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LottaLiving.com • Cliff May Mystery Plumbing Leak
Page 1 of 2

Cliff May Mystery Plumbing Leak

Posted: Mon Jan 04, 2010 7:08 pm
by Stephen
So this afternoon I noticed the sound of running water. Not the sound of water sloshing or splashing, but the sound of water running through pipes. I can hear it in the guest bath, most loudly near the shower, under sink in the kitchen, and at the main valve outside (between the kitchen and guest bath) where the water goes into the house.

I have checked all fixtures, the water heater, turned off all the shutoffs under the sink in the kitchen...none of them change the sound. I think it might be the guest bath shower valve. It sounds like a lot of water but I don't think it is. When I turn off the shutoff valve it takes over a minute for the sound to die down as the pressure eases.

Any ideas before I go tearing into the wall or shower in the guest bath?

Posted: Mon Jan 04, 2010 7:40 pm
by johnnyapollo
Hey Stephen,

Normally when you can hear water like that it's in a drain pipe - if you don't have any leaks coming from fixtures you should look at any drains that are used for overflow and the like. If it's not a drain it could be buried HVAC that has water coming through it - you might want to check those. Look for the overflow from your hot water heater PRV. When you have "normal" type leaks in walls it's difficult to hear the water running...

-- John

Posted: Mon Jan 04, 2010 7:50 pm
by Stephen

Posted: Wed Jan 06, 2010 10:39 am
by jcheard
You may have a "slab leak". It's when water pipes under the slab fail, or develop a pinhole in them. A pinhole leak could explain why it still makes the sound after you shut off the water (until the pressure goes down). Make sure you have no water running (ice maker, reverse osmosis system etc.) then check the meter to see if it is moving.

If you do have a leak and your pipes are under the slab, they will most likely have to jackhammer into the concrete. (can be very messy & expensive). Sometimes it can be repaired by tearing up the floor in an adjacent room or closet saving a tile floor etc. For drain lines, they can use cast iron, but I would probably still use ABS.

Your next step is to get a plumber out there to determine if you need a "leak locate" (it should cost around $300). You may have coverage under your insurance policy. E-mail me through the site if you would like to dicuss this further.

John

Posted: Wed Jan 06, 2010 10:55 am
by Joe
any change in your water bill since you noticed it?

Posted: Wed Jan 06, 2010 11:06 am
by Stephen

Posted: Wed Jan 06, 2010 10:55 pm
by egads
The suspense is killing me, I hope it lasts.

Posted: Thu Jan 07, 2010 8:25 am
by Stephen

Posted: Thu Jan 07, 2010 8:58 am
by jcheard

Posted: Thu Jan 07, 2010 9:19 am
by egads

Posted: Thu Jan 07, 2010 9:33 am
by Stephen

Posted: Thu Jan 07, 2010 10:03 am
by home_boy

Posted: Thu Jan 07, 2010 11:51 am
by ModernArch
my slab house had the coating (w/in the copper pipe) done...it didn't work and the company is now out of business so that 10-yr warranty is doing me a lot of good. Problem I've since learned is that the coating is shot through a heated hose-type system, but doesn't evenly distribute, so some parts of the pipe are overly coated and some are undercoated.

If you've got a slab leak, total cost to repair is likely a couple thousand (for jack hammering et al)...very messy and costly, and doesn't guard against future leaks elsewhere. Best option is to copper repipe through the walls and ceiling, completely bypassing the underslab pipes. Will cost at least 5g's, but more cost effective in the long run.

Posted: Thu Jan 07, 2010 12:16 pm
by Joe
I have not heard any success stories with coating the pipes. we've talked about here before too.

get a second opinion from a seasoned plumber and proceed. you don't have radiant heat, so repiping isn't that bid a deal.

Posted: Thu Jan 07, 2010 10:17 pm
by turboblown

Posted: Fri Jan 08, 2010 5:24 am
by johnnyapollo

Posted: Fri Jan 08, 2010 9:30 am
by Joe

Posted: Fri Jan 08, 2010 11:28 pm
by turboblown
I know that- I stated that PEX is commonly used in hydronic heating.
I did not at any one point ever say that he had hydronic heating.

Ugh....[Update]

Posted: Sun Jan 10, 2010 9:14 am
by Stephen
So despite two plumbers telling me "don't worry about it -- watch for puddles and a huge water bill" I decided to take the medicine cabinet out of the guest bathroom and look inside the wall.

The sound of water running through pipes got louder and I expected to find a damp slab or leaking fittings. Nope, everything is perfectly dry. I timed my meter and I am leaking about 1.5L of water per minute. Unfortunately, this equates to about $45/mo -- which is significant to me and sounds more than just a minor leak.

The water into my house is run in a (very) convoluted manner. The water beelines through a main from the street to the side of my house. However, instead of going into the house there is a valve and it heads to the detached garage (where there was once a water softener). Somewhere after this it splits off for various landscape lines. Then it comes back and heads into the house between the kitchen and bathroom. In the kitchen near the sink small diameter hot and cold lines are tapped that run back outside to the garage to the washing machine (yes, I checked to make sure the washer wasn't leaking).

I then went around to various spots and, using a flat blade screwdriver, listened to the pipes. Here are the results of testing in various spots:

1. Water softener hookups in garage (now looped): Water flow sound
2. Main line (heading to garage) after shutoff valve: No sound
3. Main going into house (after garage loop): Water flow sound
4. Washing machine supply, cold: Water flow sound
5. Washing machine supply, hot: No sound

So, basically, every single thing the two licensed plumbers have told me is wrong. They've both said it was a pinhole slab leak of immaterial size on the hot water line (because "it's *always* the hot side"). It's not a pinhole, it will double my water bill, it's on the cold side, and I'm doubting it's in the slab.

At this point I think I'm done dealing with "professionals." I'll reroute the main directly in the house (with a valve) then split off to the garage / landscaping branch separately. Then, at least, I can isolate whether the leak is even in the house plumbing or somewhere in the ground outside on that other branch. This will also significantly shorten the distance from the street to my house plumbing so hopefully I'll get more flow, too. It's noisiest in the guest bath and kitchen but now I'm thinking that's just because I have a bunch of pipes (toilet, sink, shower, ice maker) in that space and the sound level is a result of constructive interference.

Posted: Sun Jan 10, 2010 11:10 am
by egads

Posted: Sun Jan 10, 2010 2:24 pm
by Stephen

Posted: Sun Jan 10, 2010 3:43 pm
by moderns-r-us

Posted: Tue Jan 12, 2010 10:11 am
by egads
As I said before, you must get all the galvanized pipe out of your system. That old pipe is destroying the copper.

Posted: Tue Jan 12, 2010 2:01 pm
by turboblown
Do you know anyone that's a local firefighter? If so, have them bring the thermal imaging camera out and look all over your slab (and other places) with it. If you have a slab leak, the localized cold water leaking should change the temmperature of the slab in the area of the leak and it will show up as a blue spot (or black) on the T.I.C. Adjust the picture for ambient air temperature if given the option.

Posted: Tue Jan 12, 2010 2:50 pm
by moderns-r-us
Also many energy raters will have a thermal imaging camera. I have heard a friend in that business telling stories of using the camera to find hidden water leaks in walls.

Posted: Tue Jan 12, 2010 11:04 pm
by Stephen
I've got the plumbers coming back on Thursday morning. They will be bringing the wall came with them and special sound equipment. They're also redoing from the wall valves to the water heater since the previous owners decided to use whatever they had around to install the water heater....black iron nipple on the inlet, galvanized on the output, galvanized wall valves, brass input valve, flexible copper lines. They're all very corroded.

Anyhow, the sound has changed and it sounds more "spray-ish." The pipe going into the house through the wall is very noisy. Due to this I've decided to keep the water turned off unless I need it as a precaution.

I Feel Your Pain

Posted: Thu Jan 14, 2010 8:18 am
by streinen
Going through the exact same nightmare right now. Followed all the same steps you have...and it's a confirmed slab leak in my kitchen floor.

Hired a restoration company who came in to dry out the floor...they have to pull it up to do that. If you have a slab leak and wood floors on top, you are going to lose part of the flooring and will either have to attempt to match it, or, re-do the entire floor if it can't be matched well. I was lucky that no kitchen cabinets were damaged.

When the restoration company pulled up the floor, it was clear where the leak was coming from...a rectangular cutout in the concrete that is likely covering a pipe that had previously been prepared. I need to decide whether to repair the leak in the slab and risk having the same problem a few years down the line, or spend the extra $ to do a complete re-route. My understanding is that it is almost impossible to get insurance to cover the re-route. That will be out of pocket if I indeed choose that option.

Also--if they find old linoleum or if your drywall is, um, not dry and may need replacement, they will need to perform asbestos testing.

The best advice I can give is to not only understand the best option for solving the plumbing problem for the long-term, but also find someone you trust who really understands insurance. Trying to get this problem fixed on your own is officially a full time job, and it is not likely that you will save yourself money by trying to manage the project yourself (which is what I do on improvement projects). Strongly consider finding a trustworthy/referred contractor who has a strong working record with your insurance company and let them coordinate these subcontractors. If the contractor comes to you through a friend or family member, you will at least have the peace of mind knowing that someone knowledgeable and experienced with this entire process is in you corner.

Re: I Feel Your Pain

Posted: Thu Jan 14, 2010 9:03 am
by Stephen

Posted: Thu Jan 14, 2010 12:34 pm
by jesgord

Posted: Thu Jan 14, 2010 1:23 pm
by rockland