January 04, 2017
Pinhole leaks in copper piping are dangerous, expensive and have plagued the Florida area for years.
These leaks happen when corrosion inside copper plumbing finally breaks through the outer surface of the pipe.
So, what causes that corrosion in copper pipes?
Well, despite numerous studies on the issue, the exact cause of pinhole leaks in copper pipes is unknown. Some possible theories include:
Most likely, a combination of these issues causes pinhole leaks. So, the best question to ask is, what should I do if I get a pinhole leak? Well, when you get a pinhole leak in your copper pipes you have two options:
We’ll help you decide when you should repair a leak and when you need to replace your home’s copper plumbing.
Most of the time, you should repair a single pinhole leak (instead of completely re-piping) when:
If this is your first pinhole leak or if you rarely get leaks in your piping, it makes much more financial sense to repair leaks as they pop up instead of completely re-piping your home’s plumbing.
In Florida, copper piping usually lasts around 20 to 25 years of age depending on the thickness of the pipes installed. So, if your copper piping is 15 years old or younger, then, in most cases, they’re not fully corroded. In which case, it makes sense to repair them on a leak-by-leak basis.
Note: There are some instances when copper pipes can corrode and deteriorate before reaching 15 years so make sure you have a professional inspect your pipes for signs of extensive corrosion when you have a leak.
Three areas in your piping that corrodes most quickly include:
Why do these areas corrode quickly? Well, imagine the water flowing through your piping as a train. As long as it’s running in a straight line, it flows smoothly and without causing any trouble. The problem occurs when that water has to stop, change direction quickly or hits a rough patch. Any time flowing water encounters sudden changes, turbulence occurs and corrodes the pipes.
So, if your leak is located at any of these 3 places, you can most likely repair that spot and expect that other areas of the pipe are still healthy.
If your pinhole leaks are all located within the same stretch of pipe but nowhere else within your home’s piping, you can most likely replace just that stretch of pipe in lieu of a complete home re-piping.
Do keep in mind, though, that when pinhole leaks occur in straight runs, it could also be a sign that the rest of your piping is corroding. Unlike at points of turbulent water (like at elbows, tees and solder joints), straight runs receive very little corrosion.
In other words, pinhole leaks in a single piece of pipe running in a straight line might mean you need complete re-piping or it might not. Have a professional inspect your piping to determine what’s needed in your case.
For the most part, you should re-pipe your home’s plumbing when:
When pinhole leaks get more and more frequent, it’s a sure sign of extensive corrosion throughout your copper piping. And if there’s extensive corrosion, you’re in danger of extensive water damage further down the road.
If you’re getting frequent leaks and your copper piping is older than 20 years old, there’s a chance that Florida’s specific water chemistry has slowly eaten away at the inside of your pipes.
Straight runs receive the least amount of erosion. So, when you start getting leaks in straight sections of your copper piping, it’s a sign that the piping has reached its limit and needs to be replaced.
If you need to completely re-pipe your home, we suggest replacing copper pipes with PEX piping. PEX piping resists corrosion, is easy to install and is cheaper than copper piping.
But before re-piping, check to see if your “straight run leaks” are all occurring in the same piece of pipe. If just one particular stretch of pipe is corroding but the rest of your piping is fine, you may be able to only replace that one bad piece. See the section above titled “Pinhole leaks are all located in the same piece of pipe” for more information.
Have a pinhole leak in your copper piping? We’re here to help.
Just contact us today and we’ll send over a professional plumber to inspect the leak and advise on the possible solutions.
Posted in: Troubleshooting