Flooded Garage From Broken Copper Pipe

A letter from a homeowner to the homeowners association:

If your home is 15+ years old – you probably have copper-pipes – plumbing.  If any one has some knowledge or experience with corrosion or pin-hole leaks in your copper-pipes – please share your “remedy” for the problem.

Background: Last Sunday, we discovered a water leak in our garage close to our water-heater; but the source was not the water-heater.  We have a new water-heater; but we also have all our original copper-pipes. We found that the actual source was a pin-hole in one of our copper-pipes; it was an “intake” source of drinking water into our home and of course the cold water feed into our hot water heater.  The good news is that the pin-hole leak was generally accessible; the bad news was that the pin-hole was caused by corrosion from inside the copper-pipe.  We got that fixed; but we were told that this type of corrosion is commonplace in “old” copper-pipes. This corrosion process is an oxidation/reduction reaction that escalates with age in copper-pipes. Other factors that accelerate corrosion include an improper pH balance – pH is the measure of the acidity or alkalinity.  For example, as “older” copper-pipes may exhibit scale and corrosion-build-up, one will observe blue-green stains along the joints of copper piping.  Newer homes use p-PVC; not copper-piping; not a problem.

We have been advised that one “remedy” for “older” homes (15+ years old) with copper-pipes is the NuvoH2O salt-free, citrus filter system. Any better ideas?  We are gathering information on other “remedies” – hence the reason for this Email.

Again, if any one has some knowledge or experience with corrosion or pin-holes in copper-piping, we would like to know your “remedy”…  We are looking for a long-term fix.

The problem described is a common one in Florida.  It is especially common in houses where the builder used type-M copper pipe.  Type-M is the thinnest and most common pipe used in Florida and results in pin hole leaks.  These leaks often cause water damage inside the home to personal items and the structure of the house.  If you have water damage coverage on your homeowners insurance policy, this type of loss is covered, minus deductible and the cost to repair the cause of loss.  If you are not sure about your coverage, we recommend you contact Mike Hills with Triton Insurance Group at 813-948-5972.

The best way to solve this problem long term is to perform a re-pipe to the house.  This process involves replacing all the copper pipes with CPVC pipes (Chlorinated Polyvinyl Choride).  For more information on CPVC pipes visit Wikipedia.  We also replace all the supply lines and angle stops while performing a re-pipe of the house.  This is also an ideal time to replace the water heater and it can be done under the same permit at no additional permit fee.  For more information you can contact Tampa Bay Plumbers offices toll free at 866-399-2284 or email Ryan Pelky at rpelky@tampabayplumbers.biz , and we can set up a free consultation.

There is also an epoxy coating method out there, however it has not been tested long term enough for us to consider it a viable method of repair.  We have had negative feedback on this method and do not recommend attempting.

The re-pipe process always involves some minor drywall repairs and normally takes two-three days.  If you find someone who claims they can re-pipe your house in 4 hours, do not go with them.  The reality is that this type of work is permit required and requires strapping, insulation of the pipes, spray foam in walls, expansion tanks, air chambers, etc.  Unfortunately many homeowners are tempted into the cheap re-pipe and they are left with something no better (and sometimes worse) than had they done nothing at all.  Make sure you choose a licensed professional and have the job permitted and inspected by the building department if you are going to have a re-pipe performed.


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