Lit Review; Copper Pipe Failures


The following literature review covers some failures in copper pipes.  Obviously, there is less reported on the millions of systems that do not fail.  As such, this is a is a resource that we provide to clients who worry or wonder about copper pipe corrosion and how to avoid problems in a copper system.  The bottom line is that every piping system has failure modes and the important thing is that these are readily identified and well-known so that failures may be avoided. (this is an evolving document)


Copper pipe is a preferred material for piping due to excellent resistance to corrosion, thermal stability, and water quality safety. However, failures are known to have occurred. Unfortunately, there are many factors that can act singly or in combination with others to cause a failure in a copper system.

Fortunately  the factors leading to copper failures are well known and easily identifiable.  This research helps us to identify these perils and estimate the cost of eliminating as many causes as possible when considering a copper piping system.


Causes of Copper Corrosion An essential summary and guide for understanding failure components of new copper piping for domestic water systems.  This review is aimed at technical and community associations such as our clients dealing with similar questions.

Cold Water Pitting In Copper Tube  Is a rare condition supported only through a specific water chemistry and the presence of carbon film left over from the pipe manufacturing process.  Poor workmanship and excess flux during installation can also contribute to CWP.  Copper must comply to standards (specified in this article)

Copper Pipe Pitting Influencer  Propensity for pipe pitting is determined by several factors related to water chemistry.  This report does an excellent job in helping to identify such characteristics.  We can then compare these conditions with the Portland Water report to understand what impact, if any, they will have on a copper pipe system.

Erosion Corrosion in Copper Pipes Is a rare condition supported by aggressive water chemistry and the presence of high turbulent activity, often localized, which erodes copper protective scale.  Recommendations for maximum water velocity are specified in piping standards.  Vulnerable areas include T’s and elbows which change water direction abruptly.  Workmanship also contributes.  Articles cited here are part of this bibliography

Erosion Corrosion in Copper  Here is another excellent report on corrosion erosion again due to high water velocities.  Great pictures of pitting failures and well as horseshoe failures in copper erosion.  This is important because the products of copper erosion, while not posing a great health threat, can have serious impact on downstream materials such as polypropylene and components in the piping system

Literature Searches / Academic papers

Modeling Copper Pipe Failures A Masters Thesis out of Virginia Tech documenting and tracking instances of copper pipe failures across the US.  Conclusions consistent with water quality and workmanship precautions.  Several contaminants identified may warrant additional water quality tests and mitigating strategies for repipe design.