Pinhole leaks are one of the most dangerous kinds of pipe leaks that can occur in your home. They also happen to be one of the most mysterious. Despite years of research, the EPA has yet to determine the cause of pinhole leaks. This makes them difficult to predict or prevent, with regular professional examinations being the only reliable way to identify and fix them before they cause too much damage. Let’s take a look at what pinhole leaks actually are, and why you should have your pipes checked for them periodically.
What are Pinhole Leaks?
Pinhole leaks are small leaks that exclusively affect copper pipes, which are resistant to almost all other types of corrosion. The type of corrosion that causes pinhole leaks is called “pitted corrosion,” where the pipe inexplicably begins to degrade from the outside in. Eventually, this opens up tiny holes in the pipe, no larger than the end of a pin. The leak is large enough to allow water to drip from the pipe, but not enough to cause a noticeable drop in water pressure. This makes pinhole leaks very hard to detect.
Why Should I Worry About Pinhole Leaks?
Pinhole leaks are a problem both because of their size and location. Most of a home’s plumbing pipes are located in the walls and ceilings, surrounded by insulation and support studs. A pinhole leak in such a location will cause severe water damage to the insulation and even rot out the studs, if given enough time. Wet insulation also provides an ideal environment for mold growth, adding a health hazard on top of the structural damage to the wall.
Most leaks have symptoms that are visible to the homeowner in some way, either through a loss in water pressure or water discoloration from rust travelling up through the pipes. Pinhole leaks have neither of these indications, as the corrosion is from the outside in and the leak is too small to cause a drop in water pressure. As such, the only way to protect your home from pinhole leak damage is to have a professional investigate your plumbing at least once every year.