Are your building’s potable water plumbing pipes already leaking? If you’re thinking we just installed new pipes or the piping system is only five or 10 years old, you could be in for a shock. Copper water pipes are designed to last around 50 years. However, the life expectancy of copper pipes depends on the chemical composition of your water. This includes any added chemicals from the water treatment facility and the pH value of your water.
Copper Water Pipes and Pinhole Leaks
Copper plumbing pipes are considered to be one of the most reliable types of pipes for providing multi- unit residential buildings and commercial buildings with hot and cold water. This is because copper is naturally resistant to corrosion and has certain anti-bacterial properties. However, that doesn’t mean they are completely impervious to corrosion, scaling and pinhole leaks.
What Is a Pinhole Leak?
A pinhole leak is a small hole in the copper tubing that occurs over time, and is the result of what is known as pitting corrosion. During this process, the water unevenly wears away the copper in a specific spot. This creates a hole in the pipe. If you’re having trouble visualizing it. Think of this as if you had a really durable needle, and you took that needle and punched it through the side of your copper pipe. That’s a pinhole leak.
What Causes Pinhole Leaks?
The primary cause of pinhole leaks is pitting corrosion. This occurs over time due to the corrosive effects of the water continuously flowing through the pipes, and this is especially true in large multi-unit buildings that have hot and cold water is that always circulating through the pipes. Because the water is always flowing through the pipes, the corrosive effects of the water are magnified, and it can occur with nearly all water types, including hard water, soft water and water with high pH levels.
- Hard Water – Hard water causes deep lines of pitting in the copper pipes. If your building has hard water, you’ll typically notice cloudy water from the hot water side and scale or white deposits around faucets and inside water-using appliances.
- Soft Water – Soft water causes very narrow lines of pitting inside copper pipes. Soft water corrosion typically occurs in water that is below 140 degrees
- Water pH Levels – How acidic or base your water is can determine whether or not your copper plumbing pipes will experience corrosion. The pH scale range from 0 to 14. Seven is considered neutral. Water with a pH level above 8 is considered base, but just because it’s not acidic doesn’t mean your pipes are safe. PH levels above 8 can cause widespread pitting in copper pipes and even cause the water to turn blue. Water that is below 6.5 is considered acidic. This results in the water absorbing various chemicals and minerals from the copper pipes, including lead, iron, manganese and zinc. As the water dissolves particles from the copper pipes, pinhole leaks form.
What are the Hazards of Pinhole Leaks?
Since pinhole leaks are extremely small, they are not easy to detect. This is because enough water doesn’t leak onto the walls, floors or ceiling to cause water spots. However, that doesn’t mean there isn’t damage occurring. Pinhole leaks can still cause the development of black mold and mildew behind walls, and if enough water leaks over a long period of time, it can cause rotting in wood, like floor joists and wall studs. If your building has multiple pinhole leaks, it can lead to a loss of water pressure and extremely high water bills. Not to mention, if a copper pipe has enough pinhole leaks, it will eventually fail, causing flooding in your building.
Repairing Pinhole Leaks
When it comes to repairing pipes with pinhole leaks, you typically have two options. You can replace the pipes, or you can have your pipes lined with an epoxy coating.
Traditional Pinhole Leak Pipe Replacement
Traditional pipe replacement involves removing the pipes that are leaking and replacing them with new pipes. This often requires removing finishes and cutting through drywall in order to reach the leaking pipe. Once the Chicago plumber can reach the pipe, it is cut out of the system and replaced with a new pipe. While this is effective at stopping leaks, there are problems with this method. The most obvious problem is that you’ll have to hire additional contractors to perform drywall repairs.
It’s also extremely disruptive for residents, and if many sections of the building plumbing system are leaking, sectional pipe replacement may not be the best option. This is especially true if you’ve performed several pipe replacements of the last 12 to 24 months. Not to mention, if you replace a copper pipe with a copper pipe, the new pipe is still susceptible to pitting corrosion.
Epoxy Coatings for Copper Pipes
Another method of repairing and rehabilitating your leaking copper pipes is epoxy pipelining. This method is safe for potable water pipes, and involves blowing liquid epoxy through your potable water pipes. As the epoxy moves through the system, it completely coats the inside of the pipe. This seals small pinhole leaks and cracks without harming your drywall. This is because the existing pipes can be reached through existing access points or new access points can be created. The equipment is then hooked to the plumbing pipes that are to be lined, and the epoxy is sent into the system. Once the epoxy has cured, the lined copper pipes will not experience any further corrosion because the water flows along the epoxy, not the metal.
Epoxy Pipe Lining for Multi-Unit Residential Buildings in Chicago
Here at NuFlow, serving Chicago, we are authorized to line the indoor plumbing pipes of multi-story residential buildings in order to seal leaks, prevent future pitting corrosion and to help eliminate the leaching that occurs due to acidic and extremely base water pH levels. The process starts with the thorough cleaning and inspection of your potable water pipes. This removes scale and corrosion all the way down to the pipe wall, which maximizes the internal diameter of the pipe and helps with water pressure and flow. Next, we connect equipment to the potable water pipes that need to be lined. Then, we mix the epoxy and pour it into the equipment. From there, air is used to blow the liquid epoxy through the pipes. Once the coating has been installed, it is left to cure for about 24 hours. After the curing process is complete, the pipes are inspected to ensure the epoxy coated the entire diameter of the pipe. Once the inspection is complete and the installation deemed a success, water service is restored.
After the process, all of the equipment is cleaned up and removed from your building, and there is no need to hire additional contractors. Any access points that were created are sealed with a small access door. This means that if you need to access those pipes in the future for any reason, you can use the newly installed door.
To learn more about the benefits of epoxy pipe lining for pitting corrosion of copper pipes, give us a call at 815-790-9000. All of our services come with a 10-year warranty, and we also offer building pipe assessments.