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Husted Plumbing Blog

Be Cautious of the “Pinhole” Leak in Your Copper Pipes

pipe-decayLast year, we wrote a post about how there is no such thing as a “minor” leak. No matter how small the drip from the pipes in your house, it wastes water and can cause severe building damage—especially since it’s difficult to notice these leaks at first. And where there is one small leak, there’s a higher chance of others. Calling for professional plumbing in Oxnard, CA as soon as you have any notion there are leaks in your house is essential for protecting your property, your plumbing, and your water bills.

Today we’re going to talk about a specific type of leak we mentioned in passing last time: the pinhole leak. This is a persistent problem with household plumbing, and a problem we’ve often had to repair. Knowing the details can help you combat this most insidious of plumbing leaks.

Copper Pipes Can Corrode

Pinhole leaks occur in copper piping because of corrosion. You might immediately react that copper pipes can’t corrode, but this is false. Copper is corrosion-resistant, not corrosion-proof. The standard corrosion that can decay iron and steel pipes doesn’t affect copper, which is why copper can last much longer than either those metals. But copper is still susceptible to specific kinds of corrosion, such as in certain types of soil. The corrosion responsible for pinhole leaks in household copper pipes is called formicary corrosion.

Formicary Corrosion at Work

The exact cause of formicary corrosion is not fully understood, but it appears that chemicals in the air of a house are one of the sources. Formaldehyde is the prime culprit, and unfortunately, it isn’t easy to eliminate sources of formaldehyde in a house. The corrosion occurs because of a reaction between the copper and one or more volatile organic compounds (VOCs) in the air. (Formaldehyde is one such VOC).

Formicary corrosion creates small, weak patches along with copper. These gray spots on the copper are difficult to see with the naked eye, making them easy to escape detection. When the copper weakens enough, water will begin to drip out. Formicary corrosion is known to seriously damage the copper coils in air conditioning systems, and the copper pipes of the plumbing are at the same level of danger. (If you’ve needed repairs to your AC because of corrosion on the coils, we strongly urge you to call our plumbers to see if leaks are also happening in the pipes in your house.)

Fixing Pinhole Leaks

The first sign you’ll probably see of pinhole leaks is spots of discoloration on the walls or ceilings. Mold and mildew appearing in odd places where there shouldn’t be water is also a warning. If you have multiple pinhole leaks, you may see a rise in your water bills.

Whatever has created the concern, call our plumbers and we’ll use leak detection to locate the pinhole leaks. We can then access the pipe and cut away the damaged section and replace it with new piping. We’ll check for other pinhole leaks in your house to see if the problem is widespread.

At Husted Plumbing, we treat our customers like family. Call us for service in the Greater Santa Barbara and Ventura County Area.

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