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Thread: Replace copper pipes or line them here in hard water-plagued san diego county?

  1. #1
    DIY Junior Member ilabadie's Avatar
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    Unhappy Replace copper pipes or line them here in hard water-plagued san diego county?

    We're on our third plumbing fix from the builder. The first one was a hot water line re-route after we felt the warm tiles on the kitchen floor (slab leak). The second was on an exterior wall on the other side of the kitchen. There was a tell-tale water stain on the stucco which the builder didn't want to take care of at first. These geniuses actually turned off all the water to the house and then looked at the water meter at the street and claimed thast since the meter didn't move that there wasn't a leak. Kind of like looking at a clock's hour hand and claiming time has stopped when there is no minute or second hand. We forced them to bust open the outside wall. There the leak was and they fixed it. Now, there is a leak from our 2nd floor laundry room down to the alcove in the garage where the hot water tank is (was) located. We thought it was the tank, but after removing it and drying off the floor of the alcove, we ran a cold water load of laundry and the leak started again - it's coming from the ceiling of the alcove where the cold water inlet is located. The builder claims that the city prevented them from using pvc due to a pvc issue here in san diego county about 20 years ago. That issue turned out to be the fault of one pvc manufacturer, not pvc in general. The question is whether or not the city reverted back to the uniform plumbing code before these houses were built with copper lines. Whose fault is this?

    We're still under the California mandated 10 year warranty so I need to know the best way to correct the problem. If the builder used M copper, won't I continue to have leaks in various places? I think the builder is just hoping to limp along with their plumbing contractors until the warranty period is up in 2012. I was wondering should I try and get the builder to line all the pipes after the repair or should I insist on a replacement with L copper? I'm checking the State plumbing codes to see whether or not the system is compliant with what the regulations were at the time these homes were built. Please Help - I know nothing about plumbing!!!!
    Last edited by ilabadie; 05-07-2010 at 11:31 AM.

  2. #2
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    I don't know your water chemistry, but while L copper is thicker, M should still be okay for a very long time in many locations. CPVC is okay for water lines in the house, but PVC generally is not, especially on hot supply lines. I don't claim to be up on all available technology, but I haven't heard of relining copper water supply pipes. There are techniques that can reline drain pipes. I'm not sure I'd want them relining my water pipes even if they could...it would decrease the size and reduce max flow rates and be problematic on any valves in the system. Note that cpvc (or any plastic pipe) will be considerably smaller in ID than copper, and you'd probably notice that decrease in flow when doing things like filling the tub, washing machine, kitchen sink (well, maybe not since many of those have restrictors). Unless there is a history of failed copper because of water or soil conditions, I'd leave it alone. Now, if the work was sub-par, regardless of the material, you'll have problems. Note, any copper run under the slab should have any joints brazed, not soldered, and it's best to not have any joints there at all. With CA's propensity for earthquakes, just movement could cause leaks if the pipes weren't layed out properly with proper movement accommodations. this would be true for both cpvc and copper.
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer; Schluter 2.5-day Workshop Completed 2013, 2014

  3. #3
    Master Plumber-Gas Fitter shacko's Avatar
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    If you have a water situation that causes copper pipe to deteriorate you have no choice but to have it replaced. I never heard of lining small water pipe, any replacement probably should be pex or cpvc.

  4. #4
    Plumber jimbo's Avatar
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    California allows CPVC and PEX ( but NOT PVC) for water. City of San Diego still not approving those, to my knowledge. Copper is the best product for San Diego. Hard water does not damage or clog copper pipes. Copper under cement slabs has always had "issues" usually on the hot line, and I am surprised the builder put copper under slab, because they don't do that so much any anymore. If the underslab leak recurs, I would consider a repipe NOT in the slab, but still copper.

    Leaks inside the walls usually turns out to be a siding nail into the pipe. There has never been any widespread problems with pinholes or other issues in copper in San Diego, except under the slabs.

    Did the repair man ever tell you what they found on those leaks in the wall, or for that matter under the floor, because even those usually didn't show up for 20+ years!

    I am not aware there was EVER an issue with any manufacture of PVC pipe, and of course it was never used inside anyway. He may have been referring to the polybutylene pipe...that was a whole different ballgame. And there was a manufacture issue with ABS drain pipes some time back.

  5. #5
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    PVC was NEVER permitted for water lines inside the house, and is still not. The only major difference between "L" and "M" copper is how long it takes to fail if you have an agressive water condition. The real question is WHAT is leaking? Is it the joints or the copper tubing itself? We still use copper lines under slabs, and have no problems with it as long as it is installed properly.

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