Repairing a Broken Water Main

Old 08-30-06, 03:47 AM
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Repairing a Broken Water Main

We own a small vacation home by the beach. Yesterday our water main sprung a leak in our front yard which forced the water company to shut off our main at the curb.

We are about the 6th house this year on our street to develop a leaking main. Apparently the main is galvanized metal and has corroded over it's 40 year life span. Also, the town has recently increased the water pressure thanks to our new water tower.

Anyhow I have seen repairs from replacing just the broken section to total water main replacement.

Please note that we are talking about a 15 to 20' maximum span, approximately 3' deep. The ground is very easily dug as it is sand.

Needless to say I have heard some local plumbers charging some pretty ridiculous prices for these services. $800 repair section, $3000 new 20' main.

I have always performed the vast majority of basic home repairs myself.

My questions are:

1) Is this something I should attempt myself, (i.e. just repairing broken section)? Digging in "WET" sand although an easy dig, can be aggravating due to the walls collapsing.

2) Since the main is more than likely galvanized do plumbing houses make replacement sections that get clamped in line once the broken section is removed? Exactly how is the repair made?

*Currently I have shut the valve under our home where the main comes up from the ground and have attached a neighbors garden hose to our hose faucet and we have water in the home, (by reversing the water flow), until I get this situation resolved, (hopefully within a week or two).

Any experiences or information is sincerely appreciated.
Old 08-30-06, 08:11 AM
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You can repair the galvanized line with a stainless steel clamp. The clamp has a rubber lining with several bolts to draw the clamp tight around the leak.

That said I would replace this line with "Class K" soft copper. It is available in rolls of different lengths and is very easy to install. This is a DIY project, so go for it!
Old 08-30-06, 05:19 PM
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I'd talk to the city and see what approved material can be used for replacing this line...such as different plastics along with copper..

To try to repair this line will be difficult. Galvanized corrodes fairly easy, regardless of how it was advertised.

I'd just look at a new line from the city's shut-off valve to a location of your choice with a new valve inside or accessable from the building.

Digging the trench is something you have to look at carefully. Anything over waste deep can be deadly. This is not a man issue about getting into short trenches. A slump of dirt or some rock falling just waist deep, can snap a leg in a heart beat, and if you have no help, shock can set in and then it's downhill from there. People die everyday from trench collapses so take this to heart.

Have some help around, dig wide trenches in sand, just take your time and do it safely.

The cost of local plumbing depends on local conditions for labor and supply of qualified plumbers. For me to say what it would cost here is of no real help for you 1000 miles away.

Good luck with your project and if you have more questions, ask and someone will answer you.
Old 09-01-06, 07:56 AM
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Does it have to be that deep? Where I live it is about half that. Consider some of the plastic pipes they are really easy to install and dont have the corrosion problems of some of the metal pipes. Be careful of other buried services. It can cost an arm and a leg if you cut a phone line.
Old 09-02-06, 09:07 AM
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water supply

I would not repair a galv. pipe unless it was a temporary fix; this has to be replaced. Like one of the other posts I would see if you can use the plastic type water lines; they are a lot cheaper. If you can do it yourself, that may be a local code prob. FYI the depth depends on where you live. Lots of luck.

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