Bluish Green "Stuff" On House Copper Water Pipes (and pinhole leaks)

Hello,
Have had a pinhole leak this year, and also a few years back, so started looking at my Copper house water plumbing a bit.
Noticed several areas with that bluish-green coating on it.
a. Is this indicative of a pinhole leak developing ?
b. what actually is this bluish-green "stuff" ?
c. Is it a reaction of the Copper with the outside air, and thus developing on the pipe's outside, or it coming from the inside ?
d. Interesting in that I see it in the middle of a run, here and there, so it's unlikely that it is caused by any soldering flux residual.
I do also see it at joints, and am wondering if it is caused, here, by a soldering flux residual ?
Any thoughts on the bluish-green stuff, and pinhole leaks would be most appreciated.
BTW: how common are pinhole leaks in older (around 35 yr old) homes ?
Thanks, Bob
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Copper pinholes show up most commonly in houses with well water, sometime exacerbated by electrolysis from copper-iron junctions. In worst cases it is like a cancer and just continues for years until failures are intolerable. Assess your situation with this in mind. If you want to eliminate the problem, eliminate the copper. CPVC, and PEX are well regarded replacements, code approved nearly everywhere, and have many advantages with the exception of electrical grounding. A competent journeyman plumber with knowledge of isolation of electrolytic sources might be able to correct such problems and save replacing the major parts of your system.
Joe
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Bob wrote:

The "stuff" is generally a product of corrosion of the copper from condensation on the pipe. If you have pinhole leaks developing, plan to replace all of the plumbing soon. I had a house with rather hard well water which after 40 or 50 years developed pinhole leaks since it was corroded from the inside out. After a few leak repairs I just picked up the necessary supplies and on one weekend ripped out all the old plumbing and replumbed. That was about 20 years ago and it's had no further issues.
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There are three different standards of copper pipe classified by the thickness of the copper. Type M is the thinnest with type L thicker and type K the thickest. The type of the pipe is printed on the pipe. You may still be able to read what type it is if you look closely. Please try to read what type your pipes are and let us know and when you replace your pipes make sure that it is type K this time. In some cities type K is mandatory.
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If you have had one pinhole leak recently you are probably destined to have several more soon...
Can you describe where the pinhole leak occurred? Was it near a fitting which turned a corner, that sort of leak often occurs because of the velocity of the water at the corner eating away at the pipe which is helped by very bad water chemistry or a plumber who used way too much flux when installing the pipes...
a. It can be, or it can be indicative of a lot of humidity in the area where the exposed pipes live...
b. It depends on the chemistry involved, it could be patina, which naturally occurs on un-coated copper like roofs and gutters, etc... Or it could be specific chemicals namely: Copper(II) Chloride or Copper(II) Carbonate depending on your local water chemistry...
c. It could be either or, if your pipes are leaking the process of corrosion is a mechanical and chemical breakdown and that can spread out on the exterior surface of the pipe after a pinhole leak breaks through... Your pipes could have also formed this color on the outside of them from sweating and having the water condensation which formed on them chemically react with the exposed copper...
d. Define "middle of the run" are you saying that it is nowhere near a soldered fitting or joint? Remember the pipes are empty when originally soldered, excessive amounts of flux would be washed away and settle elsewhere in the piping upon filling the system with water...
Sounds like your water chemistry needs to be analyized...
Not knowing whether you are on city provided water or a well makes a difference... More chloride chemical compounds in city water usually, more hard carbonate type compounds in well water... You could also have an issue with sulfides/sulfates which are reacting with your pipes...
Without knowing what thickness of copper pipe your house has or your local water chemistry and the volume of water you are using its not easy to nail down whether 35 years of use is good or bad performance...
~~ Evan
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On Fri, 25 Feb 2011 12:24:37 -0800 (PST), Evan

A lightning strike can make a pinhole in a copper pipe. I saw it happen twice. It usually occurs in the end of a long straight run and blows out the on or near an elbow. The lightning dont want to follow the turn in the pipe, so it just blows out the end at the turn. Generally there's wiring and appliances damaged too.
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Hi all,
Thanks for such good info.; really appreciate it.
Some clarifications that were requested:
Yes, it is Type M, apparently. The thin stuff.
Both pinholes developed in a horiz run, nowhere near a joint or elbow.
Thanks again, Bob ------------------------------------
n 2/25/2011 1:27 PM, Bob wrote:

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Bob wrote:

The house I replumbed developed it's pinhole leaks mid run. When I replumbed I used only type L.
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On Friday, February 25, 2011 11:27:08 AM UTC-7, Bob wrote:

I have started plumbing in small town with a pinhole problem when i go to r eplace 5 year old copper pipe with pex the pipe is so thin that i can not e ven cut it with copper cutters, pinholes are a problem, I have stopped usin g copper altogether Pex is so ugly if the municipality is supplying water t hat destroys pipes cant they be held responsible,( I have worked in towns w ith 35 year old copper and older the pipes are almost as good as the day th ey were put in. the lead solder they used back then oxidizes and causes lea ks at joints. Aquarise (cpvc)seems like a good copper replacer
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My best friends galvanized last near 70 years, he replaced it all with copper which is now failing after 35 years.....
looks like all his lines will need replaced again and he is over 80 and going to get quotes from plumbers......
he is not happy at all......
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wrote:

There's a lot of myth about copper being better then galvanized. It mostly depends on water chemistry In my area galvanized can go many years. Soft water. I replaced most of the galvanized in my last house with new galvanized. That was +60 years old. No leaks, but the scale had built up too much, so the water flow to upper floors had slowed too much. When I wrenched the pipes open, I found the restrictions were confined to horizontal runs, only at joints, and much worse around the water heater. Since the horizontals were mineraled up near the joints, I replaced everything in the basement from the service entry up to the verticals that went to the upper floors.
Left all the stuff in the walls alone. They were wide open and not rusty. I could see that from where they began in the basement, and in the upper floor els and tees. Replaced all the stop valves up there.
This current house uses the same Lake Michigan water, and the galvanized is 54 years old, with no issues at all. I know from simple experience that the joints, especially near the water heater, are getting mineraled up, but don't know how much. We don't any issues with flow. Of course that sneaks up on you, since it happens over time. But you know when it's unacceptable.
This is ranch house, the other was a 2-flat, so it got more water flowing through the basement pipes. More water, more water heater activity, more mineral build up. Of course that's soft water, and apparently high quality galvanized. Quality pipe is important, whether galvanized or copper. I don't doubt that some water will quickly clog galvanized, and that low quality or poorly installed galvanized will leak or rust. Haven't run into that here.
I've also read that some water doesn't play nice with copper and will cause pin-holing. Don't know much about copper.
If I get any issues in my current place, I'll just replace it with galvanized, but might look to see if PEX meets code. I sure don't see copper as the creme de la creme of piping.
The way I look at copper in my area, it was pushed by builders, plumbers, and maybe some real estate agents. It adds no value, just expense. Not sure about the real estate agents, because I've done a lot of house hunting here, seeing both copper and galvanized, and don't recall an agent ever even mentioning it. Most houses here built since the '60's have copper. Since I don't do copper, I would always look at that as a demerit if I even gave it any thought. But I don't remember even thinking about it. Too many other elements of a house are more important.
Copper is totally unnecessary for areas supplied with Lake Michigan water.
I see pin-holing happens with copper pipe, and nobody knows why. The original question was asked almost 3 years ago, so it looks like they still haven't figured it out.
This place is all galvanized
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i will happily go all PEX, its freeze tolerant, easy to install, can be all home runs, no coonections or Ts in walls, plus no sne person will ever steal it....
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