Pipe corrosion is a widespread challenge that can compromise a home’s plumbing infrastructure over the years. This destructive process occurs due to complex chemical and electrochemical reactions between pipe materials and the various substances they encounter. Left unaddressed, pipe corrosion can significantly weaken piping to the point of failure.
Corrosion deteriorates metal pipes through gradual oxidation, destroying their structural integrity. Several types of corrosion affect residential plumbing systems.
Uniform corrosion causes evenly distributed thickness loss across a pipe’s surface. Pitting corrosion forms deep cavities that penetrate the metal. Galvanic corrosion occurs when two dissimilar metals connect, resulting in one metal corroding preferentially.
Pipe corrosion stems from many influencing factors within a home’s water chemistry and plumbing environment. Understanding these potential causes is key, allowing homeowners to identify corrosion risks and take appropriate preventative measures.
This article explores some of the most common causes of pipe corrosion within residential plumbing systems. Let’s examine how variables like water characteristics, temperature, materials selection and more can all potentially contribute to this destructive process over time.
The Most Common Causes Of Pipe Corrosion
The chemistry of the water flowing through your pipes plays a significant role in pipe corrosion. Water high in minerals like iron can accelerate copper pipes and piping corrosion.
Acidic water with a low pH level is also very corrosive and can lead to corrosion problems in metal pipes over time. Total dissolved solids (TDS) refer to the dissolved inorganic and organic substances contained in water, including calcium, magnesium, sodium, and chloride - high TDS water is also more corrosive.
Dissolved oxygen in water contributes to corrosion by interacting with the pipe’s metal interior. More specifically, it is oxygen that causes copper corrosion when in contact with copper piping and copper pipe. Removing dissolved oxygen through using a chlorinator or ozone system can decrease corrosion.
Hot water temperature greatly increases the rate of pipe corrosion. Hot water systems and circulating hot water lines are more prone to early corrosion failure because of the hot water temperature. The corrosion process speeds up exponentially with increased heat.
Hydraulic wear, which is water causing hydraulic wear and erosion inside the pipe, is directly related to water velocity. High-velocity water flow in the pipe can mechanically abrade and erode away pipe material over time. Installing improvements like inline filters and minimising velocity in pipes helps reduce this type of corrosion.
While all metal pipes are subject to corrosion, different materials corrode via different mechanisms and vary in their vulnerability.
For example, while copper piping is very durable, it is highly susceptible to corrosion in the presence of certain water components like chlorine. Plastic pipe like PEX is more resistant but not immune to all forms of corrosion either. Material selection plays a role based on local water conditions.
Bacteria, algae, and fungi can contribute to microbiologically influenced corrosion or bacterial corrosion of pipes underground or in certain systems. Iron bacteria is one example that accelerates corrosion processes in cold water pipes through metabolic waste products.
Stray Current or Galvanic Action
Dissimilar metal pipes joined together or in contact with other materials, like the improper grounding of electrical appliances, introduce the risk of galvanic or stray current corrosion. This occurs when one metal corrodes preferentially over the other due to electrical potential differences.
Chemical drain cleaners and chemical reactions between treated water and the piping material can induce or worsen corrosion processes. Drain cleaners are highly acidic or alkaline and aggressive on metal pipes. This also occurs when reverse osmosis units or water softeners are not maintained correctly via sediment sand or phosphate feeder.
Installation or Design Issues
Factors like improper installation where two dissimilar metals are joined, lack of insulation for hot water lines, circulating hot water systems designed without corrosion inhibitors, and undersized water pipes inducing high velocity can all promote corrosion problems.
Sediment build-up on the pipe’s interior provides surfaces for corrosion reactions and bacteria to thrive. Periodic flushing helps remove sediment that can abrade pipe material over time. Water analysis may reveal sediment as a corrosion indicated by hardness.
Transforming Knowledge into Protection
While unavoidable to an extent, understanding the typical causes of pipe corrosion equips homeowners to take preventative measures through water treatment, proper plumbing system maintenance, and implementing corrosion-resistant materials where needed.
This can help protect a home’s piping system and foundation from the costly damage that corroded pipes may otherwise lead to over the long run. Reaching out to a plumber is wise if concerned about existing pipe corrosion in your plumbing network.
Protecting Your Pipes Through Prevention and Maintenance
As we’ve explored, there are many potential culprits that can lead to pipe corrosion forming and progressing inside your home’s water network. While unavoidable to an extent, addressing corrosion risks requires an integrated approach focused on prevention, early detection, and responsive repair or replacement when problems arise.
Regular checks of accessible piping allow you to monitor signs of deterioration in their earliest stages. Catching issues before significant damage occurs is key to avoiding costly restoration work. Engaging a professional plumber is also wise; their expertise and specialised tools can inspect pipes hidden behind walls.
For peace of mind protecting your home’s critical plumbing infrastructure, rely on the experts. Based in Melbourne, WP Plumbing offers trusted assessment and responsive solutions for all your corrosion prevention and pipe repair needs. Their licensed professionals can evaluate your pipe system, advise remediation measures, and make any necessary updates or replacements.
Contact WP Plumbing today to discuss a customised pipe assessment or receive recommendations for a tailored corrosion prevention strategy.