Understanding Pinhole Leaks Plumbing Woes

Pinhole leaks commonly associated with copper plumbing became big news in 2014 when Maple hardwood flooring costing around $3,000 were destroyed in homes in South County requiring almost $17,000 to fix. Unfortunately though, when copper piping became the standard for water pipes in the 1960s, they were designed to last around 40 years at the most. This is why it is not surprising that many old copper piping are experiencing failure today.

What are Pinhole Leaks?

Aptly named because of the pinhead-sized hole created in copper piping, that results in slow water drips. The process soaks the insulation and steadily spreads until mold and mildew are already growing in the walls of the home without being noticed. The damaged can be undetected until such time that it has already become extremely significant.

According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the leaks are the result of the corrosion of localized copper or sometimes referred to as pitting corrosion. This puts a dent on the widely believed misconception that copper water piping can last virtually a lifetime. Pitting corrosion is now the subject of a study conducted by the EPA.

The Choice of Copper

Copper became a widely accepted choice for water pipes because they are considered as low-cost resources. They also allowed easy installation, which is why majority of homes have copper piping in at least one portion of the property. This is also the reason that when pinhole leaks are detected, often you will find an entire community experiencing the problem of pitting corrosion.

Homeowners will find it extremely difficult to detect as well as correct the problem of pitting corrosion without the help of plumbing professionals. When detected too late the result is often expensive repairs or quite possibly even replacement. The EPA has designed a pipe-loop testing mechanism as a low-cost way for early detection of possible pitting corrosion problems. However, until equally low-cost and easy to install materials are available for water piping systems, copper will remain as the favorite choice.

Common Causes of Pinholes

There are usually three common causes of pinhole leaks in majority of homes across the country; these are:

Chloramines
These are used as disinfectants to remove bacterial contaminants in drinking water. With the new EPA standards in during the 1990s, this replaced chlorine. The undesirable result though has been the corrosion from the interior of copper pipes leading to pinhole leaks as well as huge damages in homes. Communities with chloramines in their water system have constantly faced problems with pitting corrosion.

Steel Particles
The steel particles from old water heaters can also cause pinhole leaks. As the material accumulates within the copper pipes, electrolysis occurs that will cause the interior surface of the copper to gradually deteriorate creating pinhole leaks. A common solution is to shift to replace the anode in the water heater regularly, usually every five years or so to prevent pitting corrosion and extend the water heater lifespan.

High Water Pressure
Another common cause of pinhole leaks is the extremely high water pressure that flows through the water supply line. The interior surface of the pipe is steadily eroded, more prominently at the connections where the elbows and tees are installed. The common solution is to install pressure regulators to control the amount of pressure specifically where the flow direction changes within the copper pipes.

The best way to deal with pinhole leaks or pitting corrosion is to have your water piping system regularly inspected by licensed professional plumbing technicians. This preventive measure can help homeowners save on the cost of repair and replacement that insurance companies may not cover. Contact Scott English Plumbing to help you with your piping system.