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Thread: Copper Plumbing

  1. #1
    Join Date
    Jul 2011
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    Default Copper Plumbing

    Here is an interesting one for you: I bought a house that I have been in for a couple years and instead of the sanitary piping being PVC or cast iron, it is all copper. I know the lime in concrete can eat thru copper but how about sanitary waste? Also the sanitary main goes over the foundation instead of thru it under the frost line and it goes down the outside into the ground to the septic tank. I live on the East Coast and surprisingly this does not freeze up in the winter. Should this all be replaced or is this of the idea of "If it ain't broken, don't fix it"?

    Thanks

  2. #2
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    Jun 2011
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    Default Re: Copper Plumbing

    You're just not getting enough cold weather often enough for there to be a serious problem. I'd insulate the exposed portion of the drain piping that's exposed to the weather as best I could, cross my fingers and hope that global warming isn't just bad science.

  3. #3
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    Default Re: Copper Plumbing

    Copper has been used in waste lines and from what I understand will eventually corrode from the inside out due to acids in the sewer gases mixing with water. That being said I'm sure the drain lines are heavy wall so depending on how long the lines have been in it could be many many years down the road before a problem arises.

    As for the issue of not having freezing problems it would be because water is not sitting in the pipe. When you flush the toilet or whatever it will go into the septic tank and will not be sitting in the pipe above ground. I live in the Northeast and have a sump pump that discharges above ground and it will run fine in the winter. The only issue I ever had with it freezing was when it was buried under about 3' of snow and the water could not completely drain from the pipe and thus froze. Other than that no problems with it being above ground. Sounds like a similar situation to yours only yours goes underground into the septic tank. Plus the waste coming out is going to be warm since it is coming from the house and the stuff in the septic tank will be warm due to the bacteria breaking down the solid wastes. If you are really worried about it you could insulate the pipe as was suggested by Nestor but I wouldn't worry about it.

    Mike

  4. #4
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    Default Re: Copper Plumbing

    The reason the line doesn't freeze is because of the heat generated from the bacteria in septic tank. Don't have the tank pumped in the winter or you will have freezing problems. Copper waste lines do corrode in time. There are different grades. The thinnest wall was called DWV, next up from that is type M. I have replaced many DWV lines that failed but have yet to replace any type M copper in drainage systems.

    John

  5. #5
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    Jul 2011
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    3

    Default Re: Copper Plumbing

    Is it accurate enough to tell the wall thickness of the copper pipe by using calipers on an L-bow's over lap edge (with little solder)so I wouldn't have to cut any pipe open to see which type it is? I know the thickness of the pipe is also with respect to the diameter. K type is 0.083" wall for 2" and so on. At least I would know if it's considered thin wall then I should inspect all the lines at least once a year I would think.

  6. #6
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    Default Re: Copper Plumbing

    The type copper should be stamped on the pipe. It may take some close examination especially if the pipe has been out side. It is stamped into the pipe and should say DWV or M. there are other types that were much heaver but I doubt they would have been used for waste lines. When the pipe starts to fail you will see green spots of corrosion on the outside of the pipe. If you poke at these spots with a screwdriver you will put a hole in the line. The outside diameter of the pipe will be the same no mater what type it is.

    John

  7. #7
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    Default Re: Copper Plumbing

    Clampusystems:

    No, you can't tell anything about the pipe from the fittings.

    For the sizes of copper pipe used in plumbing work, fittings will always be made to the greatest wall thickness pipe size available. For example, you can buy 1/2 inch copper pipe in Type M, L and K, each with a progressively larger wall thickness. But 1/2 inch copper fittings will only be made with the largest wall thickness, equivalent to Type K copper pipe.
    Ditto for larger sizes of copper pipe.

    Johnjh2o:
    Where I live, different Types of copper pipe are identified with different colour printing. I'm not sure it'd be a smart move to stamp anything on the exterior of a copper pipe cuz you wouldn't be able to sand the oxide off the stamped impression, and that'd increase the liklihood of solder joint leaks.
    Last edited by Nestor; 07-15-2011 at 06:48 PM.

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Jan 2008
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    2,188

    Default Re: Copper Plumbing

    If it ain't broke you can't fix it! That said here in upstate SC copper drains were found in the better built homes and they hold up better than the cast iron and galvanized I've dealt with in the lesser grade homes. Plumbing is not my main line of work but I do a fair amount of it these days. If you have problems then you can fix it easily with PVC- just keep in mind that if one place is bad the rest of the piping is of the same vintage and material so consider replacing it all while you're at it.

  9. #9
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    Default Re: Copper Plumbing

    Quote Originally Posted by Nestor View Post
    Clampusystems:

    No, you can't tell anything about the pipe from the fittings.

    For the sizes of copper pipe used in plumbing work, fittings will always be made to the greatest wall thickness pipe size available. For example, you can buy 1/2 inch copper pipe in Type M, L and K, each with a progressively larger wall thickness. But 1/2 inch copper fittings will only be made with the largest wall thickness, equivalent to Type K copper pipe.
    Ditto for larger sizes of copper pipe.

    Johnjh2o:
    Where I live, different Types of copper pipe are identified with different colour printing. I'm not sure it'd be a smart move to stamp anything on the exterior of a copper pipe cuz you wouldn't be able to sand the oxide off the stamped impression, and that'd increase the liklihood of solder joint leaks.
    Yes they do have different color printing. DWV-yellow M-red L-blue but if you look close you will see that it is also stamped, it has been that way from the beginning. Or a least the 49 years I have been doing it. The reason being is the colored lettering can be removed not allowing the building inspectors to see what grade the pipe is. The stamped mark is very small so the filling capacities of the solder easley bridge it.

    John
    Last edited by johnjh2o; 07-16-2011 at 04:53 PM.

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jun 2011
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    208

    Default Re: Copper Plumbing

    Well I just checked a piece of 1/2 inch copper pipe, and you're right. The stamp is very faint, but it's there. You're likely to remove that stamping by sanding the pipe in preparation for soldering it.

    This is the first time I've noticed a stamp on the exterior of a copper pipe. However, it's hard enough to see the stamp on an unused piece of copper pipe, let alone if the pipe is dirty.

    PS: Type K copper pipe has green printing on it.

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