A pinhole leak in a copper pipe is a horrifying experience for homeowners and business owners all over Atlanta. But unfortunately, the number of pinhole leaks is rising and shows no sign of diminishing.
Copper pipes should last twenty to fifty years. However, the age of a copper pipe does not play a significant role in forming pinhole leaks. Unbelievably, we have seen pinhole leaks in copper pipes installed for less than two years.
As we mentioned, pinhole leaks in copper pipes are an everyday problem throughout the Atlanta area. And these destructive leaks only happen to copper pipes. But why? Read on to learn what pinhole leaks are, why they spring up, and how to prevent and repair them.
What is a pinhole leak?
Pinhole leaks are tiny, and that is where they get their name. These holes are about the size hole a quilting needle makes. That is a hole with a diameter of one eighth of an inch or 3 mm. A pinhole leak is the result of long-term unseen corrosion damage inside a copper pipe.
How do pinhole copper pipe leaks start?
Copper pipe joints of a different kind of metal can lead to pinhole leaks due to pitting corrosion. Pitting corrosion is a corroded area with holes or divots in the material. It usually is present as a small spot on a copper pipe. Eventually, pitting damage worsens, wearing away a tiny amount of additional pipe material until it collapses. The hole formed by this collapse is the pinhole that begins to leak.
What causes pitting corrosion in copper pipes?
Your copper pipes spring a pinhole leak it corrosion defense wears away. There are three causes of pitting corrosion in copper pipe. Each cause involves removing the protective coating inside the pipe that prevents corrosion. Chemical damage and mechanical damage can remove this oxide film. Also, leaks can form due to localized damage to the protective coating. The third cause is the use of non-copper metal fittings and pipe joints.
How does chemical damage cause copper pipe pinhole leaks?
The pH of water can dramatically affect the pipes that carry it through residential and commercial plumbing systems. For example, variations in the pH can account for the occurrence of pinhole leaks in copper plumbing pipes. That is due, in part, to chemical reactions with sulfates, temperature, bacteria, or piping metal setting the stage for copper pitting corrosion to start.
Under any of these conditions, chemical reactions eat away the oxide coating insulating the pipe interior. And the coating wears away unevenly, inevitably exposing tiny spots without corrosion protection. These tiny spots are incredibly susceptible to corrosion and are where pinhole leaks form.
The chemical interactions that wear away at copper pipes typically occur because of the high pH value in your water. Investing in a water softener can help prevent the pH values that harm copper pipes.
How does mechanical damage cause pinhole leaks in copper?
Physical contaminants such as sediment or heavy metals in water wear away pipe interior surfaces as they pass through the pipe. A water softener will remove contaminants that can scrape up your copper pipe interior over time in areas with hard water.
Extremely high water pressure can also remove the oxide layer inside copper over time. Investing in a water pressure limiter is a good idea if your plumbing system water pressure is above 60 PSI. A plumber will install this device to keep high pressure from damaging your pipes.
How does localized damage to the protective coating cause copper leaks?
Localized damage to the oxide coating can occur during a poor-quality retrofitting job and DIY copper pipe pinhole leak repair attempts. Substandard and damaged copper pipes cannot resist corrosion, leading to pinhole leaking. Substandard and damaged copper pipes may not maintain the same resistance to corrosion as they should, leading to pinhole leaking.
Suppose your pipes were improperly installed or are of poor quality. In that case, we recommend pipe replacement services as soon as possible. A professional plumbing inspection can tell you if you need to replace your pipes or if pipe replacements or repairs will work.
Do non-uniformities in the metal structure cause copper pipes to leak?
A partial plumbing system retrofit can introduce unintended problems. Specifically, when copper pipe retrofits contact a different metal material either in pipe joints or fittings, the non-uniformities in the metal structure develop corrosion. The non-uniform metals interact with water and deteriorate the oxide coating inside copper pipes, eventually leading to pinhole leaks.
It might be possible to replace problem plumbing pipe joints, fittings, or old sections of pipe. However, only a professional local plumber can accurately inspect your system. Morningside Plumbing has qualified plumbers to identify problems and provide you with repiping, repair, and replacement solutions.
Why do plumbers retrofit pipes in Atlanta?
Pipe retrofitting is a technique plumbers use for two main reasons. One is to make a plumbing system more durable to increase its longevity. A plumbing system retrofit is a way to increase property value before selling.
More commonly, pipe retrofitting services repair a problem like a leak. So, pipe leaks are one of the most common reasons homeowners retrofit pipes. Sometimes pipe leak repair is the best choice, especially if the pipes are new and the leak is minor. Other times, however, you will want to retrofit the pipes. If you are thinking of retrofitting your plumbing, Morningside Plumbing can advise when to retrofit.
What are the signs of plumbing pipe deterioration?
Pipes deteriorate with age, so old pipes often show signs of corrosion and wear. However, corrosion and deterioration also happen under specific hazardous environmental conditions. Look for these signs of pipe deterioration on pipes of any age.
- Light mint green to white powdery deposits beneath your pipes
- Water leaks at pipe joints or pipe fittings
- Rust stains on pipes
How will I know I have a pinhole leak in my copper pipe?
If you suspect you have a pinhole leak problem, there are pinhole leak signs you can find. However, the holes that spring these leaks are tiny. Their small size makes them challenging to locate. Even worse, copper pinhole leaks often occur out of sight, under counters and inside walls.
- An unexplained increase in your water bill is a sign you may have a plumbing leak.
- Leaks cause a decrease in water pressure throughout your plumbing system.
- Pinhole leaks can make hissing or dripping sounds that you can sometimes follow to find the location of the leak.
- Water damage under or around a pipe points to a leak.
- Mold or mildew near your pipes indicates a possible leak
- Condensation on the outside of a pipe should not take place, So, when a pipe feels moist or is wet look for leaking.
- Discolored copper pipe is a leak warning sign. Oxidizing copper pipes can become brown, green, or blue.
The best way to look for water pipe leaks is to turn off your water and check your water meter. If you are sure, you have turned off the supply, but the water meter is still moving, then you leak somewhere. For instance, you may have a pinhole leak if you have copper pipes.
Is DIY copper pipe leak repair possible?
There is one effective way to repair a pinhole leak in a copper pipe. That is with the sweating replacement method, which uses heat and solder to join copper pipe and fittings together. Although you can buy everything to DIY sweat copper pipe at most local hardware stores, we do not recommend it. Obtaining the plumbing supplies and tools for the repair is not all you need to do the job right. In addition, you will need the soldering expertise that comes with years of training and hands-on professional experience. However, we will explain the process for those interested in learning more about how to sweat-solder copper pipe.
How not to fix pinhole water leaks in copper pipe
Before you learn how to fix pinhole leaks, it would help if you knew what not to do. Regrettably, a lot of the information online about copper pipe leak repair is terrible. And the DIY copper pipe repair advice can do more harm than good in many cases. Here are a few things to avoid when you need to repair leak in a copper pipe.
Do not use pipe repair clamps that are by nature a temporary fix. In addition, repair clamps may introduce chemical and metal alterations to your water that increase damaging wear to the pipe. Also do not use replacement pipes with affixed couplings. The couplings and replacement pipes negatively interact with the copper in your piping. That in turn wears away the oxide coating needed to prevent corrosion. Using either of these leak repair techniques to fix a pinhole leak may stop the leaking water. But the long-term pipe damage that results will be much worse that the initial problem.
How do plumbers sweat copper piping?
Sweating pipe replacement is only recommended if you must repair ½” copper pipe or less. Suppose the replacement is involved? Call a plumber.
What tools are required to repair copper pipe?
- Tube cutter
- Measuring tape
- Sweat coupling replacement pipe
- ¾” diameter wire fitting brush
- Propane torch
- Solder wire
- Cotton rags
- Locate the leak and mark it on the pipe.
- Turn off the water main
- Drain the water from the pipe
- Use the tube cutter to cut up to ½” of the damaged section of the pipe and remove it.
- Dry off both new pipe openings
- Stuff both openings with clean cotton rags to keep them dry
- You will remove these rags right before you solder
- Measure the gap between the openings
- Get the sweat coupling replacement pipe. Cut a section of it one inch longer than the length of the gap.
- Use the pipe cutter to smooth any rough edges of the section of the replacement pipe.
- With the wire-fitting brush, smooth the rough inner edges of the replacement pipe.
- Clean and smooth the openings of the remaining pipe with the cutter and wire brush.
- Place the sweat coupling replacement pipe over each end of the attached pipe with one ½ inch of the replacement on each side of the remaining copper pipe.
- Solder the new joint by holding the torch to one side and the tip of the solder wire to the other until enough of the wire melts into the opening to fill it.
- Turn on the water and test the repair.
The Copper Pipe Leak Repair Experts In Atlanta
Morningside Plumbing is one call away atOur Atlanta plumbers near me repair leaking pipes and provide leak detection services. We provide repiping services, copper pipe replacement. commercial pipe replacement. apartment pipe replacement service, and pinhole leak repair.