Disadvantages of Yellow Brass Fittings

Published: 22nd August 2010
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No one likes calling the plumber, but if you've ever been in a situation where you see water leaking from the middle of a copper or brass pipe, you know there is really no choice. Leaky pipe problems like this often happen simply because of disadvantages of brass pipe materials.

Brass is a copper alloy made of zinc and copper. These pipes usually come in two varieties: red and yellow. The more yellow the pipe, the more zinc it has in it. Problems stemming from these are numerous. For starters, the zinc in the pipes is know to "dezincify." This is a process of corrosion that causes the zinc in the pipe to transform into zinc oxide, a whitish powder that can clog pipes and fixtures. 

Dezincification also weakens the structure of yellow brass pipes and leaves them prone to pinhole leaks. This type of corrosion in yellow brass pipes starts on the inside of the pipe, so it's frequently hard to detect until it's too late. Eventually, however, the process of dezincification in the yellow brass will create a pinhole where water will slowly (at first) leak through the hole and leave behind mineral deposits on the outside of the pipe. As you might expect, the pinhole leak will either continue to grow or the water pressure will push through the mineral deposits, and you'll have an indoor sprinkler on your hands. Yellow brass problems are not exclusive to pipes, either. Many pipe fittings and valves are made with yellow brass, and they are prone to the same sets of problems. 

How quickly yellow brass pipes degrade depends on several factors including the acidity, pressure, and chemicals in the water passing through the pipes. Only a qualified plumber or home inspector could give an accurate estimate of how long a particular piece of plumbing will last.

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