Pin-hole copper leaks and Polybutylene piping is a major concern for homeowners. A pin-hole leak is a corrosion of copper pipe that leads to one or several slow leaks in the pipe that could cause a major damage to a house. Polybutylene pipe is known as a plastic pipe that has unusually high rate of failure under normal operating condition.
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Polybutylene piping is a low cost piping formed of plastic resin. It is commonly gray, white, or sometimes black in color. Poly piping is used in both underground water mains and interior plumbing. It was used in the construction of millions of homes throughout U.S. between 1978 and 1995. As it ages, it begins to degrade and can leak, causing severe damage to the building structure.
Check Your Pipes.
Inside Your Home - Any gray plastic pipe could be poly. Look at pipes near the water heater. See what kind of pipe runs across the ceiling in an unfinished basement. Check the pipe that comes out of walls to feed sinks and toilets. Many properties have a combination of copper and poly pipes.
Your Underground Water Main - Underground poly pipes can be blue, black, or gray. They are found entering properties through the basement wall or floor, concrete slab, or coming up through a crawlspace. They most often enter properties near the water heater. Your main shutoff valve is attached to the end of the outside water main.
"In some cases, homeowners are finding that homeowners insurance companies will either cancel their coverage when extensive damage is caused by [polybutylene] or refuse coverage to homes piped with PB."
—Arizona Water Resource, the University of Arizona

Internal pitting corrosion of copper pipes is a costly problem that leads to the formation of pinhole leaks. Pinhole leaks are a major concern to homeowners as they may be costly, given the effort required to find and repair each leak, result in highly variable amounts of water damage per occurrence, lead to loss of water resources from undetected leaks in service laterals, lead to growth of mold and mildew, result in higher premiums for or cancellation of homeowner insurance.

There is also a legitimate concern for consumers that one leak might soon follow another. Insurance companies often raise premiums or simply do not renew policies, and homeowners distraught over leaks can reach the point they do not feel comfortable leaving the house without first turning off the water.

What is a Pinhole Leak?

A pinhole leak is a final breakthrough event of the progressive attack of pitting corrosion on copper water plumbing. A copper water plumbing system can be in a condition of having significant damage by pitting corrosion, but not have pinhole leaks. The challenge is how to discover pitting corrosion before pinhole leaks develop.

How Many Homes are affected?

There is no comprehensive source of information on the occurrence of pinhole leaks. Many utilities and water authorities have collected thousands of reports, submitted voluntarily by residents who have experienced pinhole leaks. Often, homeowners consider pinhole leaks as a plumbing problem, and do not report them to their water utility.

Where Do Pinhole Leaks Happen Most Often?

Although pinhole leaks could happen in any copper pipe or tube within a house. Most of the leaks were in older homes, and 80 percent of the reports involved homes built prior to 1970.