Piping problem

The Problem

Inner Corrosion

The corrosiveness of Vancouver’s “soft” water causes the copper pipe used in many buildings to “erode” from the inside. As the water flows through the pipe over many years, the corrosive nature of our water slowly thins the copper piping’s wall. Eventually the wall becomes too weak in one area and the pressure of the water inside the piping causes a pinhole leak. These leaks can be small enough that it may take days for the water to show up. Or they can show up quickly if the hole is larger.


Substandard Pipe Quality

The copper piping that was manufactured in the 1990’s and earlier, was of substandard quality and below the required wall thickness, further shortening its lifespan.


Undersized Piping

Until plumbing codes changed in the early 1990’s, copper water piping was installed allowing for smaller pipe diameters than today’s codes. This caused the water to move at a high velocity inside the piping system, and thus resulted in pipe walls "eroding" sooner.


Soft Copper

It was permissible twenty or more years ago to install “semi-hard” copper pipe that was bendable. Even if this was done with a proper bending tool, this procedure would cause the pipe to be stretched on the outside portion of the bend. This would mean a decrease in the pipe’s wall thickness, which today can result in a stress crack or pinhole leak.


Electrolysis

Contact between different metals can create electrolysis. This can also cause corrosion in the piping system. This can be caused by steel pipe hangers contacting copper piping directly, with no insulating tape or barrier.


CPVC Piping

During the 1990’s a popular choice for domestic water piping in apartment buildings was CPVC (Chlorinated polyvinyl chloride) piping. It was inexpensive, easy to install (glued together) and quieter than copper piping. Unfortunately in many instances it was not installed properly and the high expansion ratio on the hot piping has resulted in pipes cracking due to stress. The piping material also becomes brittle and difficult to repair. Many buildings are being forced to replace their CPVC piping system due to the frequency of pipe breaks and the catastrophic results.