Cliff May Mystery Plumbing Leak

Home improvement Q&A, pictures and news fro Mid Century Modern Homes and Houses(NOT for Real Estate)

Moderators: I_LUV_POWER!!!!, Joe, Adriene, moderns-r-us, Tony, Futura Girl, nichols, Java

egads
Mondo Lounge Lizard
Posts: 1671
Joined: Sat Nov 12, 2005 8:25 pm
Location: Long Beach CA

Postby egads » Thu Jan 14, 2010 6:27 pm

Hey, I started the suspense thing. (extra credit if you can name the movie the quote is from)

I bet it's a galvanized nipple. I have found it very easy to remove the board and batten to inspect the walls. I have done several sections of my house. I remove and label the boards, do some rewiring, add insulation, new tarpaper and reinstall the boards. This may be the best approach if there outside walls with plumbing. I can't remember Steven's kitchen layout. And whether it's been rearranged from the original. Here in the Long Beach tract, the kitchen sinks are back to back with the hall bath(or guest if no hall) A lot of the kitchens have had the sink moved to under an outside window during a remodel. Some May tracts had the sink there originally. The issue with a May prefab, is the vent pipes being run up through the headers that run along the top of the side walls. drilling them for vent pipes takes away a lot of structural strength. That is why plumbing is avoided on outside walls. I speculate that the houses with the sinks on the window wall must have the vent run to the wall between the kitchen and bath to go up through the roof.

User avatar
rockland
Mondo Lounge Lizard
Posts: 1504
Joined: Sun Dec 24, 2006 8:45 am
Location: wesley hills,NY

Postby rockland » Thu Jan 14, 2010 6:54 pm

Hmm. Ripley. Strangers on a Train? Very Patty Highsmith, that line.

I have a filtering system that baffled me for a while. I had a deep gurgling sound deep beneath
the sink but far down. It started up again yesterday. It sounds like an angry stomach on a fad
diet. Their is a tube similar to a fridge ice machine supply that i 'pinched' and the sound stopped.
Started up again and now has stopped again today. Drives me nuts. I sill insist that it is a bit of a
leaking issue. Internal, not a spray-ish scary sound.

Is your old water softening system completely shut down Stephen?

We were so proud having an explanation appointment in our closing costs to explain it all.
But we still have no idea how it works...it just does for now.

egads
Mondo Lounge Lizard
Posts: 1671
Joined: Sat Nov 12, 2005 8:25 pm
Location: Long Beach CA

Postby egads » Thu Jan 14, 2010 7:27 pm

Nope, not those.

A reverse osmosis water treatment system goes through a back flush of the membrane occasionally. The water used is sent down the drain. Look for a hose running into the drain. Usually just before the trap.

User avatar
Stephen
Modern Guru
Posts: 1197
Joined: Sun Jun 12, 2005 8:35 am
Location: Tustin, CA
Contact:

Postby Stephen » Fri Jan 15, 2010 12:50 am

Cliff May had a plethora of different kitchen designs for the prefabs. My house is a late 1954 model. The shared kitchen / bath wall in my house never ha the sink. It did, however, have the hookups for the washing machine. When I pulled off some of the siding I confirmed the sink was always under the window since that's where the pipes come out of the slab. Given the washing machine placement...that makes sense. The "island" wall has always had gas and I think the refrigerator was there at one point (now my fridge is where the washer used to be).

I've inspected the back side of EVERYTHING except behind the dishwasher (but used a shutoff valve) and the "new" water entry location to the house...which is in a corner of the kitchen behind a cabinet and 1 foot above the slab.

Unfortunately, the father-son plumbing team (50 years experience) didn't make it out today since the father had high-blood pressure at his regular doctor visit and they wanted to run tests on him all afternoon. It seems like the universe is trying to stop me from getting this fixed. And thy can't make it out until Tuesday.

This weekend I think I'm going to get my regular outdoor contractor (and certified Rinnai installer) out here to change the way the water comes into the house so I can isolate the house and outdoor circuits. Then I can time the leak rates for each circuit and have a much better idea about the magnitude of what's going on.

Just going with basic common sense I have to think that if the leak is either in the 60+ feet of 40+ year old galvanized pipe in the ground (outdoor circuit) or the copper encased in concrete in the slab -- it should be in the galvanized pipe in the ground. The stuff I took out of the courtyard last year looked like deck railing pieces from the Titanic. The other (and probably more likely) explanation is that I have a long-stanidng leak in the outdoor circuit and developed a small pinhole in the copper somewhere that makes (made) a lot of noise (as water at high-pressure going through a small opening can do) and that's just brought the other leak to my attention.

egads wrote:Hey, I started the suspense thing. (extra credit if you can name the movie the quote is from)

I bet it's a galvanized nipple. I have found it very easy to remove the board and batten to inspect the walls. I have done several sections of my house. I remove and label the boards, do some rewiring, add insulation, new tarpaper and reinstall the boards. This may be the best approach if there outside walls with plumbing. I can't remember Steven's kitchen layout. And whether it's been rearranged from the original. Here in the Long Beach tract, the kitchen sinks are back to back with the hall bath(or guest if no hall) A lot of the kitchens have had the sink moved to under an outside window during a remodel. Some May tracts had the sink there originally. The issue with a May prefab, is the vent pipes being run up through the headers that run along the top of the side walls. drilling them for vent pipes takes away a lot of structural strength. That is why plumbing is avoided on outside walls. I speculate that the houses with the sinks on the window wall must have the vent run to the wall between the kitchen and bath to go up through the roof.
Stephen Meade
SoCal Realtor - DRE 01378749
Pacific West Assoc. of Realtors President-Elect
http://www.OCModHomes.com
http://www.CliffMaySocal.com
and
Cliff May Homeowner

User avatar
Joe
Lotta Living Host
Lotta Living Host
Posts: 4624
Joined: Wed Aug 28, 2002 10:10 am
Location: sunny Eugene, Oregon
Contact:

Postby Joe » Fri Jan 15, 2010 2:17 pm

sounds like we have the same kitchen. I heard a drip sound in that wall too, but it's not a leak. it's in a pipe. We verified this when we tore open the bathroom wall.

User avatar
Stephen
Modern Guru
Posts: 1197
Joined: Sun Jun 12, 2005 8:35 am
Location: Tustin, CA
Contact:

Postby Stephen » Sun Apr 11, 2010 3:00 pm

UPDATE: 4/11/2010

Just wanted to update everyone. That father-son plumbers couldn't find anything and suggested tearing into walls or that I should just forget about it. I did have them install separate valves for the house and landscaping circuits. The leak is in the house circuit.

I got a call last week from the local water district inquiring about my grossly excessive water usage. This weekend I took several other diagnostic steps. First, I drilled a hole through the back of my lazy susan cabinet to peer in the bottom of the wall. No evidence of water. Then I went outside and dismantled the siding where the water main comes into the house. It is in the exterior wall and immediately elbows down into the slab. No leak was visible.

However, I noticed that the ground immediately next to the slab in that spot was unusually wet. I dug in and discovered it was waterlogged; now I have hole that fills up with water when the water main turned out. I guess the only good news here is that I don't have any massive mold problem in the walls. Given the speed that water shows up in the hole when I turn the line back on, I feel like the leak has to be very close to where the piping enters the slab.

I'm done screwing around and I'm calling this guy, who came as a referral and his website looks legit: accurate license number, only 1 BBB complaint, which was resolved to the satisfaction of the customer.

http://www.slableakpro.com

Has anyone used this company before or had any experience with either spot or whole-house pipe epoxy?
Stephen Meade

SoCal Realtor - DRE 01378749

Pacific West Assoc. of Realtors President-Elect

http://www.OCModHomes.com

http://www.CliffMaySocal.com

and

Cliff May Homeowner

User avatar
turboblown
Modern Master
Posts: 172
Joined: Sun Jul 16, 2006 10:02 pm
Location: Pittsburgh, PA (Hempfield Twp)
Contact:

Postby turboblown » Sun Apr 11, 2010 9:16 pm

Just a stupid question:

Is it possible that the pipe failed underneath of the slab and not in it?
If so, you may possibly be able to dig down, then tunnel horizontally to the leak.

User avatar
casiep
Modern Socialite
Posts: 39
Joined: Sun Mar 16, 2008 3:34 pm
Location: Concord, CA
Contact:

Postby casiep » Mon Apr 12, 2010 9:24 am

We had a very very similar situation in our Eichler. A domestic water line leak that was dumping into the side yard. We ended up doing the epoxy thing for the leaking pipe:

http://redneckmodern.typepad.com/rednec ... epipe.html

I'm sure he'll chime in but the husband has a lot of information on this issue. I'm sure he'd answer any questions you have about the process.
www.modapple.net Mid-century Finds and Recreations NEW IN THE SHOP - Handmade Modern Birdhouses

User avatar
Stephen
Modern Guru
Posts: 1197
Joined: Sun Jun 12, 2005 8:35 am
Location: Tustin, CA
Contact:

Postby Stephen » Mon Apr 12, 2010 12:41 pm

Update: 4/12/2010

The plumbers came by this morning. They had a nice Sprinter van and came with sound gear.

One thing they noted is the my home was built with all of the manifolds inside the slab and the fixture lines "sprout up." Apparently, the law changed sometime shortly after 1954 and all of the T's were required to be out of the slab. The problem with this is that is makes it very difficult to do spot epoxy repairs because there is no closed loop way to separate the leak. For the same reason, it makes bypassing difficult.

They basically gave me two options:

- Attempt a bypass repair, which will involve digging somewhere to block off inside the slab ($2000ish)

- Repipe with PEX ($3500, including drywall repair) 25 year warranty on labor and material

I've noticed there are also some companies which provide in-pipe epoxy coating. This guy does as well but suggested for a whole house it comes close to the price of repiping and he's afraid my leak might be larger than the size allowed for the epoxy.

Lastly, if I repipe I also have an easy opportunity to relocate the water heater to the outside, freeing up coveted Cliff May "closet" space.

Any thoughts?
Stephen Meade

SoCal Realtor - DRE 01378749

Pacific West Assoc. of Realtors President-Elect

http://www.OCModHomes.com

http://www.CliffMaySocal.com

and

Cliff May Homeowner

User avatar
turboblown
Modern Master
Posts: 172
Joined: Sun Jul 16, 2006 10:02 pm
Location: Pittsburgh, PA (Hempfield Twp)
Contact:

Postby turboblown » Tue Apr 13, 2010 5:27 am

Is putting the water heater outside a common thing in California? I've seen this quite a few times on different forums, but have never seen that done over here in the northeast.

User avatar
Stephen
Modern Guru
Posts: 1197
Joined: Sun Jun 12, 2005 8:35 am
Location: Tustin, CA
Contact:

Postby Stephen » Tue Apr 13, 2010 7:22 am

turboblown wrote:Is putting the water heater outside a common thing in California? I've seen this quite a few times on different forums, but have never seen that done over here in the northeast.


It's not super common, but done, especially in older homes. With a tank unit, you purchase a special metal enclosure. Many of the tankless units, however, come in versions designed for exterior applications so I think you'll see it become more common.
Stephen Meade

SoCal Realtor - DRE 01378749

Pacific West Assoc. of Realtors President-Elect

http://www.OCModHomes.com

http://www.CliffMaySocal.com

and

Cliff May Homeowner

User avatar
heximer
Modern Socialite
Posts: 73
Joined: Sun Nov 22, 2009 12:34 pm
Location: Las Vegas, NV

Postby heximer » Tue Apr 13, 2010 12:28 pm

the house i just moved out of had the water heater outside and we never had a problem. it's actually kinda nice cause if it ever breaks you don't have to worry about your house flooding.

User avatar
heximer
Modern Socialite
Posts: 73
Joined: Sun Nov 22, 2009 12:34 pm
Location: Las Vegas, NV

Postby heximer » Tue Apr 13, 2010 12:31 pm

turboblown:
i think us westcoasters can get away with putting our water heaters outside because it doesn't get too cold here.

User avatar
turboblown
Modern Master
Posts: 172
Joined: Sun Jul 16, 2006 10:02 pm
Location: Pittsburgh, PA (Hempfield Twp)
Contact:

Postby turboblown » Tue Apr 13, 2010 9:29 pm

I figured it may have been a climate thing. Since many of the western homes are on a slab, I think it would be beneficial to put it outside for space saving.

User avatar
moderns-r-us
Lotta Living Host
Lotta Living Host
Posts: 1836
Joined: Wed Sep 08, 2004 6:16 pm
Location: Kansas City

Postby moderns-r-us » Thu Apr 15, 2010 7:43 pm

If going outside, I'd go tankless. It is also the only way to get the tax credit. No tank water heaters qualify for the tax credit.
"Better Living Through Modernism"

User avatar
sky
Space Cadet (over 2001 posts)
Posts: 2222
Joined: Fri Oct 29, 2004 3:36 pm
Location: The Bachelor Pad and Ladies Lounge
Contact:

Postby sky » Fri Apr 16, 2010 6:14 am

FYI: There are California rebates for some appliances, including water heaters:
http://www.fypower.org/res/efficient-ap ... eater.html

User avatar
moderns-r-us
Lotta Living Host
Lotta Living Host
Posts: 1836
Joined: Wed Sep 08, 2004 6:16 pm
Location: Kansas City

Postby moderns-r-us » Fri Apr 16, 2010 6:30 am

I was speaking about the feseral tax credit.

http://energystar.custhelp.com/cgi-bin/ ... 2BPropane+
"Better Living Through Modernism"

User avatar
moderns-r-us
Lotta Living Host
Lotta Living Host
Posts: 1836
Joined: Wed Sep 08, 2004 6:16 pm
Location: Kansas City

Postby moderns-r-us » Fri Apr 16, 2010 6:34 am

KCMODERN regular Jerad has posted about exterior tankless units over at his blog.

http://drummondhome.blogspot.com/2009/0 ... eater.html
"Better Living Through Modernism"

User avatar
Stephen
Modern Guru
Posts: 1197
Joined: Sun Jun 12, 2005 8:35 am
Location: Tustin, CA
Contact:

Postby Stephen » Fri Apr 16, 2010 7:04 am

UPDATE: Quotes

So now I've gotten two quotes. My current tanked water heater is 16 years old....so it's gotta go.

QUOTE A: $4900 for the PEX repipe, all drywall repairs, and a new Noritz (7.5GPM) installed outside. This company is PEX-certified and full plumber's license, so it comes with the 25 year PEX warranty.

QUOTE B: There's a guy who's done a lot of side work for me (my block wall, landscape regrading, sprinkler rough-in, water main repair, etc). His day job is a project foreman for a large HVAC / plumbing company and usually manages jobs redoing apartment complexes, etc. He's also a certified Rinnai installer. He quoted $4600 for the PEX repipe, all drywall repairs, and a new Rinnai (7.5GPM) installed outside. Unfortunately, there's no PEX warranty because it's his repiper guys working on the weekend. He also indicated there was some flexibility in the price.

Right now I'm leaning towards Quote B, not because I'm cheap (I am) but I know this guy, who has done nearly $10k of worth of work at my house. With that said, though, I feel like the non-warantee sidejob discount should be more than $300. Both guys claim they can have water service done in only 1 day with the patching the next day. Any idea on what price would be far for Quote B?
Stephen Meade

SoCal Realtor - DRE 01378749

Pacific West Assoc. of Realtors President-Elect

http://www.OCModHomes.com

http://www.CliffMaySocal.com

and

Cliff May Homeowner

User avatar
moderns-r-us
Lotta Living Host
Lotta Living Host
Posts: 1836
Joined: Wed Sep 08, 2004 6:16 pm
Location: Kansas City

Postby moderns-r-us » Fri Apr 16, 2010 7:28 am

There may be a price difference for the Rinnai and the Noritz on demand water heaters. Personally I would not use anything but Rinnai.

Be sure to check that the model he is proposing is on this list for the Tax Credit.

http://cafs.ahrinet.org/gama_cafs/sdpse ... ?table=RWH
"Better Living Through Modernism"

User avatar
Stephen
Modern Guru
Posts: 1197
Joined: Sun Jun 12, 2005 8:35 am
Location: Tustin, CA
Contact:

!@#$%#$%#@$%@#$$%^@#$!!!@#$!!#$@#%$^&#$&

Postby Stephen » Sat Apr 24, 2010 6:35 pm

@#$%@#$%@#$%@#$#$$@#%@#$%@#$%@$#%%@#$%@#$~~!@~@#%@&#$^&$%^*$%^&@!@#^%)@!@!@#$!#@$%^#%*^%&(

UPDATE....

I don't even know what to say at this point. I think the only advice I can give to anyone else facing a situation like this is: Don'ts trust anyone or anything.

As I mentioned before, I hired a fully licensed plumber, a "leak detection specialist." He spent about 30 minutes at my house and concluded that I had a slab leak between my outer wall and the hallway, between the kitchen and the secondary bath, and charged me $125. He suggested the most cost-effective solution was a complete repipe.

I spoke with several other people who all concluded that if my options were $2000+ to dig into the slab or $3000-$3500 for a repipe, the repipe was the best option. And so I called around.

I ended up going with a contractor who has done a lot of work for me in the past and also happens to be a Rinnai-certified installer, Rigo. He gave me bundle pricing of $4150 for the repipe and installing a Rinnai tankless water heater moved outside.

Today was installation day. They have run the PEX main 3/4" lines, removed some of the siding outside to expose the plumbing wall, and made a bunch of holes in the wall. Here comes the good part...

At the end of today Rigo pulled me outside to show me that my main water was still hooked up and usable tonight. He flipped open the valve and we heard the sound of water spraying, inside the wall. We looked and, at first glance, no leak was visible -- but it was loud! He pulls out a flashlight and goes, "uh oh...I found the leak." It turns out the leak is right under the tub. The fill line elbow is actually out of the slab and in the dirt space where the p-trap resides. Rigo tells me he could have pulled out the tub, fixed it, and put the tub back for $500. There's a small lake in the dirt space -- now I know where the water has been going.

Several questions:

- Rigo tells me he can stop all the PEX work, repair the pipe, and patch the walls, and leave me with my original piping for the same price...am I crazy to even be considering this option instead of finishing with the PEX?

- Am I completely out of line in asking the "leak detection expert" for a refund of his $125 fee?
Stephen Meade

SoCal Realtor - DRE 01378749

Pacific West Assoc. of Realtors President-Elect

http://www.OCModHomes.com

http://www.CliffMaySocal.com

and

Cliff May Homeowner

User avatar
Joe
Lotta Living Host
Lotta Living Host
Posts: 4624
Joined: Wed Aug 28, 2002 10:10 am
Location: sunny Eugene, Oregon
Contact:

Postby Joe » Sat Apr 24, 2010 10:21 pm

dude. sucks.

User avatar
turboblown
Modern Master
Posts: 172
Joined: Sun Jul 16, 2006 10:02 pm
Location: Pittsburgh, PA (Hempfield Twp)
Contact:

Postby turboblown » Sun Apr 25, 2010 6:25 pm

Most leak detection services will tell you up-front that their diagnosis may not be 100% accurate, especially when dealing with a slab or something tricky.


Yes, I think you'd be crazy to stop the work and not install the rest of the PEX. When you're under the tub, replace EVERYTHING that you can get to- including drainage. Use PEX or PVC and no metal.

User avatar
reverb2000
Modern Socialite
Posts: 59
Joined: Wed Jul 02, 2008 3:56 pm
Location: Houston TX
Contact:

Postby reverb2000 » Mon Apr 26, 2010 3:04 am

look at it like this..had you let the leak go, the dirt would have eventually washed out from under the house, the slab would crack, and you would be getting new pipes anyway. Go ahead and finish it and be glad you did, and avoided foundation repairs on top of everything else.


Return to “Mid Century Modern Houses and Homes”

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests