So, How Long Does Copper Pipe Last? [LEARN MORE]

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On average, copper pipes will last 70 to 80 years before they need replacing. But, some copper piping has been reported to last much longer; I’m talking 100-150 years.

It is normal for copper pipes nearing the end of their service life to develop leaks.

This is why it is advisable to replace copper pipes with PEX/PVX pipes. Besides, these two alternatives are cheaper and easier to install or replace.

Did you know there are various copper pipe types, and not all last the same? Let’s learn about them.

Types of Copper Pipes and How Long they Last

You may have heard that a lot of copper pipes will do 50 to 70 lifespan service before needing replacement. That’s right, but only for the mid-range pipes.

It is hard to say exactly how long copper pipes will last, but there are factors that would affect it.

Factors such as:

  • Price
  • Water chemicals
  • Material quality
  • Age
  • Location

There are three common types of copper pipe. Each is unique and has its own life span.

They are:

  • M-Type
  • L-Type
  • K-Type

So, here’s how long each type of pipe really lasts.

  • M-Type

Type M copper pipe is the thinnest pipe among the 3 pipes we’re talking about today.

From experience, this residential plumbing pipe lasts 20 years. Others may argue that it last up to 50 years but this is my experience.

It is typical for copper pipes to corrode when exposed to water with high acid levels and the thin walls of M-type don’t offer much protection against this wear-and-tear.

Keep in mind – You can’t always choose the water since it comes from the city. Plus, well water usually has an unbalanced pH level and both can wear down pipes much faster than you expect.

That is why we recommend going for a much thicker pipe.

  • L-Type

L-type piping has a lifespan of at least 50 years and can do more than 100 years of service when well maintained.

A lot of plumbers recommend the L-type piping to homeowners because of its durability and thickness.

This quality copper piping gives homeowners peace of mind and can last a long time in your home, even if you have acidic water.

  • K-Type

The K-type piping lasts for at least 100 years and this is the thickets copper piping of all time.

It is primarily used for water mains in cities and for other non-residential plumbing applications. This pipe can withstand even higher pressure than L-type, but it is not necessary to have this level of durability for your home’s plumbing.

Besides, these pipes are too expensive for most homeowners.

How Much Do Copper Pipes Cost?

Generally, the cost is $2-$8 per linear foot for each copper pipe. But it does vary by copper thickness and length.

You will agree that K-type is the most expensive, L-type is the middle expensive, and M-type is the least expensive of the copper pipes.

Why Are Copper Pipes Used for Plumbing?

Here are some reasons people use copper pipes:

  • They Last for A Long Time

This is obvious, I know. Copper pipes used as supply lines last for a minimum time of 50 years. Yes, they last longer than that.

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Also, the longevity of copper pipes is also affected by the specific type you’re using.

M-type plumbing pipes are copper pipes with the shortest lifespan. Most times, they max out at 50 years but can be shorter than that.

The reason M-type pipes don’t last long is because of how thin they are. The lack of material them more susceptible to the regular wear and tear of residential water usage.

Next, we have the L-type pipes, and they are made with more copper than their M-type counterparts. Thanks to the amount of copper used, L-type pipes are expected to last for fifty years at least, although they can remain functional for nearly double that amount of time.

L-type pipes are excellent for residential settings because of their affordability and durability.

Lastly, we have the K-type copper pipes. The K-type pipes are incredibly durable. They can remain in good working condition for well over one hundred years.

K-type copper pipes typically aren’t installed inside homes because they are overqualified for the residential setting.

A lot of homeowners also jump off their feet upon learning how pricey K-type pipes are.

  • They Shied the Water away from Pollutants

Copper pipes do not carry contaminated water into your home.

In fact, they do an amazing job of keeping external pollutants at bay.

  • They Are Good Conductors

Copper is a good conductor and retainer of heat.

It is great at transporting hot water to the spots where you need it.

Copper also holds up to fire well. They can hold up even in the aftermath of an accident.

  • They Are Malleable

The inherent malleability of the copper pipes makes it easy to adjust the shape and fit it over a joint. That is why they are so commonly used.

  • Light Yet Durable

Yes, that is right.

Copper pipes aren’t heavy. A lot of plumbers in my region like working with them because they’re easy to move around and are lightweight.

  • They can be Recycled

Copper pipes can be recycled at the end of their lifespan.

Copper is a material that can be recycled. Instead of the copper pipes going to waste, they can be transformed into other materials that will serve other purposes.

The Disadvantages of Using Copper in Plumbing

Yes, even copper has weak points and they include:

  • They don’t work well with all types of water

Copper works best with water that has a pH level in the range of 7.0 to 8.4. The material can still work well with water with a pH level as low as 6.5, but that’s about as far down as it will go.

That means copper is not compatible with overly alkaline or acidic water.

Acidic or alkaline water will affect the structural integrity of the copper pipes. The way may then corrode the copper or leach the copper into your water system as it moves along your plumbing system.

Now, if you consume such water, you could get sick.

  • They are Pricey

Copper is way more expensive than many modern alternatives.

You can save money by installing PEX or PVC pipes in your home.

The Causes Of Copper Pipe Corrosion

Your copper pipe will corrode even if your water level is within the ideal pH range.

Here are some potential causes of copper corruption. Watch out for them if you want to keep your copper pipes intact.

  • Soil Quality

Copper may degrade if you cover it with solid with lots of organic matter or soil types that are rich in acid.

Like the water, it’s the acidity that eats away at the pipe and causes it to degrade much faster.

  • Chlorine

Copper and chlorine aren’t friends.

In fact, Chlorine will cause copper to become corrosive real quick.

So, keep these two substances away from each other as often as possible.

Water with traces of chlorine can be damaging to the walls of copper pipes. You may also be causing damage to your copper pipes if you like using disinfectants that feature chlorine at home.

  • Electricity

Direct currents of electricity will harm your copper pipes.

Yes, you might not have electricity close to where your pipes are, knowingly but establishments such as transmission systems, mining equipment, and transit systems are known for releasing some stray currents lose.

  • High Water Pressure

Regular flowing water speed is fine for copper pipes. But, if the water going into your home constantly moves at high speeds, it may wear down the copper.

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The copper pipes will degrade quickly if you continually expose them to the high pressure of the swiftly moving water.

  • Improper Installation

A copper pipe incorrectly installed will corrode quicker than expected.

It exposes the copper pipes to corrosive elements that they typically won’t be exposed to.

Even though copper pipes are indeed quite durable, they won’t stand a chance if they are exposed to damaging elements.

You should work with professional plumbers if you want to avoid any troubles by incorrectly installed copper pipes. They’ll ensure that the copper pipes are in the right place and remain useful parts of your home for several decades to come.

ALSO SEE: How Long Do Pex Pipes Last?

Types of Corrosion in Copper Pipes

There are two types of corrosion in copper pipes:

  • Pitting Corrosion
  • Galvanic Corrosion

Galvanic Corrosion

This happens when the plumber connects your copper with a steel or aluminum pipe.

Normally, they shouldn’t do that but it can happen.

Steel and copper or iron create a galvanic reaction, which results in corrosion and the creation of patina.

Pitting Corrosion

The pitting corrosion occurs when the pipe gets in contact with hypochlorite, chloride, or bromide ions.

It’s one of the most common types of corrosion plumbers deal with

When left untreated, both types of corrosion will thin the pipe, shortening its life span. As lots of factors influence the creation of corrosion, it’s not possible to state how long copper pipes last precisely.

The Signs That Your Copper Pipes Are Corroded

Corroded copper pipes can do real ad lasting damage to your home and to your health too.

Here are some signs to watch out for:

  • Visible Damage on The Copper Pipes

You should inspect the copper pipes while keeping an eye out for rust. Use your fingers to check for rust if you’re having a tough time differentiating it from the appearance of the copper.

In my case, I discovered leaks. Leaks are sure signs of trouble for copper pipes.

So, check the above, sides, and under the pipes for leaks.

  • Water Discoloration

Water discoloration (usually yellowish or even bluish) has traces of copper in it.

A sure way to be double sure is to fil up a transparent glass and examine it that way.

  • Strange Odor Coming from The Water & Funny Taste

Copper in water gives off an unpleasant smell and tastes funny.

Most times, you’d have a visceral reaction to it as you bring it closer to your nose.

The odor should serve as enough of a warning to you. So, refrain from even tasting that water because doing so could cause some health issues.

How Can You Prolong The Life Of Copper Pipes?

To prolong the life of your copper pipes, you should regularly clean them.

I use both household items and commercial cleaners to keep my copper pipes free from debris.

If it’s been years since you cleaned yours, then I suggest letting the professionals work on them.

Phosphate feeders also do a great job of protecting copper pipes. They are especially good at keeping the inner walls of the copper pipes protected, which is important because you cannot clean those directly.

Alternatives To Copper Piping

Don’t want to use copper piping? Here are some alternatives to Copper pipes you can use for your home:

  • Chlorinated Polyvinyl-Chloride (CPVC)

Cpvc pipe is another type of pipe material that lasts 50-75 years.

Costs: $.50- $1.00 per linear foot.

  • PEX

Pex is another type of pipe material that lasts 40-50 years.

Costs: $.50 – $2 per linear foot

Cannot be used in direct sunlight, unless painted

A popular choice amongst home DIY and by plumbers. However, it is more expensive than CPVC due to fittings.

Lastly, rodents like it, and it resembles polybutylene so many companies don’t like to use it.

Other Piping No Longer Used

These types are no longer used due to their health hazards and the chance of leaking.

  • Galvanized Steel

Made with thicker material, Galvanized steel is an alternative to copper pipes used in homes before the 1960s.

The lifespan of this material is 20-50 years.

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It comes with a Zinc coating to prevent corrosion

Disadvantages

It rusts easily.

It transports lead into your water system and this is very bad.

Replacement is $3,000 – $4,000

  • Lead

Lead is an alternative to copper pipes installed in homes in the 1900s and lasts about 100 years

It can cause health issues when it leaks into the water supply

Disadvantages

It doesn’t give full value

  • Polybutylene

Made from grey plastic, Polybutylene is an alternative to copper pipes but not recommended and is no longer used.

It was quite popular in the 1970s – 90’s.

Disadvantages:

Water with chlorine breaks them unexpectedly

They’re prone to breaking quick

Few thousand dollars to replace

Why Choose L-Type Copper Pipe for Repiping?

Although M-type meets building code expectations in some areas, it doesn’t meet the building code everywhere. This is where L-type has the upper hand.

L-type copper lasts longer and withstands higher pressure and more acidity, so you won’t have ro re-pipe your home again.

Sounds cool, yeah? I thought so too.

Investing in an L-type copper pipe is a wise decision if you plan on being in your home for the next 10 to 20 years. It’s also a good decision if you plan on passing the house down to your children.

Don’t you think?

When Should Copper Plumbing Be Replaced?

Copper pipes should be replaced when:

  • Pipes bent or broken

Broken or bent pipe lose their structural integrity and need to be replaced immediately.

Copper pipes can be cleaned or repaired when:

Do Plumbers Still Use Copper Pipes?

Yes, plumbers now use copper pipes for minor repairs. Most plumbers now prefer PEX piping to repair large areas of copper with a shark bite fitting.

Pex is a flexible pipe material that is cheaper and easier to install than copper. The downside is that PEX doesn’t last as long as copper pipes.

How Long Does Copper Pipe Last

How Often Should Copper Pipes Be Replaced?

It is recommended to replace copper pipes every 80 to 100 years. But if you observe pinhole leaks then you should repair it ASAP. Failure to do so will lead to more pinhole leaks.

More than one pinhole leak is a sign you should replace at least a portion of the copper piping rather than replacing the entire plumbing.

In some cases, build-up inside the pipes can’t be cleared using tools. Therefore, you can remove the affected part by sawing either end of the copper pipe and then using special fasteners to secure a new section of copper pipe.

Can Copper Pipes Rust and Will This Impact Their Life Span?

Yes, copper can still rust.

When they corrode, copper pipes turn green or, rarely, black. This green tint is the patina, which is basically the same as red rust on iron. The patina’s chemical components turn the upper layer of copper green, and this is that tint you may notice. Yes, this is the same process that makes your vintage copper jewelry change color.

Other causes of corrosion on copper pipes include:

  • Oxidizing acids
  • Ammonia
  • Sulfur
  • Heavy-metal salts

So, How Long Do Copper Pipes Last Once There Is A Patina On Them?

Patina most times is a sign of leaks and leaks is never a good thing. When you neglect patina, you can expect the lifespan of your copper pipe reduced by half.

Will Pinhole Leaks Shorten the Pipe’s Lifespan?

When fixed on time, pinhole leaks are fine. However, when neglected, pinhole leaks will cause too much damage to your pipeline.

How Long Do Copper Pipes Last In Concrete?

Copper piping in concrete lasts at least 50 years, on average, but may last more than 100.

How Long Do Copper Pipes Last In Florida?

In Florida, Copper pipes last 20 years to 50 years or more. It will depend on the type of pipe and also the acidity of the water.

Bottom Line

Factors such as water Ph, pipe thickness, soil, care, maintenance, etc. affect the service life of pipes. So you should do your best to maintain these lines to ensure your plumbing system runs smoothly.

And don’t forget to contact a professional if you suspect your pipes are leaking.

Author: Howard S. Baldwin

My name is Howard S. Baldwin. I am a work-at-home dad to three lovely girls, Jane + Hannah + Beauty. I have been blogging for the last 3 years. I worked for other Home and Lifetsyle blogs, did hundreds of product reviews and buyers’ guides. Prior to that, I was a staff accountant at a big accounting firm. Needless to say, researching and numbers are my passion. My goal is to be an informative source for any topic that relates to DIY life and homemaking.

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