If you live in your home long enough, you may experience water pipe corrosion at some point. Residents in city apartments encounter this problem even more frequently. That sight of discolored, foul-smelling water coming through faucets is one many people never want to see, and for good reasons.
Water pipe corrosion threatens your entire plumbing system, and corrosive water is dangerous for your health.
As the premier choice for plumbing repair in Pacifica, CA, we often get calls from people seeking a solution to their water pipe corrosion problems and to better understand the problem. This post covers everything you need to know on the subject.
What Is Water Pipe Corrosion?
Water pipe corrosion is the result of the interaction between water, oxygen, and other natural or artificial elements in the pipe’s environment. The interaction can leave the interior and exterior of the pipes weaker. Over time, corrosion can progress from a minor inconvenience to causing the complete failure of the plumbing system.
Corrosion can affect all major plumbing pipe materials, but any type of pipes that contains metal is most at risk. So, if you live in a property with galvanized steel, iron, stainless steel, or copper pipes, you can expect to see the signs of corrosion after a while.
Polyvinyl chloride (PVC) and cross-linked polyethylene (PEX) pipes are the most resistant to corrosion. However, any metallic fittings holding them together may corrode. PEX pipes may still degrade if the chlorine levels in the water are high enough.
What Are the Causes of Water Pipe Corrosion?
Some of the most common causes of water pipe corrosion include:
- Hard water: If the water flowing through your pipe has a high level of minerals like calcium, calcification and corrosion will follow soon.
- Acidity: Acidic water with a low score on the pH scale can trigger the breakdown of the metallic components in any pipe system.
- Electrical currents: Electrical currents reaching pipes underground can interact with the copper piping, leading to an electrochemical reaction capable of causing corrosion.
- Excessive use of drain cleaners: Many homeowners use drain cleaners when looking for ways to dissolve stubborn clogs. However, the harsh chemical composition of these cleaners means they can cause corrosion in metal pipes and deterioration in PVC and PEX.
- Excessive water pressure: Pipe systems that feature pumps in the circuit can corrode if water flows through them quickly.
- High water temperature: Water hotter than 180 degrees can “burn” the piping system, giving room for corrosion.
- Bacteria growth: The presence of iron or sulfur bacteria in your water can cause microbial corrosion after a few years.
- Sediment buildup: Think about how a sander works. Sand and grit going back and forth in your piping system as water flows through will lead to corrosion after a while.
How Does Water Pipe Corrosion Affect Your Water Quality?
Water pipe corrosion gives your water a brown or bluish color. The water will look cloudy and have a bad smell. If you do try to drink the water, you’ll notice a bitter taste.
Drinking water from corroded pipes can cause various health problems, including liver and kidney damage. Cooking with it will only heat up the contaminants and chemicals, making the water even more unhealthy for consumption. As such, corrosion can render your entire water system unusable.
Common Signs of Water Pipe Corrosion
Some of the most common signs of water pipe corrosion include the following:
Do you see discolored water coming out of your showerheads or faucets? That’s one of the most significant telltale signs of water pipe corrosion. Water flowing through a corroded pipe will scrape some of the oxide buildup, filling the water with particles.
The extent of the discoloration will give you an idea of the depth of the corrosion idea. If the watercolor stays dark for two minutes or more, it’s a sign of extreme corrosion.
Strange Smell and Taste
Corrosion changes the taste and smell of water (as we’ve seen above). The water will take on too many minerals as it flows through the corroded pipe, changing its natural composition.
You should only worry about pipe corrosion if the water has a metallic taste. If the bad taste isn’t metallic, you may have moss and mildew inside your pipes or a buildup of pipe cleaning products.
The smell from the water may also linger on your plumbing fixtures, giving your kitchen and bathroom an unpleasant smell.
Corrosion and calcification tend to significantly reduce the pipe’s diameter. As a result, there is a higher probability of debris accumulation stopping the water flow to or away from your home. However, there are other possible causes of clogs in piping systems, so you don’t have to make that conclusion straight away.
Ignoring corrosion for too long can lead to cracks throughout the piping system. If you spot a leak anywhere along your plumbing system, it’s best to order a professional, thorough inspection. This is especially true if you can see the leaks around metal pipes.
A good tip to determine whether you’re dealing with corrosion or another plumbing leak is to confirm the spread of the leak. If you can spot leaks all over the piping system, you’re likely dealing with another plumbing issue.
However, if all the leaks are in one spot, it strongly suggests the possibility of corrosion. The plumber will provide a more definitive diagnosis, but with this approach, you can know what you’re dealing with before you call the plumber.
Sudden Temperature Changes
Does your water switch back and forth from hot to cold during your showers? It’s one of the top signs of a corroded pipe. Hot water corrodes pips because the higher temperature triggers a chemical reaction between the metal and the water.
Once corrosion sets in, it will chip away the anti-scald mechanisms found in showers and sinks, causing damage to the valves and your water fixtures. The fluctuation in temperature means that your hot water system has lost its protective coating due to corrosion.
Reduction in Water Pressure
Have you noticed a drop in your water pressure in recent times? You’re most likely battling with corrosion. Remember, corrosion narrows the diameter of pipes due to the buildup of decaying metal and calcification.
Top Ways To Prevent Pipe Corrosion
Since corrosion is a natural process, you can’t stop it completely. As long as you have metal pipes as a part of your plumbing system, corrosion will occur. However, you have a say in how soon it can occur.
Below are some steps you can take to slow down corrosion:
- Protect your metal pipes from electric currents.
- Install filters featuring compounds like calcite to counter corrosion.
- Put pH-balancing additives in your water to prevent acidity-induced corrosion.
- Keep your water temperature below 180 degrees at all times.
The Solution to Ongoing Water Pipe Corrosion
When you spot the signs of corrosion in your water pipes, you’ll almost certainly want to know what you can do to reverse it and restore your water quality again.
The best approach is to call in a plumber for guidance on how to reverse the problem—if possible. The plumber will take time to confirm the extent of the corrosion. Their assessment will determine their recommendation and approach to the situation.
For corrosion that hasn’t spread too deeply, the plumber may elect to clean the pipe with descaling equipment. During the descaling process, the equipment will cut out the calcification and accumulated rust inside the pipe, restoring its diameter.
However, descaling is only practical for pipes large enough to contain the equipment. It’s also not the perfect solution on its own because the corrosion will restart soon over the fresh layer of exposed metal.
An alternative approach to fixing moderate cases of corrosion is to remove the affected parts and replace them with new pipe sections and fittings.
For deeper cases of corrosion, plumbers will recommend installing linings to the pipe’s interior to keep the water from touching the metal. This will stop the corrosion and also restore your water’s composition.
Where linings are not practical, the plumber may recommend replacing the entire pipe system. Most plumbers will leave this option for last because it is usually a highly demanding project. During the replacement, the plumber will recommend choosing either PEX or PVC plumbing to ensure you never have to worry about corrosion over the long term.
Contact Works Plumbing To Solve Your Water Pipe Corrosion Problem
Is your plumbing system showing all the classic signs of pipe corrosion? You need to get ahead of the problem as quickly as possible because it will only worsen.
Our technicians can inspect the system and provide guidance on how you can go back to enjoying the benefits of an effective plumbing system. This may also be a good opportunity to fix that cracked PVC pipe or other plumbing issues you have.
Call our Works Plumbing team in Pacifica, CA, today at (650) 414-5831 to book an appointment.