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Top 5 Causes of Pipe Corrosion in Home Plumbing Systems

Did you know that pipe corrosion is a commonplace foe of every homeowner in the U.S.?

The longstanding battle between residential property owners and rusting pipes has been brewing since the early 90s. Historically, contractors built the country’s underground drains and sewer lines from cast iron and other corrosive materials.

While praised for their cost-effectiveness and robustness, these pipes are not formidable against rust. Today, countless homeowners carry the burden of facing yesterday’s mistake. From dealing with leaks and clogged drains to rising plumbing bills, the effects of pipe corrosion are hard to ignore.

The good news is, knowing the causes of pipe corrosion will help you better prepare and protect your home. Drain Magic looks at the top five reasons for corroded pipes in residential plumbing systems in this article.

What is Pipeline Corrosion_What is Pipeline Corrosion?

Corrosion, at its core, is a complex electrochemical process driven by chemical and physical changes. It involves the deterioration and degradation of metallic materials when exposed to specific environmental conditions.

Pipe corrosion is one of the most common reasons behind plumbing problems, which leads to a cascade of problems. Here are some ways that pipe corrosion can inconvenience homeowners:

  • Water leaks: Corroded pipes are prone to cracks that result in leaks and, worse, water damage.
  • Reduced water pressure: Corrosive build-up can block the pipes and restrict the water flow, resulting in weak water pressure.
  • Discolored water: As pipes corrode, rust and other sediments may accumulate within the plumbing system
  • Clogged drains: Corroded pipes can develop rough and uneven surfaces. This promotes the accumulation of debris, sediment and mineral deposits, completely obstructing water flow. 
  • Costly repairs: Addressing pipe corrosion requires professional intervention, often leading to substantial repair or replacement costs.

5 Reasons Why Pipes in Home Plumbing Systems Corrode

Knowing the problem is the first step in solving it. If you’re dealing with corrosive pipes, these could be the reasons behind it:

Pipe Age

The age of pipes can significantly influence the likelihood and severity of corrosion for several reasons:

First, the materials used in pipes can degrade and become more susceptible to corrosion. For instance, while initially resistant, galvanized steel’s protective zinc coating eventually deteriorates. This makes the pipeline vulnerable to corrosion.

Secondly, accumulated wear and tear may also expedite the rusting process. As pipes age, they are naturally subjected to more damage. This is unintentional and may occur for several reasons, including:

  • Water flow
  • Temperature variations
  • Chemical exposure

Water ChemistryWater Chemistry

Ironically, water is a sworn enemy of metallic pipes. The atomic composition of water contains oxygen, which facilitates the electrochemical corrosion of pipes. However, even the chemical properties of water can influence corrosion.

For example, chlorine and chlorides commonly used to disinfect water are corrosive to pipelines. Moreover, extreme water pH levels, either too acidic or basic, may also result in corrosion if they come into contact with pipes.

Even dissolved minerals in the water, like calcium, magnesium and iron, can indirectly influence corrosion. These chemicals contribute to scale formation, which promotes pitting or localized corrosion.

While not necessarily corrosive, biological beings found in water, like bacteria or algae, may also accelerate the corrosive process. This is called microbiologically influenced corrosion or biocorrosion.

Oxygen Exposure

As mentioned above, oxygen can influence corrosion in pipes. From an atomic perspective, oxygen acts as an electron acceptor that perpetuates electrochemical corrosion. Moreover, with oxygen occupying 21 percent of the atmosphere, leaving metallic pipes exposed to the air causes rust.

There’s just one problem. Oxygen can reach even the pipes buried beneath the ground. Here’s how:

The soil above growing plants is aerated or laced with air, which is one reason for vegetative growth. Automatically, pipes buried beneath existing vegetation are exposed to oxygen already. Air may also penetrate the concrete, especially if there are cracks that it can seep through.

In other words, no safe places for metal-based pipes, no matter where you put them.

Water Velocity

Water traveling through the pipes at high velocity can cause erosion or impingement corrosion.

When water flows at a high velocity, it exerts a particular force against the pipe walls. This leads to the accelerated removal of protective oxide layers, which exposes the metal to corrosion.

Since water is corrosive, cast iron and other metallic pipes will inevitably rust over time. However, erosion corrosion accelerates the process, resulting in increased corrosion rates.

Erosion corrosion occurs primarily in areas where the water flow abruptly changes direction, like pipe fittings.

Pipe Material

Pipe Material

The last and most obvious culprit behind corrosion is the material used for the pipeline. Here are the most common corrosive pipes in residential plumbing systems:

  • Cast iron pipes
  • Galvanized steel pipes
  • Copper pipes
  • Brass pipes

Despite what the name suggests, even stainless steel pipes may corrode. This happens when exposed to water laced with chloride-based chemicals. Thankfully, the abovementioned pipes are no longer used in installations and repairs.

If you’re dealing with rust-prone pipes, it’s only a matter of time before they corrode and fail. Calling drain experts can help diagnose and resolve the issue before it becomes a significant problem.

Drain Magic is the trusted partner of South Central Pennsylvania homeowners in fixing corrosive pipes. Using a modern trenchless approach, we repair and replace underground drains and sewer lines without damage.

Don’t hesitate to call if you live around the area and need our help.

Book an appointment here.