a key issue with CPvC installation is environmental stress cracking (ESC) caused by
chemical attack. ESC occurs when CPVC comes in contact with incompatible substances
either inside or outside the pipe or fitting. Various substances have been deemed
incompatible with CPVC. Many of these substances are common products used in building
construction. Lists of incompatible substances are manufacturer-specific, so not all CPVC is
the same from a chemical compatibility standpoint.
CPVC pipes and fittings are subject to ESC from chemical attack by certain types of the
following materials: cutting oils used in the cutting process for upstream metal pipe, leak
detection substances like fragrances, essential oils or dishwashing liquids, spray foam
insulation, fire stop caulking, plasticizers from flexible electric wire insulation, rubber or
elastomers touching the pipe, mold abatement materials, fungicides, insecticides, cooking
oils and grease, oil paints, certain types and concentrations of anti-freeze, and so on.
The complexities of ESC and incompatibility issues make it crucial to have a proper analysis
in chemical attack situations. Because a construction project is often done in phases, with
many different contractors using various substances, protecting CPVC installations from
potential chemical attack takes proper care and attention. without due care, ESC and leaks
will occur, as will claims from these failures.
fail. So, when a failure does occur, there
is likely some party that made a mistake
along the way. Navigating the course between cause analysis and recovery dollars
can be filled with pitfalls, from product liability defenses, contractual defenses and
spoliation of evidence issues.
With a multitude of causes comes a
myriad of potential subrogation targets.
Developing the relevant list of interested
parties, and placing targets on notice, is
crucial before finalizing your subrogation
evaluation. The critical point, however is
recognizing that when CPVC fails, there
are numerous potential avenues for subrogation to be explored. K
proper shipping and handling practices
that may cause CPVC pipes and fittings
to be crushed, bent, or severely abraded.
Speaking of CPVC failures storage and
handling by the installer, including exposure to sunlight, can result in malfunctions. When a CPVC piping system is designed, special attention must be paid so
that booster pump pressure is not too high,
and so pressure regulators are present when
needed. Additionally, CPVC is not appropriate for use in pressurized-air applications, and that so thermal expansion must
be considered and accounted for. Once the
CPVC makes it to the job site, a myriad of
problems can occur, including shoddy assembly techniques, an incorrect adhesive
being applied, mixing CPVC with PVC
components, too much adhesive, too little
adhesive, too much dry time, support claim
issues, and improper alignment of pipes
per discovery of the true cause of failure.
Skin oils may cover up other more important aggressive materials that may be
on the surface. If you cannot leave the
failed parts in their installed position,
then wrap them in sheets of aluminum
foil before placing them in any plastic
evidence storage bag. Materials in plastic bags can leach out and contaminate
oils, or aggressive agents on the surfaces
of the failed CPVC parts. Also, do not
break open cracked CPVC pipes and fittings to see what is inside. A skilled forensic scientist should do that, and only
under controlled conditions after notifying all interested parties to avoid allegations of spoliation of evidence.
With respect to a CPVC failure, forensics is not a mechanical/metals evaluation (black iron, copper, and so on) but
rather it is a chemical/materials evaluation, which requires unique skills and
specialized examination methods. Looking at CPVC at the microscopic and
molecular level, using various chemical
examination techniques (gas chroma-tography-mass spectrometry, fourier
transform infrared spectroscopy, and
so on) may be needed to determine the
cause of a failure.
Erick Kirker is a member of the Subrogation and Recovery Department at
Cozen O’Connor, practicing in the firm’s
Philadelphia office. Kirker’s property subrogation matters have included major fire
losses, building and roof collapses, water
damage and flood claims, and sprinkler
system failures. He may be reached at
Pinpointing the Cause of Loss
CPvC and Subrogation