Residential Pipe Burst Causes Severe Property Damage


Plumbing ExpertThis case involves copper tubing that was used to supply water to a house in Tennessee. The piping began to develop pinholes that caused the pipes to burst in different areas of the house. After the last pipe burst, an on-call plumber was called to conduct an inspection of the property. According to the on-call plumber’s report, the pipe bursts caused such significant damage to the house that the homeowners had to leave the house for several weeks. It was alleged that the plumbing in the house was not up to code.

Question(s) For Expert Witness

  • 1. Please describe your plumbing experience as it relates to assessing whether or not a plumbing system is up to code.

Expert Witness Response E-160843

As a plumbing engineer, some of my primary job duties include properly sizing the water pipe systems of residential homes and buildings and reviewing the drawings of other engineers and contractors to verify that the water pipe system is compliant with the plumbing code. I have a master’s degree in mechanical engineering with an emphasis in thermo-fluid systems. I have also worked for a plumbing contractor for one year installing copper pipe in residential homes. I have the knowledge and resources to be able to verify if there are any design flaws or code violations in the installation of the water supply system. Copper pipe leaks can be caused by a variety of reasons, such as high-velocity flow thru the pipe, high levels of chlorine in the water supply, high water pressure or due to other chemicals or particles in the water. Plumbing code limits the maximum velocity in the copper pipe to 8 ft per second for cold water and 5 ft per second for hot water. The diameter of the copper pipe must be properly sized so that the water flowing thru the pipe does not exceed the code limits. If the pipes are not properly sized, the high-velocity flow rates will increase the likelihood of pinhole leaks. Pinhole leaks can still occur in properly sized and installed copper pipe systems due to the chemicals, water hardness or high pH levels in the water.

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