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Halting electrolysis in water pipes, fixing a leaky chimney

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Q. Our 18-year-old residential copper water lines are troubled by electrolysis. The water appears to be dissolving the copper in the pipes, thus staining the tub and basins a bluish-green. Some pipes have pinholes, and leak. We've tried a number of solutions, such as a dielectric union, and have even separated the electrical system and grounded the water lines to an outside copper stake that is driven into the ground. Even so, the problem persists. What is the answer? Philip J. Roe Buena Vista, Colo.

For those who don't know about electrolysis, the problem results in disintegration at the connection between the copper and iron pipes. An electrolytic fitting between dissimilar metals thwarts the reaction.

Ask an experienced commercial water-softening firm to test the water to determine its mineral content and recommend a water conditioner to remove the offending minerals. That done, the bluish-green discoloration should disappear.

The mechanical device that softens the water will also clean out the pipes, but at the same time it may produce some leaks. Wherever leaks occur, you will have to replace the pipes.

Q. Our house has an open-beam ceiling, a roof pitch of 3 inches in 12, and a large, used-brick chimney piercing it. Reflashing of the chimney and replacing bricks above the flashing have not prevented leaks. The roofer says the flashing should be recaulked every couple of years. I think the counterflashing should be installed with the top embedded in the masonry so that periodic caulking is unnecessary. Someone recommends a steel chimney pan with the edges folded down over the brick one course above where the counterflashing is embedded. Should we tear down the top of the chimney and start over again?

Bruce H. Morgan Annapolis, Md.

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