How to check for lead pipes

Last reviewed:

Properties built before 1970 are most likely to have lead pipes.

If your pipework, from the outside stop valve to the kitchen tap, has been replaced since 1970, it is unlikely to be lead.

Inside your home

Check the pipe leading to the internal stop valve (this is usually under the kitchen sink or sometimes in the cupboard under the stairs) for the following characteristics:

  • Unpainted lead pipes are dull grey and have rounded swollen joints where they join other pipes
  • They are soft and if gently scraped you will see the shiny, silver-coloured metal underneath
  • Tapping a lead pipe with a metal object will produce a dull thud rather than a clear ringing produced by copper or iron pipe

You can ask a plumber to carry out these checks for you if your pipes are not easy to access.

Watch our short video on how to find and use your inside stop valve

Outside your home

Open the flap of your outside stop valve and look at the pipe running towards your property. If you can, scrape its surface gently with a knife to reveal the pipe, which if lead, will be a shiny, silver-coloured metal underneath.

Watch our short video on how to find and use your outside stop valve

How to identify other water pipe materials:

  • Copper - hard and can be bright or dull brown
  • Iron - dark coloured, very hard and may be rusty
  • Plastic - grey, black or blue
  • Other materials may be used