Piping/Plumbing Failures

One of the more damaging events which can occur within a building is the failure of an internal plumbing line.  For example, if either a common domestic 1/2″ diameter or 3/4″ diameter copper water tube fails, depending on the type and pressure drop within the line, the flow of water discharge from that tube could range from 1 to 5 gallons per minute (GPM) for the 1/2″ diameter tube or from 1 to 10 GPM for the 3/4” diameter tube.  Therefore, over the course of just one hour, 60 to 300 gallons (1/2”) or 60 to 600 gallons (3/4”) of water could be released through just the one plumbing line.  Further, if the failed tubing is located within the attic or plenum space above the entire interior portion of the building the result could be catastrophic.

During the cooler winter months, failures in the tubing for the water distribution and collection network are primarily due to the effects of exposure to sub-freezing temperatures.  When pipes freeze, the internal pressure within the pipes increases to the point where cracks are created leading to eventual failure.  Thus, it is imperative that conductive metal pipes be sufficiently insulated.

Another cause for a plumbing line failure is the direct result of faulty workmanship and/or installation errors.  Nowhere is this more important than the connection of joints.  Typical domestic water supply plumbing lines are either copper tubes or polyvinyl chloride (PVC) pipes.  The method of soldering copper fittings requires great skill and knowledge and can fail prematurely if inadequately done.  Failures in coupling nuts used in combination with PVC pipes can occur from incorrect or poor plastic material choice, incorrect coupling nut design, poor manufacturing practices, poor installation practices, or a combination of one or more of these factors.