Galvanic Reactions

Home Inspection Galvanic Reaction Solid State

Unless you work regularly with metals or have a really good memory of high school physics, galvanic reactions are not something you may have heard about for a long time but it may be a problem developing in your home.

What is a Galvanic Reaction?

When two dissimilar metals are allowed to touch, there is a chemical reaction that takes place at the atomic level which can allow the metals to deteriorate and rust prematurely. The rate and intensity of this reaction is based on the different electronic potentials between two dissimilar metals.

Why is Galvanic Reaction a Problem for Homes?

In our homes we have natural gas and water constantly under pressure. Copper lines that are commonly used for both are highly susceptible to this galvanic reaction and if these lines are allowed to contact steel ducting, aluminum strapping, or are joined incorrectly to iron piping, the copper will oxidize (rust) and create holes.

In the case of natural gas, we risk a house explosion from leaking gas fumes and in the case of cold water, we risk major flood damage. In some cases where there is a large amount of hot water, such as a boiler system, we risk flood damage and possible personal burn injuries from hot water if we are too near it when a pipe may fail.

How do I know if I have a Galvanic Reaction Risk?

You need to understand if the correct building materials that should be in place. This can be difficult to see when materials are concealed behind finishes but a professional home inspector is trained to watch for possible galvanic reaction points. Also, plumbers, pipe fitters, electricians, and other trades are also trained to watch for these possible problems in their areas of expertise. 

Unfortunately too many handy people are not aware of this galvanic reaction and will use incorrect materials. Always hire qualified trades people to work on your home as many risks of using unqualified people can take years to develop but are a safety concern for you and your family.

By James Bell - Owner/Operator of Solid State Inspections Inc.