Common Pipe Failures

Below are the most common pipe failures and the causes of those failures. CPVC failures are not limited to these particular problems.

Drain Pipes

A larger issue with CPVC is that it is not chemically resistant to all chemicals; this leads to drain and drainage system failures.

Fire Sprinkler Piping

Fire sprinklers with plastic pipe systems typically fail due to internal and external exposure to incompatible chemicals.

Hydronic Systems

CPVC typically works well for hydronic applications however, leakes in a local heat exchanger can destroy entire systems.

Potable Water

Potable water systems and fittings utilizing CPVC tend to degradate and often fail after only a few years of service.

CPVC PIPING IS NOT CHEMICALLY RESISTANT

We have been studying the causes of failure of CPVC piping systems for over a decade and have found that CPVC piping is NOT chemically resistant.

CPVC is resistant to most water soluble chemicals but is not resistant to most water insoluble hydrocarbon based chemicals. Some companies actually market CPVC drain piping for use in laboratory sinks. Something as simple as hand-lotion getting into the drain will cause the CPVC drain pipe to fail!

Recently we visited a research hospital that had to replace their entire sink drainage system because the CPVC pipes and fittings had turned brittle, cracked and failed. The cause of failure was due to simply laboratory personnel allowing small amounts of hand lotion to get into the sink drains.

CPVC pipe manufacturers are well aware of the incompatibility of CPVC drain piping toward most hydrocarbon based chemicals and yet they continue to promote the use of CPVC piping for sink drain piping in laboratories.

 A failed embrittled drainage system pulled from a hospital.

A failed embrittled drainage system pulled from a hospital.

 The hand lotion in this lab was the root cause of a drainage system failure.

The hand lotion in this lab was the root cause of a drainage system failure.

FIRST TO DOCUMENT & ADVISE OF INCOMPATIBILITY

With over a decade of experience performing failure analysis investigations on orange plastic (CPVC) fire sprinkler piping systems. We have found that most failures are caused by exposure to incompatible chemicals, on the inside (e.g., Allied ABF) and outside (e.g., fire caulk, spray foam, etc.).

  • We were the first (2007) to advise of incompatibility between antimicrobial lined steel pipe and CPVC.
  • We have performed failure analysis investigations on CPVC pipe samples removed from over 50 buildings in the past 12 years.

We investigate all CPVC Fire Sprinkler Piping including: Tyco, Viking, Harvel (Blazemaster), Spears (FlameGuard), and Victaulic (FireLock).

 A sub-section of a failed CPVC fire sprinkler pipe system.

A sub-section of a failed CPVC fire sprinkler pipe system.

 
 Unintentional overspray of building & insulating materials leads to failures.

Unintentional overspray of building & insulating materials leads to failures.

Thousands of U.S. buildings USE CPVC piping

Class action suits have been filed alleging national cover-ups of defects, exposing condominium and townhome owners to risk of personal injury as well as loss of life.*

  • CPVC is unforgiving and susceptible to failure if not properly installed by expertly trained professionals.
  • We offer chemical compatibility testing of spray foam insulations & fire caulking to deduce if they contain incompatible chemicals.
  • We've developed non-destructive testing technology to evaluate fire sprinkler system piping system to determine potential risks.
  • We also offer custom CPVC remediation plans.
 

Spray Foam INSULATION AND the SPF Alliance

Spray foam is a preferred insulation material because it both seals against air penetration and has a high R-value. However, most SPF contains fire retardant chemicals, called "esters", and amine catalysts that are highly incompatible with CPVC pipes and fittings.

Many failures of CPVC have resulted from exposure to spray foam.

In 2008, as an attempt to rebound dropping sales, SPF manufactures formed the SPF Alliance (SPFA) to prove SPF and CPVC piping were compatible. For all their merits, the SPFA is not an expertly trained CPVC forensic engineer, but rather a business collective. The SPFA stance on the matter of SPF-related CPVC failures is subjectively stated:

"...when (SPF's) are not properly applied there is the potential for excess heat that can lead to ballooning of the pipe and a subsequent failure."

Objectively, the tests were not properly conducted, the results were not published in any scientific journal; instead the SPFA published a white paper synopsis of their findings. Meanwhile lawsuits regarding failures of CPVC pipes and fitting exposed to spray foam continue.

 A high-res shot of SPF negatively impacting orange CPVC piping. 

A high-res shot of SPF negatively impacting orange CPVC piping. 

 CPVC piping with water damage from SPF application.

CPVC piping with water damage from SPF application.

 A heat exchanger installed to closely to CPVC piping.

A heat exchanger installed to closely to CPVC piping.

SMALL LEAKS can CRIPPLE VAST SYSTEMS 

CPVC (and sometimes PVC) is often specified as piping for hydronic heating/cooling system piping. CPVC works well for this application unless there is a leak in the heat exchanger.

A leaking heat exchanger allows for refrigerant to leak into, and then contaminate, the water in the piping system. Even a small leak will destroy the piping system causing the CPVC pipes and fittings to turn brittle and fail. Once contaminated, the entire piping system must be replaced.

Because of the significant risk of contamination we do not recommend the use of CPVC (or PVC) piping in the hydronic piping application.

CPVC can fail ONLY 10% into life expectancy

CPVC pipes and fittings are advertised for use in hot chlorinated water service because of its high heat resistance. However, some plumbers installing CPVC pipes and fittings used in continuous hot chlorinated water service report that the pipes and fittings degrade and become brittle after only a few years of use, read here for more.

Video courtesy of: News 6 WKMG - ClickOrlando.com