Tips for Repairing Pinhole Leaks in Copper Pipe
LESLIE: Kathleen in Florida is dealing with some leaky copper pipes. Tell us about what’s going on.
KATHLEEN: OK, within the last six months I’ve had pinhole leaks in three pipes in three separate areas of the house …
KATHLEEN: … one of which we repaired by putting new copper pipe in, which is all the soldering; another one we repaired by PVC pipe; and the one out in the garage, we repaired it by putting two clamps and a piece of soft rubber hose.
TOM: OK. (chuckles) OK. That’ll do it, too.
KATHLEEN: So what’s our life going to be like for the next year?
TOM: Well, and that is the question, isn’t it? Pinhole leaks are typically caused by a chemical reaction between the water and the copper and there are varying opinions on what exactly has to happen to cause that. But generally, you have to have a pH between 7 and 7.8 to make it start.
There’s a good article on this on a website called Toolbase.Org. It’s an entire case study on pinhole leaks and, essentially, the strategy for repairing them is really three-fold. First of all, you repair the needed leaks as they develop, which is what you’re doing now; but then you also plan and budget for a more major upgrade at the accessible parts of the plumbing system in the future. So in other words, whenever you have, say, some areas of plumbing pipe exposed, then you replace it and you do that sort of as the second stage. And then the third stage is to replace the pipes in the inaccessible areas but only if the leak develops.
I would recommend that you consider using PEX, the plastic piping, whenever you do these replacements because that stuff seems to be really indestructible and is a good solution for replacing pinhole-failed copper pipes.
LESLIE: Would it make sense if you’re doing any renovations where you’ve got drywall off and plumbing pipes are exposed, to go ahead and do the changes then?
TOM: Absolutely, you never want to cover the old copper pipe. If you have it exposed you want to replace it at the same time. So I would look for that case study. It’s at Toolbase.org. Click on – Toolbase.org and then search for pinhole leaks. You’ll find lots more solutions there.
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