pipes or systems impedes output flow.

If you encounter one or more of these issues, call your local professional plumber, particularly if you’re on the Gold Coast, to diagnose your pipes. Catching severe rust early can help prevent major problems later and save on costly repairs down the track.

Steps to Prevent Existing Rust from Worsening

If your home’s pipes show signs of rust corrosion, prompt action is required to prevent rapid deterioration. Here are handy prevention tips:

  • Consider replacing severely corroded sections with corrosion-resistant PVC piping.
  • Apply pipe wrap sealant on compromised joints to inhibit oxygen penetration.
  • Consider re-routing pipes away from moisture sources.
  • Insulate or heat trace pipes in cold areas to inhibit condensation-induced rust.
  • Regularly maintain drains by flushing them with baking soda, vinegar, and boiling water to prevent buildup.
  • Have an anode rod installed in your hot water system to attract corrosion instead of pipes.
  • Seek professional drain cleaning services every year to extract debris before major blockages form.
  • Regular pipe inspections are crucial to identify leaks, changes in water taste or flow, and to maintain integrity.

Proactive management of rust reduces the risk of burst pipes, leaks, tap flow restriction, and drain blockages. However, advanced corrosion still requires pipe repairs by a licenced plumber to avoid blocked drains, infrastructure failures, water damage, or poor water quality.

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