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Keep Coastal Corrosion at Bay

This is the time of year that we all start to get a little bit anxious. It has been months since we have had any time off, which got us daydreaming about a nice, relaxing vacation to the beach! Ah yes, the warm breeze as it comes off the ocean, palm trees swaying in the breeze by the ocean, playing volleyball by the ocean, fishing on the ocean, eating by the ocean, swimming in the ocean – in case you did not notice, we are trying to hint at something here.

Whether you think the coast can be a beautiful spot to visit or a terrifying destination ever since you watched Sharknado, it presents many challenges, regardless of your take on these areas. The storms, the flooding, the plumbing. Wait, the plumbing?

Plumbing in coastal areas presents many unique challenges. Salty air can travel beyond just a few blocks from the beach, impacting more than just those fantastic beach residences we all love to visit on vacation.

Depending on several factors such as wind, wave height, and landscape, saltwater can be found in the air, causing pipe corrosion up to fifty miles inland. Surrounded by water on three sides, Florida has the most coastline in the contiguous United States, resulting in some of the highest rates of corrosive salty air in the United States. Salt air deposits have even been found up to one hundred miles inland! So it’s not just your coastal customers dealing with these issues; it can be someone living hours away from the beach dealing with corrosion.

According to a study done by the University of Washington, even Boulder, CO has the same level of salt detected in its air as a typical coastal community, despite closing in on a thousand miles from the nearest ocean (not to mention a mile above sea level)! University of Washington researchers hypothesize that this phenomenon can also be found in other surprising locations. With that said, it’s crucial to inform your coastal customers to be on the lookout for corroded pipes, even if they do not think it will be a significant issue.

Saltwater gets into the air, which may provide that friendly, beachy ambiance many of us appreciate, but it can present many issues for structures in the area. That saltwater can cause homeowners’ pipes to corrode over time, which leads to leaks and, eventually, burst pipes if not addressed. Corroded pipes can also cause other issues such as poor water pressure due to corrosion inside the pipe building up. These metals can even get into drinking water, meaning your customers could ingest these harmful metals! This can lead to health issues for your clients, so it is particularly important to remind them to inspect and keep an eye out for pipe corrosion continually.

There are a multitude of issues for you and your customers to look out for, not even considering floodwaters from the ocean. If a flood occurs and saltwater comes into contact with your customers’ piping, it can spell disaster depending on the type of pipes. If saltwater does make it to your customer’s property, advising your client to flush the system would be the best solution. There is no guarantee that saltwater did not get inside of their pipes, which could cause damage from the inside out, continuing to cause harm to their plumbing. This damage would be difficult for them to notice since the main tell-tale signs are taking place inside the piping instead of where it would be visible.

Problem Pipes

Copper is perhaps the most easily corroded of all types of piping. Copper pipes are still used heavily in the plumbing industry due to their durability, reliability, and price point, but these pipes are not necessarily an ideal choice for the coast. When the salt interacts with the copper, it essentially changes the elemental makeup of the copper, believe it or not. As a result, the pipes will turn from that shiny penny color to look more like an old green penny. When you see these warning signs, you should advise your customer that they need to repair or replace these pipes immediately before considerable damage occurs to their property. This could be done by either replacing the corroded section if the damage is not too substantial, or you may advise your customer that they need to completely re-pipe their property, depending on the extent of the corrosion. While it may seem like an enormous undertaking, it could be the better option and be cheaper overall than needing to constantly replace small sections of pipe or dealing with a flood if the corrosion is not caught in time. Also, advise your customers that any exposed pipes be covered to try to save them from the corrosive properties of the salty air.

Another option that has been used for plumbing in coastal areas is galvanized steel piping. These pipes are anti-corrosive in nature but still were found to have rust from the inside out. Your customer will be able to tell when corrosion occurs within their steel pipes by the water coming out of their faucets. This will be easily visible when your customer takes a big drink of water from the faucet and sees that their quality H20 looks like a far less appetizing red or brown color. Hydrating is key after spending all that time out in the sun enjoying the plethora of beachy activities, and it’s hard to hydrate correctly with water when it comes out of the faucet looking like molasses. These pipes’ popularity has tanked over time due to their penchant for interior corrosion, sheer weight, and expense of repairing, but they are still found in some older construction homes.

Preferred Piping

The most resistant piping option of all for your coastal customers is plastic. PVC and PEX pipes are the best options to tackle the saltwater problem. PEX resists corrosion and scale build-up, which are excellent features to have in your plumbing regardless of where your customers live, but especially for those impacted by the ocean’s salty air. PVC is another standard for plumbing in areas impacted by saltwater in the air. This is due to its anti-corrosive nature; however, the harsh sunlight can take a toll on these pipes, so that is something to keep in mind. If there are any exposed pipes, you should again advise your customer to either paint the pipes or cover them to prevent UV damage. This would cause the PVC to become brittle, leading again to leaks and cracks in the pipe, which could spell disaster if not caught soon enough. The tell-tale signs of wear and tear for this type of piping are apparent to the naked eye as long as they are exposed. They will physically crack, and it is relatively easy to see in these types of piping.

Keep Corrosion at Bay

It is important to advise all your customers, regardless of their proximity to the ocean, to keep an eye out for any cracking or corrosive signs. They should schedule annual checks with you to ensure the piping quality is still intact, especially in older construction homes. In newer construction homes, you should advise that they schedule a bi-annual inspection of the pipe condition to ensure no issues are forming or overlooked. Ensuring these pipes are monitored is vital so that your customers do not experience these issues, which can damage their beach dream homes or themselves by ingesting harmful metals from corrosion inside their pipes.

Written by Catherine Lauer – Marketing Communications Specialist, Supply Smart

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