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About a year and a half ago, a plumber replaced a 3 foot section of copper pipe that had developed a pinhole leak. He put in a replacement section using sharkbite fittings because both ends of the section were cramped and close to wood.

Copper pipe, cold water line to our hot water heater, I don't know what "normal" pipe size is, 3/8" I guess? Our water here (Vancouver BC) is really soft.

Today I noticed that one of the sharkbite fittings had a slow drip coming from it. It just started because it's in a location that I look at pretty much every day (corner of the basement where I park my bike). When I got up and looked at the fitting, I can see the water seeping and dripping, it's maybe one drop per minute.

I haven't looked up yet whether it might be leaking because the pipe wasn't quite seated or has somehow worked out a bit. I'm going to try that and then get someone in to replace the fitting. In the meantime, I'm wondering if the fitting might blow apart. It's easy to catch the drip right now, but I wonder if the fact that it started leaking means it might fail completely?

I guess a related question would be: what would make a sharkbite fitting start to drip after a year and a half?

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  • Sharkbite fittings should only be used on hard copper, not soft. Do you have hard or soft copper pipes?
    – tnknepp
    Sep 27 at 20:04
  • I don't know... the pipes are whatever would have been used here 50 years ago when the house was built. The guy who installed it is pretty knowledgeable so I imagine he wouldn't have used a sharkbite if it's the wrong type of copper pipe. Sep 28 at 0:58
  • if they are dead straight they are hard copper, if they are wavy like a hose they are soft.
    – Jasen
    Sep 28 at 4:58
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3 foot section of copper pipe that had developed a pinhole leak. ... Our water here (Vancouver BC) is really soft.

While it could be the fitting, my initial reaction to this confluence of factors is "Well, then copper pipe is a terrible idea, and replacing a single section of copper pipe due to a pinhole is doing nothing about all the other sections of coper pipe being eaten by the water."

Where copper pipe is eaten by the water chemistry, you either need to alter the water chemistry or use pipe that does not corrode. And if you are replacing copper pipe that has been eaten, you need to look large-scale, because every bit of copper pipe in your house has been exposed to the same water for roughly the same amount of time.

So my first guess would be that the leak is most likely coming from the pipe beyond the replaced section.

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    To spell it out: Since the new leak seems to be coming from the fitting itself, it's most likely coming from the edge of the copper tubing that was very close to the original failure. This was probably significantly damaged previously, but undetected, so assumed to be "good" pipe. It has now failed inside the fitting and the water is dripping out. There' probably absolutely nothing wrong with the fitting itself and any catastrophic failure of the "fitting" would probably be a failure of the pipe it has been attached to.
    – FreeMan
    Sep 27 at 13:53
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My view on Sharkbite Fittings:

They are great for exposed plumbing. Especially for water heaters. They make a great quick disconnect system for appliances. I also am a big fan of their shutoff valves.

What I would not use them for us concealed work behind walls and ceilings. They are rated for it it they claim the rubber seal will last more than 20 years and are resistant to deterioration from corrosive water. But I simply don't trust them. I want my pipes to last 50 years.

The key to a good sharkbite connection is proper preparation of the pipe. Of you're using PEX, it's a no brainer. If you're using copper, you need to properly debur the fitting. Inserting a jagged sharp edge of copper into the fitting can tear the rubber o ring inside the sharkbite fitting. Also, don't use Emery cloth the clean the end of the pipe like you do when soldering. This can also cause a leak.

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"Can it fail catastrophically"? Yes, if you are going to sort it then do it properly by fitting a new connector and making sure the pipe is clean.

Trying to "play" with it, reseat it etc may just make it worse.

I would either put a bowl under it and get the plumber, or have the parts like new connectors, spare pipe etc and do it properly.

I would also look at seeing if I could get to a section of pipe before that connector like on the other side of the wall and make a new section.

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