In the 1980s and 1990s California faced a rash of water damage claims associated with defective copper pipes. Homeowners and builders of new housing developments and landlords of commercial buildings found themselves having to replace thousands of lineal feet of water pipes. The major issue surrounded the quality of the materials imported from Asia. But who was responsible and who would pay? Disputes between developers, owners and insurance carriers were common. These disputes are often resolved with the help of highly experienced construction expert witness.
In the early 2000s, the issue of inferior copper piping has been mostly resolved but other issues still lead to pinholes in copper piping Dr. Vardi, a court-recognized construction expert witness, informs us. Today the reason for pinholes in copper pipes is generally due to two primary reasons: First, improper preparation of joints prior to soldering. Second, lack of pipe insulation (wrapping) of copper pipes buried in highly conductive soil. This article covers the first of the two current primary reasons. By far, today, “the most common issue leading to pinholes in copper pipes and pipe erosion is due to improper preparation of the copper pipes prior to joining,” says Dr.Vardi. Proper preparation of copper pipes is commonly referred to as “reaming of the pipe”: A simple process of removing the burrs at the edge of the cut pipe. The untrained or lazy plumber who does not ream the pipes leaves the unprepared pipe open to the possibility for turbulence within the pipe. In plumbing, the term “turbulence” is a kind of drilling like action inside the pipe which is neither seen or heard. It is the silent killer of copper pipes. Every time a water valve is activated it activates water flow within the pipe. The water flows across the burrs sticking out of the cut edge of a pipe creating a screw like turbulent action which in turn slowly wears away the inside of the pipe as if someone was drilling the inside of that pipe. Eventually the drilling like action wears away the inside of the pipe to a very thin layer causing pin holes and water damage. The problem becomes worse with the use of recirculating pumps, says Dr. Vardi, who has investigated and resolved these kinds of claims throughout California.
A few years ago Dr. Vardi was called to investigate a water damage claim of a house belonging to a Los Angeles County Superior Court Judge. The judge bought a brand new house with a recirculating pump attached to the hot water line. Within the first couple of years the house suffered multiple pipe breaks, all on the hot water side. The Judge’s plumber did not have a cause for this condition and simply stated that the pipes would need to be repaired where the breaks occurred. Not satisfied with this explanation, the Judge called Dr. Vardi to the house to determine the cause, origin, and method of repair. Luckily the Judge held on to the sections of the pipes that the plumber replaced.
Examination of those pipes by Dr. Vardi determined that the cause of the water damage was pinholes in the pipe. The cause that lead to the pinholes was improper preparation of the pipes for soldering (reaming of the pipe) exacerbated by pressure conducted via the recirculating pump. In the case of this claim the pipes were void of any preparation and caused a more rapid deterioration of the pipes.
Due to the type of construction, and extent of the pipe network Dr. Vardi suggested that the Judge consider rerouting of the hot water line. In this mode of repair, essentially the old hot water line is abandoned where it was originally installed below the concrete slab and within the walls. New water pipes are installed from the attic, inside walls which are later patched and refinished, and routed to the various plumbing fixtures. Though costly,
Dr. Vardi says this method is less expensive and disruptive than having to tear up concrete floors. Copper piping is the gold standard for water pipes. This material is normally corrosion resistant and provides clean water for decades. That said, the serviceability of the piping is highly dependent on the quality of the materials and equally to the quality of the installation. Homeowners, developers and insurance carriers often rely on Dr. Vardi’s cause and origin opinions to resolve disputes, allocate responsibility and determine the best method of repair. As a preeminent construction expert witness Dr. Vardi considers all possibilities in his investigation of water damage insurance and legal claims; pinholes in water pipes being only one cause among many others.
WATCH FOR PART II COMING SOON!