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:
- High levels of chlorine in the water supply
- Corrosion particles from rusting water heaters
- Microbial activity
- High water pressure
- High pH levels in the water
Most likely, a combination of these issues causes pinhole leaks. So the better 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:
- Repair the leak itself
- Completely repipe your home using PEX plumbing
We’ll help you decide when you should repair a leak and when you need to replace your home’s copper plumbing.
When to repair a pinhole leak in your copper piping
Most of the time, you should repair a single pinhole leak (instead of completely repiping) when:
1. This is your first pinhole leak or you get very few leaks per year.
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 repiping your home’s plumbing.
2. Your copper plumbing is less than 15 years old.
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.
3. Your leak is located on a solder joint or elbows and tees.
Three areas in your piping that corrodes most quickly include:
- Solder joints (the point where 2 pieces of copper have been melted together)
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.
4. Pinhole leaks are all located in the same piece of pipe.
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 repiping.
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 repiping or it might not. Have a professional inspect your piping to determine what’s needed in your case.
When you’ll need to completely repipe your home
For the most part, you should repipe your home’s plumbing when:
1. You have 3 or more pinhole leaks within 6 months or less.
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 on down the road.
2. Your copper plumbing is older than 15-20 years old.
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.
There are frequent leaks occurring in straight pipe runs.
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 repipe 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 repiping, 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.
Need copper pipe repair or repiping? Ask a Florida plumber
Have a pinhole leak in your copper piping? We’re here to help.
Just contact us today and we’ll send over a professional to inspect the leak and advise on the possible solutions.
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