Understanding A Copper Pitting Issue And How The Problem Can Be Resolved

If you own an apartment building, then you are probably well aware that plumbing issues may crop up every now and then. Slowed drains, rusted water heaters, and broken fixtures are all problems that require fairly obvious repairs. Sometimes though, problems are not so obvious. If you notice water building on the outsides of some of the copper water pipes, then you may have a simple condensation issue that can be traced back to a wet basement space or high humidity levels in your area. However, if the issue does not go away when humidity subsides and a dehumidifier is placed in the basement, then pitting of the water lines may be your issue instead. Keep reading to learn about this issue, how it can be fixed, and how a future problem can be prevented.

How Does Copper Pitting Occur?

Many people think that copper water lines can last indefinitely and steel varieties are the ones that are likely to corrode. Steel pipes will generally last 20 to 50 years, and copper ones can last 50 years or longer. Copper does have the added benefit of keeping lead out of your tenant's drinking water and it can withstand a great deal of pressure and stress. This makes copper ideal for water pipes that are placed under a great deal of pressure in a home or commercial setting, even if they do not last as long as some people believe. 

Copper does have a fairly significant drawback though, since it can form small pits or pinholes if you have a certain type of water chemistry feeding into the apartment building. Specifically, water that has a water hardness between 170 and 300 mg/L can cause pits. This water is categorized as hard or very hard water. Also, the water will need to be cold. Pitting is also most likely to occur if the water contains organic compounds, like in the case of spring, well, or borehole water. In some cases, water with a low pH level can cause pitting concerns as well.

While very hard water and fluid with a low pH level can be characteristics that cause pitting, pitting will not always occur across copper piping. Most pipes will form a protective layer of oxidation across the copper and this will protect the pipe from corrosion. Pitting will occur if flux or other contaminant on the inside of the pipe keeps oxidation from forming in a certain area. This unprotected copper will be susceptible to pitting. Pits can also form if the oxidation on the inside of the pipe is disturbed. Air in the pipes can disturb the oxidation and so can a high level of water pressure moving through small pipes.

How Can The Issue Be Repaired And Future Issues Prevented?

Since copper pipe pitting is not an issue that is likely to be widespread throughout the apartment complex, you can work with an industrial plumber to have only the pitted pipes replaced. A full inspection of the water supply lines will be required to locate all pitted pipes. It may be wise to have the pipes replaced with PVC varieties instead of copper ones, because PVC will not corrode. PVC can be successfully placed next to copper piping. The two materials will not interact with each other like two different types of metal can. Your plumber may need to use a special attachment like a shark bite variety to secure the two ends of the pipe together. 

Once the pitted pipe is replaced, you can work with an industrial or commercial plumbing company like Cool Air Mechanical, Inc. to prevent future pitting problems. If pitting has been caused by water pipes that are smaller than usual, then the plumber may suggest a piping replacement of some or all of your cold water supply pipes. If you have hard water issues, then a water purification system may be advisable. If water is acidic, then you may need to add a neutralizing filtration system to the building. This type of system attaches to the main water line, much like a purification system. Instead of removing minerals, the filter will add a trace amount of calcium carbonate or magnesium oxide. These minerals are the same ones that are in hard water, but only a small amount will be added to the water during the pH neutralizing process. This means that water will not be hard enough to cause pitting problems.