Defective Plumbing Systems: Are You at Risk for a Major Plumbing Failure?

Plumbing defects involving failed brass fittings are becoming more and more frequent.  Many failures stem from failed compression fittings used in flexible PEX pipe systems which have become very popular as an alternative to the more expensive copper plumbing. 

PEX plumbing systems are extremely popular due to relatively low cost, flexibility and ease in installation. The PEX pipes are a flexible plastic material that carries potable water, drinking water, in residential construction.  The connection between the flexible pipe and the fittings used to interconnect the pipes is key to any PEX system.  Most PEX plumbing systems rely on a compression seal between the pipes and the fittings used to interconnect these pipes. The compression seal is typically created by expanding the pipe and inserting the brass alloy fitting. 

FLEXIBLE PEX PIPE

 

BRASS FITTING

 

COMPRESSION FITTING

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Many brass fittings in use today corrode and weaken through a process known as dezincification. Brass, an alloy metal composed primarily of copper and zinc begins to dezincify when the zinc content exceeds 15% of the metal. At that point, the zinc is susceptible to washing or leaching out of the metal when exposed to potable water. As zinc leaves the brass, the metal:

1.       Becomes weaker; and 

2.       The surface of the brass is often altered.

 As zinc leaves the metal, the water tight seal between the flexible pipe and the brass fitting is compromised.  The ends of the brass fittings have small ridges or ferrules at the end of the fittings.  As the metal weakens and erodes, water bypasses the ferrules resulting in leaks. These leaks can be small and hidden inside a wall, often undiscovered for long periods of time. The failure can also be catastrophic, when a compression fitting fails completely, separating the flexible pipe from the fitting, resulting in extensive water damage. 

EXAMPLES OF DEZINCIFIED FITTINGS

 

If you know or suspect your home or condominium’s plumbing includes flexible pipes, it is important to have the system inspected.  Contact Barker Martin P.S. at (888) 381-9806 or info@barkermartin.com for a free consultation.

 

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