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  1. #1
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    Default Copper pipes turning black on new home

    I got a call from one of my investor clients and had me go look at a house that had been inspected by someone else.. The other inspector noticed that the copper lines in the home where turning black.. and wrote on his report "Chinese Drywall".
    The bank got a hold of this and without getting a second opinion called a few clients (my customer for one) and told them that they needed a bid to Demolish the house... (bank does not want to deal with it)
    Granted that this house was build in 2010... We live on the border from Mexico and all of our drywall is from Mexico (2 hours by 18 wheeler to get it here) What can be causing the pipes to turn black.. I pulled a few pieces of sheetrock from the attic and they are clearly labeled from Mexico... I also pulled the cover on the electrical panel box (in garage) and all lines were looking good... I was also getting black residue when the water was on... And last, I can rub the black off the copper pipes with my fingers...

    What do you guys think it can be

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  2. #2
    Antonios Spiliopoulos's Avatar
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    Default Re: Copper pipes turning black on new home

    Hve you checked the whole house to see if all the pipes are coated in the black substance? I have seen something like this before, it came from the flux used on the pipe and oxidation. If it wipes off see if you can collect a sample and bring it into a science lab at a near by colledge.


  3. #3
    Gene South's Avatar
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    Default Re: Copper pipes turning black on new home

    Chinese drywall?


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    Default Re: Copper pipes turning black on new home

    Quote Originally Posted by Gene South View Post
    Chinese drywall?
    There has been a problem with this product with out gassing of excessive sulpher gas that attacks copper piping and wiring.

    See links:
    Chinese Drywall Problem

    Welcome to Chinesedrywall.com


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    Default Re: Copper pipes turning black on new home

    I have seen this in an old house on a Wyoming ranch. The cause (I think) turned out to be bacteria growing in the hot water heater and pipes (well water). There was a strong smell of rotten eggs form the water. Over time, I theorized that the hydrogen sulfide gas had discolored the pipes. Running some bleach through the system killed off the bacteria and the smell disappeared.


  6. #6
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    Default Re: Copper pipes turning black on new home

    check the copper wiring. It is black also, strong possibility of chinese drywall.


  7. #7
    Gene South's Avatar
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    Default Re: Copper pipes turning black on new home

    Go in attic and look on back side of drywall and see if says made in China.


  8. #8
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    Default Re: Copper pipes turning black on new home

    Definitely not chinese drywall. Like I said, we checked the drywall in various areas (removed it) and it all had "made in Mexico" on it..
    Antonios... The whole house did look like that.. I noticed that the primary disconnect was inside the garage and that was the only area that did not have "black copper lines"
    I will collect some samples and have a lab run some tests...
    Lon.. How did you run the bleach.. directly on the water heater... I am glad you pointed that out since this house also had the rotten egg smell to it.. I assumed it was a bad annode.. The house is city water though....

    Richard Flores
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  9. #9
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    Default Re: Copper pipes turning black on new home

    Potential Meth lab!


  10. #10
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    Default Re: Copper pipes turning black on new home

    Quote Originally Posted by Ken Corbitt View Post
    Potential Meth lab!

    There we go.. Bingo LOL....

    Richard Flores
    Professional Inspector TREC # 8139
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  11. #11
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    Default Re: Copper pipes turning black on new home

    I see black pipe often and in my case it has never had a thing to do with Chinese drywall (the reality of which is clearly been overestimated). As a start get to the attic and pull up the insulation to see the drywall label and go from there. You may have to pull some drywall from other random areas as well. All the black pipe I've seen is a result of cheap pipe from Mexico. Nearly all black pipe I've run into are original 1930's to 1970's homes that have had a re-pipe, window retrofit, re-roofs, electrical panel/service upgrades, newer interior finishes (cabinets, countertops, flooring, etc.) HVAC added, etc., but still maintenance the original floor plan and wall finish materials.


  12. #12
    mike huntzinger's Avatar
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    Default Re: Copper pipes turning black on new home

    you can put bleach in the water heater be removing the flex line at the top and of course drain a gal. off with the drain line, be shure the water supply is off


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    Default Re: Copper pipes turning black on new home

    There is a problem with copper piping and low PH well water, but it works from the inside out; minimal exterior discoloring I know of until the copper is almost gone. Water with high acid content, ( no problem for humans ), slowly eats up the copper. Have this problem at my home; foothills, acid rain.


  14. #14
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    Default Re: Copper pipes turning black on new home

    Richard, is the discoloring localized or throughout the home?

    Sulfurs can cause this(like Chinese drywall but they may be natural or from stored chemicals) but other chemicals can cause the condition as well.

    Is more prevalent on the hot pipe verses cold?

    Don Hester
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    Default Re: Copper pipes turning black on new home

    I know you have investigated the Chinese drywall deal and ruled that out but you may still have some.
    First, does Mexico act as an importer of Chinese goods??
    Next, there will usually be at least two different grades of drywall in most houses, sometimes more. Green board, 1/2 inch, 5/8 inch, 8', 12' lengths, will come from different runs if not totally different plants. You might even have different brands of the same type product within the same house.
    So without looking at the back of each and every piece or testing each and every piece it is rather difficult to positively rule out the possibility that you have some.
    That said I would be looking for other causes, like bleach, pool chemicals, etc. that were used or stored nearby.
    Were the copper wires in the proximity of the black pipes discolored?

    Jim Luttrall
    www.MrInspector.net
    Dallas, Texas

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    Default Re: Copper pipes turning black on new home

    I am the one who inspected the house that Richard posted about. After seeing the post last night, I actually called Richard this morning to discuss more in detail about what I found in the house and what I had posted in the report. I thought I would share it here just in case someone else runs into a similar situation.

    About 2 weeks before I inspected this house, I had an agent that I know call me and ask me about “Chinese Drywall” because she had heard of a house in McAllen that had it(not the house from the post) and she wanted to know what were some of the symptoms. I, like most people, had heard of the “ChineseDrywall” problems but I had not actually seen it and was not aware that it might even be in our area so I told her I would research it and let her know. I am glad I did, because when I went into this particular house, immediately I started seeing all of the tell-tale signs that I read about and saw in pictures while I was researching the subject.

    Both AC evaporator coils in the attic were completely black, all of the copper pipes in the attic were black, copper pipes under the sinks were black, and I removed some outlet covers (more than one) to check the copper wiring, and all of it was black. Another symptom is corrosion of the plumbing fixtures and the silver on the mirrors, which I found also, plus when you ran the water from any fixture, the water was black at first and it smelled heavily of rotten eggs (sulfur).

    So I checked in the attic under the insulation to see if there was a label or stamp on the drywall and all I found were pieces of the tape (the tape that holds 2 pieces of sheetrock together when it is sold from the store) that said “Hecho in Mexico”. But, I remember reading on several web sites while researching the subject that there were reports of some of the “Chinese Drywall”coming through Mexico (and even Canada) and just being re-labeled.

    In my report,being I’m not a contaminated drywall expert, I basically reported that “…there was evidence consistent with contaminated “Chinese Drywall…”” and recommended further investigation and testing. Of course I got a call from the bank that owns the property a few days later while they were on site and I told them the same thing, that the evidence was consistent but the only way to be sure was to have it analyzed. The next thing I know they are having the house demolished. Bottom line is…my clients were happy and thankful that I had found the problem and saved them from a potential major disaster.

    I did not intend on writing a novel but if any of this information might help some of my colleagues in case they run into this stuff then I am glad to do it. I’m posting some of the actual pictures from the house.

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  17. #17
    Gene South's Avatar
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    Default Re: Copper pipes turning black on new home

    Gabe, what town was this house in that all the black copper? DFW area?

    Thanks

    Gene


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    Default Re: Copper pipes turning black on new home

    Hi Gene,
    It was in Mission, TX...neighbors McAllen down in the Rio Grande Valley.

    Thanks,

    Gabe


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    Default Re: Copper pipes turning black on new home

    Quote Originally Posted by Gabe Hilliard View Post
    plus when you ran the water from any fixture, the water was black at first and it smelled heavily of rotten eggs (sulfur).
    Too bad more investigation will not be done. The water issue is unlikely to be from Chinese drywall. In that old ranch house in Wyoming that I described earlier, I think hydrogen sulfide had dispersed from the toilet and other water usage in the house for so long that the pipes etc had blackened. Heck, every plumbing fixture in the house was black, the toilet, sinks, and shower. The house was being used to house hunters so the rancher never bothered to clean it up, until I told him how to solve the problem.


  20. #20
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    Default Re: Copper pipes turning black on new home

    Interesting post!
    I'm a bit confused as to how a sealed water system under pressure can be affected by a gas external to the inside of the piping?
    Seems to me that if the corrosion permeated far enough into the piping, leaks would ensue.


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    Default Re: Copper pipes turning black on new home

    In all likelihood the copper, in this house, turned black due to the high sulfur content in the domestic water. I have seen this before in older houses built way before the Chinese drywall concerns. I hope, if this is the case, they didn't demolish the house when a simple water filtration system would have solved the problem


  22. #22
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    Default Re: Copper pipes turning black on new home

    Quote Originally Posted by bob smit View Post
    Interesting post!
    I'm a bit confused as to how a sealed water system under pressure can be affected by a gas external to the inside of the piping?
    Seems to me that if the corrosion permeated far enough into the piping, leaks would ensue.
    My conjecture is that the toilet and water usage releases enough sulfide gases into the air of the home to blacken the plumbing over time.


  23. #23
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    Default Re: Copper pipes turning black on new home

    This much is apparent. There is a sulfur problem from some source. I think Gabe made a good and responsibly stated call. Not all CDW was labeled as from China. Some is identified by the size and style of lettering of the manufacturer name.

    Another supporting clue that it may have been CDW was your comment regarding NOT finding it at the main disconnect in the garage. Assuming that the garage was isolated from the house by a door or more and that it was unconditioned space, it would not be uncommon for it to have little or no evidence if the drywall in the garage was not also CDW.

    Finally, contamination can occur from as little as a single sheet. So, not knowing what, if any repairs, remodels, whatever have occurred; determining that "no CDW is present" cannot occur from inspecting the back of sample sheets. Once a single sheet is found contamination is confirmed and it is just a matter of how much damage is there?

    Good call, Gabe. Time to shift to the "expert" guys to make the final decision and take responsibility.

    On the other hand, if the cause is from the "natural" environment, it may well evidence outside, as well as inside the house.

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    Default Re: Copper pipes turning black on new home

    Quote Originally Posted by Richard Flores View Post
    . I am glad you pointed that out since this house also had the rotten egg smell to it.. .....
    Any sulfur in the water in that area? I used to live in an area where there was a high sulfur content in the water. It ruins the copper. We ended up putting in a activated charcoal filter.

    Edit: I should have continued reading the other posts. I just saw someone else suggested sulfur water as well.


  25. #25
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    Default Re: Copper pipes turning black on new home

    A friend of mine had a sulfur problem so bad from the water that airation tanks, 3, filter sytemssssssss and drilling deeper and then on the other side of the property could not cporrect it. Black everywhere where there was copper.

    He also had the home torn down to sell the property to a small rancher that neighbored them. No one would by the home. This was in Mississippi

    That home smelled like rotted aborted eggs to the point of burning your eyes. For three years he never had the problem and it jusdt appeared one day.

    Answer to the next questuion, NO, they were not drilling for gas near by.

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    Default Re: Copper pipes turning black on new home

    Follow up to this post...
    I had the potential buyer/builder have experts test out the sheetrock.. They took samples though out the home and did the following tests.

    1. GC/ECD Test (Gas Chromatography/Electron Capture Detection)
    2. GC/MS Test (Gas Chromatography/Mass Spectrometry)
    3. Hydrogen sulfide emission test
    apparently all test came back negative, and the house is still standing...

    Richard Flores
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  27. #27
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    Cool Re: Copper pipes turning black on new home

    The proper professional would be an industrial hygienist. May require air sampling among other points.

    As for the 'rotten egg' smell, this is sulfate reducing bacteria in the DHW. You can treat with H2O2 then switch to a zinc or aluminum anode rod after flushing the sediment well.

    Whatever caused the darkening of the copper may have been a transient exposure so there' no guarantee it is still there and detectable. The larger issue is can all this copper remain in the house as is and will it recurr if replaced.

    Keep the fire in the fireplace.

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    Default Re: Copper pipes turning black on new home

    The home may have experienced two problems instead of all the symptoms being caused by one phenomena. All the high tech testing has made Chinese drywall a long shot. Therefore, I suggest a water/sulfur condition and possibly a life style issue (such as cooking drugs for whatever reason).

    I will say, I have seen a bunch of homes with Chinese drywall and the photos fit the pattern perfectly. However, Chinese drywall in one or two areas does not usually cause the copper discoloration throughout the house.

    I have never seen a house where demolition was justified by Chinese drywall. Just reduced resale value. The houses can be refurbished.

    Darrel Hood
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  29. #29
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    Default Re: Copper pipes turning black on new home

    The home may have experienced two problems instead of all the symptoms being caused by one phenomena. All the high tech testing has made Chinese drywall a long shot. Therefore, I suggest a water/sulfur condition and possibly a life style issue (such as cooking drugs for whatever reason).

    I will say, I have seen a bunch of homes with Chinese drywall and the photos fit the pattern perfectly. However, Chinese drywall in one or two areas does not usually cause the copper discoloration throughout the house.

    I have never seen a house where demolition was justified by Chinese drywall. Just reduced resale value. The houses can be refurbished.

    Darrel Hood
    DILIGENT PROPERTY SERVICES

  30. #30
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    Default Re: Copper pipes turning black on new home

    I'm pretty sure I read a thread on here a few years back about copper wire turning black due to a certain chemical used in treating for pests. Does anyone remember anything like that or have any info?


  31. #31
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    Default Re: Copper pipes turning black on new home

    Quote Originally Posted by Matt Fellman View Post
    I'm pretty sure I read a thread on here a few years back about copper wire turning black due to a certain chemical used in treating for pests. Does anyone remember anything like that or have any info?
    Sure. Phosphine gas especially enhanced by the presence of Ammonia (which is given off during the decomposition of some fumigant formulations) and high humidity (atmospheric moisture - or moisture in general) and higher temperatures, particularly in air with salf content (as found near the sea & gulf) may react with certain metals, particularly copper, copper compounds, silver and gold, to cause corrosion.

    Pesticide metals+phosphide fumigation pellets, tracking powders, etc. (aluminium phosphide, calcium phosphide or zinc phosphide) contact with (even atmospheric) moisture releases phosphines.

    As a result of this reaction any copper-containing equipment, especially electrical apparatus, may be severely damaged. During fumigation of buildings with phosphine special attention should be given to electric motors, electric wiring, switches, fire alarm systems, electronic systems or other pieces of equipment that contain copper." (BOND, E.J., DUMAS, T. & HOBBS, S. Corrosion of metals by the fumigant phosphine. 1984 J. Stored Prod. Res., 20. ).
    Quoted from Manual of fumigation for insect control - Contents

    Not unlike the copper (and other metals) corrosion seen in former clandestine meth "kitchens/labs", i.e. conditions produced during the hydriodic acid/red phosphorus "Red/P" method of methamphetamine production. Overheated hypophosphorous acid will release phosphine gas.


    IIRC the Industrial Hygenist from Colo. who posts here occasionally has some interesting pictures linked to or posted on a site, of former 'meth' "cook" sites.


  32. #32
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    Default Re: Copper pipes turning black on new home

    As to sulphite reducing bacteria, it is present in well water and will become noticeable in the hot water as the bacteria is anaerobic.

    Replacing the anode rod will not solve the problem and periodic treatment of the hot water tank with 3% or 6% hydrogen peroxide or bleach will kill it, the well should be treated too.

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  33. #33
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    Default Re: Copper pipes turning black on new home

    If newer construction, never been occupied, or been vacant for a long time, I'd first suspect dried out drainage & waste traps allowing "sewer burping gas" to build up. Sure is hot and humid down 'thar'.


  34. #34
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    Default Re: Copper pipes turning black on new home

    There is a lot of "defective drywall" here. Those pictures sure appear to be what I see here. Made in Mexico means nothing. It depends where the drywall supplier buys the materials. US Gypsum has had "defective drywall."

    Paul Kondzich
    Ft. Myers, FL.

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