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Any plumbers out there? Question....


awagnon

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My 15 year old house has developed a "pin hole" in the copper supply line pipe about 1/2 way to the water heater. ( The house has all copper plumbing. ) I can easily repair it, but from what I've read, a pin hole is a sign of bad things to come with more and more pin holes until the house requires re-plumbing. Is this true and is there anything that can be done to prevent it? I've read about epoxy lining of the pipes, but I'm not anxious to drink from epoxy lined pipes. Has anyone had experience with this problem?

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Calvin  (no socks)

Not a plumber, but have dealt with slab leaks before... the first one was covered by an insurance plan...after watching the plumber.... I fixed the next 4.. the new owner had to re-pipe the house... no fun. House was 16 years old.

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Al,

 

You should contact your water utility and find out if your water is corrosive. I'm not sure that drinking copper and lead is a good idea either.... if the copper is corroding so is the "lead free" brass with 8% lead in it and your solder too. In any event, it may just be a flaw in one pipe if the water is not corrosive. If it is corrosive the utility should be putting in additives to control it. Down here in SLC copper is considered pretty much forever so I'm really surprised to hear of this.

 

We just replumbed 45 year old galvanized. It was a terrible PITA. You do not want to replumb unless you really have to.

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You should contact your water utility and find out if your water is corrosive.

 

We just replumbed 45 year old galvanized. It was a terrible PITA. You do not want to replumb unless you really have to.

 

Thanks, Jan. I'm not sure our water department would tell me, but I'll give them a call. I read that houses plumbed with copper since around 1980 are failing after 20-30 years. Some sooner. I read one very detailed state study (WCCS) which failed to come up with an explaination. They looked at everything from water pH, mineral content, galvanic issues, changes in pipe manufacture, etc., but nothing conclusive.

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DaveTheAffable
Thanks, Jan. I'm not sure our water department would tell me, but I'll give them a call. I read that houses plumbed with copper since around 1980 are failing after 20-30 years. Some sooner. I read one very detailed state study (WCCS) which failed to come up with an explaination. They looked at everything from water pH, mineral content, galvanic issues, changes in pipe manufacture, etc., but nothing conclusive.

 

+1 . I am not a plumber, but have two friends who are. Copper pipes don't "close-up" internally from corrosion like galvanized ones do... but there are a lot of people having pinholes anywhere from 15+ years... and no one seems to know why.

 

Good luck. Hopefully they're not in slab. :(

 

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Copper is the best and the longest lasting.

 

I wouldn't worry about it....prolly a fluke.

 

I would wait till happens again before I would do anything.

 

:thumbsup:

 

 

 

 

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Hopefully they're not in slab. :(

 

Thanks, Dave. Lucky for me, the pin hole was in the basement ceiling. When I finished the basement, I installed a suspended ceiling so I could get to the plumbing if needed. Glad I did. Now I'm paranoid. Should I turn off the water at the main valve if I go on an extended vacation?

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People around where I live have good luck using regular garden hose from Wal Mart and just running it through the windows or openings in the walls..It's cheap, easily replaced and seldom bursts after freezing.... :thumbsup:

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ShovelStrokeEd

Remove a 2 foot section around the pinhole and replace that section of piping with new. Then saw the thing in half lenghtwise and see what you are up against. If you find lots more pinholes it is time to call the plumber.

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CoarsegoldKid
a lot of people having pinholes anywhere from 15+ years... and no one seems to know why.

 

Good luck. Hopefully they're not in slab. :(

I'm not a plumber but re-plumbed a house in the early 80's with copper and two more in the 90's. The 90's pipe was thinner walled. Maybe that's the cause.

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I'm not a plumber but re-plumbed a house in the early 80's with copper and two more in the 90's. The 90's pipe was thinner walled. Maybe that's the cause.

 

It looks like all the copper pipe in my house is class "M" which is the thinnist grade. I went to Lowe's and Home Depot today to buy some 3/4 inch pipe to patch the leak. They only sold the "M" grade. Could be part of it.

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copper pipe comes in 3 wall thicknesses, M - thinest K-a little thicker and L - thickest. K grade copper is industry standard and should be used in all applications to prevent the problem you are experience, pin hole leaks. These problems are further exasberated due to foreign pipe being imported into the states where quality control is lacking.

Fix your pinhole, no a real problem. Look at the DIY website and it provides a nice explanation to follow.

 

Concerning the response about turning off your water if/when you leave for an extended period of time, this is not a bad idea just make sure that your automated water features/landscape irrigation/pool autofill/water softner won't need the water.

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  • 2 weeks later...

Turbulence can cause pinhole leaks. Is the leak on the hot side and do you have a recirculating pump that provides hot water quicker to your fixtures? Outside of replacing with type 'L' there isn't much you can do other than repair it. If the piece you took out looks bad you might want to do some prevenative replacement.

 

PEX pipe doesn't hold heat so if you use it on the hot side and don't have a recirc pump you will waste alot of water waiting for it to get hot.

 

In plumbing, the joints that are the hardest to get to will be the ones that leak when you turn the water back on.

 

Your water supplier should provide you with an analysis every year.

 

best of luck-

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Al I've seen more plumbing leaks than I care to recall in my former life as an independent adjuster.

 

IT ALL LEAKS.

 

Copper, galvanized, pex... IT LEAKS.

 

I'd fix it, by cutting out a section, and then keep a look out. Shutting off service when you will be out of town is cheap insurance (the puns write themselves) cheap, thin copper is a culprit- today's pipe grades are not the thicknesses and quality of copper on which copper pipe built its reputation - something's up with the alloys... So, too are crappy plumbers to blame. I've seen more leaks due to installation errors (bad sweating, bad crimping, bad cutting - just bend it to fit (rolleyes))... They cut something too long/ too short and bend the other stuff to fit, causes issues. Do you have any water hammer when you turn stuff on and/ or off? Maybe you need a shock absorber in the system.

 

But I don't think I'd be all over re-plumbing the whole joint- not after one leak. Could be a freak situation, thin spot in one pipe, etc. Fix it and keep a lookout.

 

 

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Copper is the best and the longest lasting.

 

 

** I beg to differ! Whether you have hard water (like me) or not, screw using copper anymore! Flexible PB plastic is the way to go. Use it to join to existing copper or to other plastic, right up to and including the water heater. Some people may fear drinking it, but it is no worse than copper/lead. Drink bottled water if it bothers you (comes in plastic bottles usually right?)

 

http://www.doityourself.com/stry/h2workplasticpipe

 

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copper pipe comes in 3 wall thicknesses, M - thinest K-a little thicker and L - thickest. K grade copper is industry standard and should be used in all applications to prevent the problem you are experience, pin hole leaks. These problems are further exasberated due to foreign pipe being imported into the states where quality control is lacking.

Fix your pinhole, no a real problem. Look at the DIY website and it provides a nice explanation to follow.

 

Concerning the response about turning off your water if/when you leave for an extended period of time, this is not a bad idea just make sure that your automated water features/landscape irrigation/pool autofill/water softner won't need the water.

 

Actually K is the thickest. Type M (thinest for domestic water piping) is fine for domestic water piping as long as the water isn't too aggressive. I've seen copper systems last for over 50 years with no problem if they were installed correctly. Copper has a high thermal coefficient and will expand and contract a lot. The installation needs to be engineered and installed accordingly.

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Use Pex tubing or there are other brand names . Works great never leaks if installed properly it will outlast your home oh yea lots cheaper . Dave

 

I recently bought a house that's 54 years old. It has galvy. Anyway, water pressure is OK but noticeably lower in the yard.

 

As the water heater was only half the age of the house, I replaced it with a newer and better unit. I asked the inspector about re-piping and whether PEX or copper was predominant. His answer was the vast majority of re-pipes he sees are copper. I didn't ask his opinion but I'm guessing there is a reason for that. I would think a re-pipe would be easier with PEX than CU if for no other reason than you could get by with fewer holes in the wall.

 

I'm still on the fence about what to do about the current supply piping.

 

 

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Keep in mind if you use PEX, you may need to install a new grounding lead to your supply line. Most houses use the copper supply as the primarly electrical ground for the house.

 

Since w're complaining and discussing piping issues.

 

My pet peeve is the use of cheap a** gate valves for the main shut-off instead of using a descent quality ball valve. Is there a reason. I only mention it because the gate valve in my house will not completely shut off the water. It still slowly leaks. It's on my "list" of things to eventually replace. Is there any reason it needs to be a gate valve instead of a ball... or are gate valves just cheaper? Of course to replace it, I need to have the city turn off my water... which is always fun coordinating that.

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I asked the inspector about re-piping and whether PEX or copper was predominant. His answer was the vast majority of re-pipes he sees are copper. I didn't ask his opinion but I'm guessing there is a reason for that. I would think a re-pipe would be easier with PEX than CU if for no other reason than you could get by with fewer holes in the wall.

 

I'm still on the fence about what to do about the current supply piping.

 

I recently spent a lot of time researching this to make a decision about repiping our house. I think there are a few factors behind the persistence of copper. First and foremost is tradition, or inertia (depending on your viewpoint). Copper has been the standard for a while, and lots of people resist change. Second, PEX might suffer a bit from the taint of its predecessor in flexible plastic piping -- polybutylene, which was problematic. That taint is unfair. They are much different products, and PEX has a track record of more than 20 years of use. Third, because PEX is so easy to work with, it isn't as easy for plumbers to make money with. It is nowhere near as labor intensive to install. Labor and materials to repipe our house with ~15 fixtures with PEX was about $1,200 and took less than a day. I probably could have done it myself if I'd had the time.

 

If your water is aggressive at all, copper might not be a good choice unless you're willing to spend quite a bit on a filtration and softening system too. In our case, with moderately-hard well water and a disdain for softened water, PEX was the only sensible choice.

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Make SURE your crawl space and walls are rodent proof. Them little critters eat the stuff.

 

As a retired General Contractor with 35 years experience on the Monterey Peninsula, I wouldn't use it. JMHO but the trade offs aren't worth it.

 

I would suggest to the OP that he find out why his pipe failed before he decides how it is best fixed. I would find the most experienced local plumber in town and get his take on things before diving into a whole house replumb that may or may not address the problem. It may just be a one time affair.

 

best of luck

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Thanks for all the replies and wisdom. A followup note: I removed the section of copper with the pinhole leak. It was up against a galvanized heater vent which may have caused some galvanic action leading to the leak. I'm not 100% sure they were touching, but suspect they were and the location of the hole fits. I removed about 4 feet of pipe because of difficulty making connections. I opened the pipe and the pin hole was the only defect I could find. No other pitting or internal corrosion. I'm hoping this is an isolated defect. I won't get a plumber involved unless it happens again.

 

The leaking pipe ran directly along side the main gas line and the 220 Volt feed wire on its way to the breaker box. There was no way I could solder a copper connection in that location and I doubt an experienced plumber could either. I ended up using two "Sharkbites" to make the final connections. I've never used these before and I'm apprehensive about them in the long term. So far, they are holding well and no leaks, drips, or other problems. It appears Sharkbites do meet code, even inside walls. However, this leak was in the finished basement ceiling above a drop-panel ceiling so I can check it from time-to-time. Fingers crossed.

 

Concerning some of the previous questions: The leaking pipe was the main copper feed pipe from the outside on its way to the water heater. It was cold water. We don't experience "water hammer". The yearly city water report all looks benign and well within national standards in all categories. We do have a water softener, but it's after where the leak occurred.

 

Again, thanks for the replies.

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You also might consider electrolysis eating at the pipes.

Look for a sacrificial anode or similar product that could protect the entire house plumbing.

 

Just a thought

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Keep in mind if you use PEX, you may need to install a new grounding lead to your supply line. Most houses use the copper supply as the primarly electrical ground for the house.

 

 

Some older homes may have done it this way ,but it is wrong .The copper pipe is or should be grounded to earth through a ground rod and the electrical panel .Its there to protect the occupants .In case a power wire shorts to the copper pipe .It cannot stay energized and it will trip a breaker . It should not be used as a ground for your electrical service .

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Some older homes may have done it this way ,but it is wrong .The copper pipe is or should be grounded to earth through a ground rod and the electrical panel .Its there to protect the occupants .In case a power wire shorts to the copper pipe .It cannot stay energized and it will trip a breaker . It should not be used as a ground for your electrical service .

 

The copper pipe is grounded to the main feed pipe that runs under ground into the house. The electrical panel is grounded to a standard grounding rod outside where the 220V enters the house at the meter.

 

Re: previous post: The only "sacrificial anode" is the one in the water heater.

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Some older homes may have done it this way ,but it is wrong .The copper pipe is or should be grounded to earth through a ground rod and the electrical panel .Its there to protect the occupants .In case a power wire shorts to the copper pipe .It cannot stay energized and it will trip a breaker . It should not be used as a ground for your electrical service .

 

The copper pipe is grounded to the main feed pipe that runs under ground into the house. The electrical panel is grounded to a standard grounding rod outside where the 220V enters the house at the meter.

 

Re: previous post: The only "sacrificial anode" is the one in the water heater.

 

 

Here's one article . http://en.allexperts.com/q/Electrical-Wiring-Home-1734/Pin-Holes-Copper-Water-2.htm

 

Also may explain the pin holes .

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I removed the section of copper with the pinhole leak. It was up against a galvanized heater vent which may have caused some galvanic action leading to the leak. I'm not 100% sure they were touching, but suspect they were and the location of the hole fits. I removed about 4 feet of pipe because of difficulty making connections. I opened the pipe and the pin hole was the only defect I could find. No other pitting or internal corrosion. I'm hoping this is an isolated defect. I won't get a plumber involved unless it happens again.

 

The leaking pipe ran directly along side the main gas line and the 220 Volt feed wire on its way to the breaker box.

 

Finally some relevant information..........

 

 

Sounds like an isolated event. I wouldn't worry about it. Copper (yes, I know there are differing grades) is typically good for 50+ years.

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There is also CPVC (made for both hot and cold water). Found at any home-improvment box store. Not as easy to run as Pex though. The water down here in SW Florida (in the city of Cape Coral mostly) was eating through the copper pipes. They were hashing it out in the papers on what was the particular culprit; don't know what they finally came up with.

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Some older homes may have done it this way ,but it is wrong .The copper pipe is or should be grounded to earth through a ground rod and the electrical panel .Its there to protect the occupants .In case a power wire shorts to the copper pipe .It cannot stay energized and it will trip a breaker . It should not be used as a ground for your electrical service .

 

The copper pipe is grounded to the main feed pipe that runs under ground into the house. The electrical panel is grounded to a standard grounding rod outside where the 220V enters the house at the meter.

 

Re: previous post: The only "sacrificial anode" is the one in the water heater.

 

 

Here's one article . http://en.allexperts.com/q/Electrical-Wiring-Home-1734/Pin-Holes-Copper-Water-2.htm

 

Also may explain the pin holes .

 

I think that could be possible... but in a proper installation, a grounding wire is placed ot bypass any non metal components in the system. I know there's a wire running around my water meter.

 

I think the piping might be grounded in part to reduce the risk of electrical shock from direct lightening strikes or an applince being dropped in water that not conencted to a GFCI. Somethimes it just a good idea to have a more direct path to ground so it's less likely YOU will become that path.

 

In my house, as a bonus, my vent pipe and most of my main drain header is also copper. I guess it was cheap at the time (late 1960's) and someone liked sweating pipes instead of glueing PVC.

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Keep in mind if you use PEX, you may need to install a new grounding lead to your supply line. Most houses use the copper supply as the primarly electrical ground for the house.

 

 

Some older homes may have done it this way ,but it is wrong .The copper pipe is or should be grounded to earth through a ground rod and the electrical panel .Its there to protect the occupants .In case a power wire shorts to the copper pipe .It cannot stay energized and it will trip a breaker . It should not be used as a ground for your electrical service .

 

I built a new house in 2004, and the building inspector made the contractor ground to the water line coming into the house. Funny thing considering you can clearly see that the incoming water line is plastic running from my well.

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The electrical inspector required the copper water system to be "bonded", not grounded.

 

There is a big difference.

 

Electrical service grounding in a residence requires the use of a "driven"

ground rod and a grounding conductor (wire) that runs to it. The copper conductor is then typically run unbroken to the main water pipe, where it is attached via a clamp.

 

This ensures that the interior piping system is at the same grounded potential as the electrical service and CANNOT be energized.

 

Remember that any repairs to the piping system that compromise the electrical continuity of the system must be bonded around the fitting as such.

 

MB>

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