If you have an unfinished basement, you may have noticed occasional drips of moisture from your copper piping at some point. Hopefully, this is not something that you noticed because of damp, brownish patches that developed on the outside of your ceiling drywall or drop tiles. "Sweating" pipes are a common plumbing issue and easily remedied, but the term itself has different meanings for different people.
No, it's not what you think. Sure, most of us perspire when working hard and the best plumbers in London will certainly work hard to solve your plumbing problems. When pros talk about sweating however, we're referring to a specific plumbing technique. Sweating pipes is the process of joining two pipes together by using a torch and solder at the junction point. Requiring a fair amount of practice for the do-it-yourself'er, it's commonly done to replace damaged piping or to extend water service during a renovation.
If that wasn’t confusing enough, there’s another meaning for the term “sweating pipes”. This other meaning is used much more commonly when talking about plumbing.
Moisture can sometimes develop on the outside of water pipes, whether they are made of copper, galvanized steel or even plastic. It's less common on plastic piping however, since plastic does not conduct temperature as much as metal piping can. The confusion over sweating pipes is that the moisture is not actually being excreted from the inside of the pipe. If dripping water is indeed coming from inside the pipe, it can indicate a possible rupture or a broken joint, and that's a whole separate issue.
The water on the outside of a sweating pipe is actually condensation. This occurs when there's a significant temperature differential between the outside of the pipe and the surrounding air. The same thing happens to your glass when you're enjoying a frosty beverage in your backyard during the summer. When your cold water supply pipes are exposed to the warm and somewhat humid air of your home, moisture will form which can sometimes become excessive.
In an unfinished basement, you don't need a plumber to tell you that sweating pipes can be a nuisance and possibly a hazard due to small puddles of water collecting on the floor. In a finished basement, however, it's a much more serious issue. Over time, mould, mildew and rot will build up on the inside of drywall and tiles, and in the studded wall cavity. Not only a major structural concern if not detected and remedied, there are also potentially serious health implications if mould is allowed to grow and become airborne through the home's heating and cooling system.
In most cases, fixing a sweating pipe is a simple matter, unless you have to break into a finished ceiling to do it. If you are doing a basement renovation or just need to stop the dripping condensation in an unfinished basement, make sure to insulate the cold water supply pipes. Affordable and readily-available at most hardware stores, the grey, foam tubing easily wraps around the pipe in order to keep the cooler metal from coming in contact with the warmer surrounding air. In addition, and if the condensation appears to be excessive, it may be a good idea to test the moisture content of your home and use a dehumidifier if necessary.
Occasionally, the location of sweating pipes in your home will require the services of a professional plumber. Not unheard of in home renovations, particularly those of older homes, builders might install electrical systems, junction boxes or even breaker panels too close to existing piping. The potential hazards of condensation in this case are obvious, and will require a professional plumber to re-route the water supply - likely employing that other type of "sweating".
For this or any other plumbing issue in your home, contact the BEST plumbers in London for a free estimate. You will be glad you did!