The advent of copper pipes as the primary material for plumbing was a vast improvement over the previous options. Galvanized iron pipes were used before that, which were extremely vulnerable to rust. Copper is so resistant to water damage that many homeowners have written off the possibility of having to replace their pipes in their lifetime. Though copper pipes are very resistant to corrosion, however, there are still ways that they can be compromised. One of the strangest, and most damaging, ways for a copper pipe to be damaged is through pinhole leaks. Let’s examine what pinhole leaks are, why they are so dangerous to your home, and what you can do to stop them.
What are Pinhole Leaks?
Pinhole leaks are the result of a condition called “pitted corrosion,” which is when the copper pipe actually corrodes from the outside in. Pitted corrosion tends to be extremely focused, eating away at a small area of the metal pipe until it produces a tiny hole. Pinhole leaks are called such because they are often no larger than a pinhole. Despite the dangerous nature of this kind of corrosion, and several studies into the matter, no one has yet been able to determine the exact cause for why it affects copper pipes so much.
Why Pinhole Leaks are Dangerous
Pinhole leaks are dangerous for two reasons: their size and their location. Normally, a leak in the home’s plumbing will progress until it causes a loss in water pressure, thus warning the homeowner that something is wrong with the pipes. Pinhole leaks are so focused that they are too small to cause a loss of water pressure, often only releasing a droplet or two at a time. This removes the biggest symptom that a homeowner can look for to identify leaks.
Most of the pipes in a home plumbing system are located out of sight, either in the walls or the ceiling of each room. This also happens to be the location of insulation and support studs. As a pinhole leak is unlikely to be noticed when it occurs, it has time to cause quite a bit of water damage to the wall itself. Insulation can be rotted out, and provide an environment for mold growth. Wall studs can be weakened, which could cause all sorts of structural problems. Often, the first time someone notices a pinhole leak is when they notice the visible damage to the wall that the leak has caused.
The only way to reliably mitigate these leaks is to have a professional plumber inspect your pipes every year. This offers a good chance of finding and fixing any pinhole leaks before they’ve had a chance to inflict severe damage that requires more extensive plumbing repair.