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Thread: Copper pipe corrosion

  1. #1
    DIY Junior Member jsadik's Avatar
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    Default Copper pipe corrosion

    My mother had plumber look at a water leak in her 1st floor ceiling, below the 2nd floor bathroom. He opened the ceiling and found that the copper pipes were discolored green and corroded. She related to me that he told her that newer hot water heaters (which she has) can corrode copper pipes. This sounds strange to me...is there any truth to this?

    Thanks,
    Jonathan

  2. #2
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    I can't see how the water heater would cause that.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

  3. #3
    In the Trades Bob NH's Avatar
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    You don't mention if the plumber found and fixed the leak; and if he did, what was the source of the leak.

    Green deposits on copper pipes are not uncommon.

    It is unfortunate in this world that there might be some person who would suggest to a motherly type lady that either her pipes or water heater must be replaced even if that is not really required.

  4. #4

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    I'm completely unaware of a new water heater being a fix for corroded copper. I haven't seen everything yet, but I certainly don't believe what I hear. There may be an issue with improper dielectric separation between galvanized and copper pipes. Or, just as likely, a poor soldering job.

    Green on pipes is often caused by a plumber's (or handyman's) gloves covered with flux. As they work with the pipes, the flux gets spread all over. A good plumber replaces his gloves when they get enough flux on them. Sometimes, leftover flux on the joints will oxidize the copper, but it usually poses no problems.

    Sometimes, an abundance of corrosive flux inside the pipe can corrode right through the pipe. If the pipe is failing because of a dielectric problem, there are usually spots, and they can also be green.

  5. #5
    DIY Junior Member jsadik's Avatar
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    He found the leak and showed her how the pipes were covered with green. He gave her some literature, which I quickly looked over last night and it said something about how newer water heaters have switched from magnesium to aluminum anodes which, according to their theory, increases the acidity of the water causing it to corrode the copper pipes.

    He wants $3400 to replace her pipes with some sort of plastic pipes.

  6. #6

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    Was it a pinhole leak? A solder leak? Clean the green off the pipes and see if there's any real corrosion. There can be a lot of external green before there's a problem.

    Sounds like he wants to make a lot of money. PEX is good. But it's also a lot cheaper than copper and quicker to install.

  7. #7
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    Maybe the prudent thing to do would be to have the water tested.

    If it is a problem with your local area's water, you can replace the anode rod. Some places, copper piping does not last. If her neighbors aren't having the same problems, or it isn't a known problem in the area, then he is drumming up business (IMHO). If a copper pipe is in an area where it is exposed to moisture on the outside, the natural reaction is towards the verdigris finish. This does not mean it is going to fail in the near term, but you should figure out where the moisture (likely a leak) is coming from and fix it. It is possible there was a defective piece of copper, and just replacing a small section might let the whole thing last for decades. I replaced a small 2' section of copper in my mother's house decades ago, and there have been no further problems anywhere in the house.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

  8. #8
    DIY Junior Member jsadik's Avatar
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    There was no pin hole leak in the pipes, just the green. The leak was coming from somewhere else. Another plumber, who looked at it today said the pipes are fine (oxidation) and the leak is coming from the toilet upstairs which probably just needs a new wax ring.

    The first guy was either a scam artist or a nut. The fact that he was carrying around printouts off the internet to back up his assessment should have set off an alarm.
    Last edited by jsadik; 11-08-2007 at 11:42 AM.

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