Glossary: Copper Pipes And Pinhole Leaks Terminology

Pinhole Leak TerminologyIf you are concerned about pinhole leaks in your home plumbing system, you have probably come across a lot of unfamiliar terminology. As a homeowner, it can be extremely frustrating and confusing to feel like you are in the dark abo

ut problems that affect you and your property. To aid your understanding, examine the following list of frequently-used terms and abbreviations.


  • Aggressive water: Any water with high acidity, dissolved gases, or various other conditions that encourage corrosion in copper piping.
  • Chloramines: An alternative form of disinfectant made of chlorine and ammonia.
  • Coagulation: A process that destabilizes small, suspended particles in water by removing the negative chemical charges. This allows them to be removed through sedimentation, filtration, or both.
  • Copper pipe: Copper is the most common type of pipe material, used in over 80% of U.S. buildings. It is easy to use and it resists both corrosion and permeation by liquids and gases that might corrode or contaminate it. Copper piping is made of 99.9% pure copper and silver combined, with a maximum of 0.04% phosphorus.
  • Corrosion: The deterioration of a material caused by its interaction with its environment.
  • Oxidation: The process occurring when a substance loses electrons.
  • pH: The amount of acidity or alkalinity of any solution. A pH level of 7 is neutral. The pH scale ranges from about -1 to +15.
  • Pinhole leaks: A small hole in a pipe that develops due to excessive wear in that particular spot. It is the final stage of pitting corrosion.
  • Pipelining: Coats the inside of a pipe with a safe, durable epoxy that is resistant to corrosion.
  • Pitting Corrosion: A non-uniform attack of the wall of a copper tube, pipe, or fitting. Only a small area of the interior of the pipe is attacked, and the rest of the pipe remains largely unaffected. Pitting can cause significant damage without causing leaks, corroding the interior pipe surface severely but not in a concentrated enough way to cause an actual hole.
  • Plastic pipes: An alternative to copper pipe that can eliminate certain corrosion problems. However, bacteria can grow more easily in this type of pipe, and it is also more prone to bursting.
  • Polyethylene with cross linking (PEX): A material used for repiping certain portions of a pipe system. However, various restrictions usually prevent it from being used in commercial properties or multi-tenant buildings. It can be used in single-family homes, however.


  • CLUE: Short for Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange, this is a claims history database that allows insurance companies to access consumer claims information so that they can underwrite or rate an insurance policy.
  • D/DBP: Disinfection and Disinfection Byproducts Rule, which requires that certain water systems remove specified percentages of organic materials that may react to disinfection byproducts (DBPs).
  • DBP: Disinfection Byproduct. When disinfection is used for drinking water treatment, the disinfectants will combine with any naturally-occurring matter in the water. This forms chemicals called disinfection byproduct, and some of them can be harmful health-wise.
  • DPW: Department of Public Works.
  • DWS: Division of Water and Sewer.
  • LCR: Lead and Copper Rule, which was introduced by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to limit the allowable concentration of lead and copper in public drinking water.
  • MCL: Maximum contaminant level, or the highest amount of a contaminant allowed in drinking water. These are enforceable standards.
  • MCLG: Maximum contaminant level goal. This is the level of a contaminant in drinking water at which any amount below poses no known or expected health risk. These are non-enforceable public health goals and allow for a margin of safety.
  • NOM: Natural organic matter.
  • SDWA: Safe Drinking Water Act, which ensures safe drinking water for every water system in the United States.

With these terms and abbreviations on hand, you will be much better equipped to deal with plumbers, insurance companies, and water departments. Pinhole leaks and other pipe problems can be very frustrating, but an understanding of the situation can help make it easier for you.