Copper piping has been used successfully in water supply systems for more than 70 years. In Arizona, copper supply piping seems to be preferred by home buyers and any other piping material is considered sub-standard. It is important to note that, while it is still a relatively rare occurrence, we Arizonan’s have a high incident rate for copper piping failure.
To become the best in our industry we must remain informed. Evidence of underground piping leaks can be extremely difficult to detect and will probably not be identified during a standard home inspection. Look for evidence of excessive moisture at floor finishes. Find out if the seller has experienced any problems like high water bills, warm areas of flooring, past repair work, sediment in the water, etc. During the home inspection a good home inspector will look at the water meter flow indicator to see if unidentified water is flowing, the problem is that leaks can intermittently start and stop or leaks elsewhere in the system may mask the problem. Best bet is to find out information from the existing occupant.
I have personally been involved performing engineering of repairs for severe damage that resulted from leaking underground copper supply piping in a five-year-old home. The leak caused the soil under portions of the slab, foundation and chimney to collapse. Repair work involved not only piping replacement but also underpinning of foundations and mud-jacking the slab with pumped concrete slurry. The work required that the owners move out of the home for an extended period and ended up costing lots-o-dollars. Fortunately, homeowners insurance picked-up the tab. Even closer to home, this summer my neighbor had to replace leaking underground piping in their twenty year old home. I have heard of valley area homeowners associations losing their insurance coverage due to multiple claims for underground piping leaks. This is a very serious matter and is likely to affect someone you know eventually. Just when you thought it was safe to get back in the water delivered by copper piping . . .
Advantage Inspection Service offers Phoenix home inspection services for homes in the entire Phoenix metro area.