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Old 07-05-2011, 11:58 PM   #1
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Copper Pipe Leak Caused by Hard Water?


Hey DIY gang. So I recently had a copper water pipe leak in between my first and second floor. The leak was right at a 90 elbow. It destroyed quite a bit of drywall in the ceiling and walls. My house was built in 2003 and is still under warranty. I called the builder and he came to take a look at the old section of pipe and evaluate the situation. He took the section of pipe to the original plumber and they claim that it is hard water that caused the leak. I'm not sure how unbiased it is to ask the original plumber who did the work and the builder responsible for the damages if it was in fact their fault. We are in a well known hard water area and my water softener has been out of service for at least 6 months.

So how about it...can my hard water be responsible for my pipe leak? I know this can eventually happen but the house is only 8 years old. Will all my pipes (or elbows) start to go soon? Do I have anything on these guys or am I stuck?

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Old 07-06-2011, 12:05 AM   #2
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Copper Pipe Leak Caused by Hard Water?


Do you have a picture? Did the solder joint fail?

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Old 07-06-2011, 01:52 AM   #3
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I'm thinking the solder joint failed. I'm going to get the failed part back from the builder tomorrow and will take a closer look.
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Old 07-06-2011, 05:52 AM   #4
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Copper Pipe Leak Caused by Hard Water?


Good plan---give us a location,too. It's rare,but some water eats copper---Arkansas has a few problem areas and has banned the use of copper in those counties.

Most likely a bad solder joint. That's the usual cause of failure.
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Old 07-06-2011, 06:30 AM   #5
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Sounds like a bad joint that finally went south. I agree with the bias statement he's going to cover his you know what.
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Old 07-06-2011, 08:11 AM   #6
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Copper Pipe Leak Caused by Hard Water?


Corrosion of copper pipe is complex. I pulled this excerpted discussion out of Wikipedia.

"Copper tubes have been used to distribute potable water within building for many years and hundreds of miles are installed throughout Europe every year. The long life of copper when exposed to natural waters is a result of its thermodynamic stability, its high resistance to reacting with the environment, and the formation of insoluble corrosion products that insulate the metal from the environment. The corrosion rate of copper in most potable waters is less than 25 m/year, at this rate a 15 mm tube with a wall thickness of 0.7 mm would last for about 280 years [1]. In some soft waters the general corrosion rate may increase to 125 m/year, but even at this rate it would take over 50 years to perforate the same tube. Despite the reliability of copper and copper alloys, in some cold hard waters pits may form in the bore of a tube. If these pits form, failure times can be expected between 6 months and 2 years from initiation. The mechanism that leads to the pitting of copper in cold hard waters is complex, it requires a water with a specific chemistry that is capable of supporting pit growth and a mechanism for the initiation of the pits."

Note the discussion about copper pipe pitting in cold, hard water, that can occur in less than two years. I was totally unaware of this process. I can tell you that the copper pipes in my house had to be replaced after 50 years of service because the relatively acidic water ate pinholes in both the copper and the 50/50 solder joints. Still, 50 years is a lot longer than your case, and apparently the mechanism was completely different.

This is a case you want to have evaluated by a professional, with specific experience related to hard water corrosion of copper. If that is the cause, it is likely that all the copper will fail, however as noted by other posters, it is possible that this was an isolated case of poor soldering.
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Old 07-06-2011, 08:22 AM   #7
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Copper Pipe Leak Caused by Hard Water?


if it was at a joint your safe... but if it is on the raw copper run plan of more leaks either starting or just about to start leaking...keep all paper work generated on this to CYA... there repari guy is their repair guy so keep that in mind.had a story out here were a guys walls started to weep water all over the place copper was from China,and couldn't deal with in the incoming city water minerals..the entire plumbing system had to be repiped
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Old 07-06-2011, 09:26 AM   #8
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I don't think these guys are going to admit this is their fault too easily. I'm thinking of calling in another plumber and a lawyer to see what my options are. I'd prefer not to file a homeowners insurance claim (which would be less hassle) but at the same time I'd like to get the walls and ceiling repaired.
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Old 07-06-2011, 09:30 AM   #9
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Copper Pipe Leak Caused by Hard Water?


The deterioration I see in copper is usually Joint failure, just due to age, or an unwiped joint that is corroding from the outside in. The other that I sometimes see is failure due to acidic water.

Hard water is something different than acidic water. Our municipal water system has hard water, and tons of houses with 50yr old copper in it. I don't think hard water caused your problem
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Old 07-07-2011, 01:10 AM   #10
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Im thinking its joint failure as well. And in less than 10 years Im thinking it was because there was some contaminate on the joint when it was soldered (not wiped like you said). Do you think I should pursue the builder? I'd probably have to find another plumber and maybe even a corrosion engineer to make an independent assessment. Has anyone had any experience with this?

They dropped the part back off like they said they would. It looks like they cleaned off the corrosion a little bit around the joints. I'm looking on the inside and there's corrosion product inside the elbow and outside at the joints. I'd have to get a couple of shark bite fittings and pressurize the part to see exactly where the leak is.

Do you think I should test my water for hardness and acidity? I suppose I can get the testing supplies at a pet/aquarium store.
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Old 07-07-2011, 04:42 AM   #11
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Copper Pipe Leak Caused by Hard Water?


If you don't ream out your cuts on the copper, it leaces a ridge on the inside of the pipe. This causes turbulance inside the pipe as the water flows. This eventually eats away at the 90. I didn't read the whole thread but if there is a hole right on the outside of the 90 then that's your problem. I hate stupid plumbers that rush and don't ream their cuts just to get the job done quicker. This is very typical if your neighborhood was mass produced or you just hired the cheap guy. Just my 2 cents...
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Old 07-07-2011, 04:55 AM   #12
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I just read the whole thread and ill bet $100 that they didn't ream the pipes. What city was your home built? Was it custom or are you in a new neighborhood like in a desert community?
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Old 07-07-2011, 05:32 AM   #13
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I just read the whole thread and ill bet $100 that they didn't ream the pipes. What city was your home built? Was it custom or are you in a new neighborhood like in a desert community?
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Old 07-07-2011, 09:42 AM   #14
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Originally Posted by Asathd View Post
I’m thinking it’s joint failure as well. And in less than 10 years I’m thinking it was because there was some contaminate on the joint when it was soldered (not wiped like you said). Do you think I should pursue the builder? I'd probably have to find another plumber and maybe even a corrosion engineer to make an independent assessment. Has anyone had any experience with this?

They dropped the part back off like they said they would. It looks like they cleaned off the corrosion a little bit around the joints. I'm looking on the inside and there's corrosion product inside the elbow and outside at the joints. I'd have to get a couple of shark bite fittings and pressurize the part to see exactly where the leak is.

Do you think I should test my water for hardness and acidity? I suppose I can get the testing supplies at a pet/aquarium store.
Are you the original owner? Are you on a municipal water system or private well ?
Get that piece of pipe back. If push comes to shove you are going to need it.
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Old 07-07-2011, 10:00 AM   #15
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I'm not the original owner. City water. From what I've heard the neighborhood went up quick. It was one of those built new; 5 or 6 different models; built in phases; etc

Good call on the un-reamed edges. I can use a flashlight to peer into the elbow and it doesn't look like the edges were reamed. I can feel raised edges on the inside diameter with my finger as well.

Should I continue to pursue the builder?

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