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What is a Pinhole Leak, and Why is it so Dangerous?

In the early twentieth century, the plumbing pipes in most people’s homes were made of either iron or lead. These were absolutely terrible choices for a number of reasons. Lead pipes would actually poison the water running through it with small amounts of lead, while iron would simply rust away.

The realization of how poor these two materials were for plumbing lead to the advent of copper pipes in the mid-twentieth century. Copper was extremely resistant to corrosion, which quickly caused it to become the material of choice for plumbing systems across the country. Despite its resilience, however, copper pipes are not invincible. Let’s cover one of the most damaging problems the copper pipes can face: pinhole leaks.

We’ll start with an explanation of the type of corrosion that causes pinhole leaks.

Pitted Corrosion

One of the only types of corrosion that actually affects copper pipes, pitted corrosion is a bit of a mystery. Despite years of study, the EPA has been as yet unable to determine why pitted corrosion happens to copper pipes, or why it seems to be localized to certain communities. No matter where it comes from, though, pitted corrosion is a serious threat.

Pitted corrosion is always focused in a very small area of the pipe, and moves from the outside inward. This can quickly open up a small hole in the pipe, called a “pinhole leak” due to its size. These leaks are only large enough to release small drops of water into the surrounding area, but that is often more than enough to cause a lot of water damage.

The Dangers of Pinhole Leaks

Pinhole leaks may not seem like such a big deal from the above description, but they are actually capable of causing damage far beyond their size. A pinhole leak is so small that, even if there are several of them in the system, they will not cause a cumulative loss in water pressure large enough to be noticeable. This means that the first sign that most homeowners get of a pinhole leak is when they notice mold growth spreading over the wall. By that point, the leak could have also rotted out the insulation in the area.

The only way to detect a pinhole leak before it has a chance to do its damage is to have your plumbing system inspected at least once a year. If you haven’t had your plumbing system inspected in over a year, call At Your Service Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning.

Our plumbers serve the entire Salt Lake City area.

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