Urgent - Can't find the water leak

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Old 04-24-11, 01:02 PM
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Urgent - Can't find the water leak

Hi,
About 3 hours ago I heard the sound of running water and I said to my wife "There's a toilet running somewhere". Since then we have checked every toliet, sink, outside faucet. Nothing is on. The sound was particularly loud by the water heater in the garage.
First I turned off the water to the sprinklers which branches (underground) off the main line to the house. Not the source of the leak.
Turned off the main at the meter and of course the sound of running water stops.
There is a cutoff on the wall of the house where the water enters. When I turned the valve off the running water sound stops.

With the leak occurring (water running) there is no water coming out of the waste trap to the street.
I measured the flow of water at the meter and it looks like we are losing about 5 Gals every 2 minutes.

Aside from the noise I mentioned in the garage, and the small bathroom which shares the wall with the garage where I first heard the noise, there is no sound of water anywhere. There are no signs of water leaking anywhere.

Tomorrow we will call a plumber - but I was hoping someone might have an idea in the mean time.

Thanks

Happy Easter.
 
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Old 04-24-11, 01:54 PM
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I should add that we live in south florida (no basement). To be honest I don't know how much of the pipe might be in the slab or the crawl space between the two floors.
The water enters the house about knee high on the outside wall.

I always assumed that all the water (both hot and cold) went thru the pipes atop the hot water heater. There are two cooper pipes which shoot up into the ceiling.

btw - on the ground floor (which is probably 20 - 30 years older than the second story), the water flows from the garage, then a hallway, kitchen, dining room and finally what was once the master bath which has the only bathtub in the house. We have been here 12 years and since day one when my wife runs the water in the tub you can hear the water flowing in the ceiling along its entire route. Sometime it is so annoying you have to turn up the volume on the tv.
 
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Old 04-24-11, 02:29 PM
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You didn't shut the feed to the hot water tank where you heard the noise.
 
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Old 04-24-11, 02:39 PM
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Sorry - first I did turn off the feed to the hot water heater. Still had the sound of flowing water. Just now I left the water on for another 30 minutes figuring that should assure the hot water heater would be full (80 gals). Still have the sound of running water.

Went up in the crawl space (actually I stood at the top of the stairs and loked around. Man there is so much cooper and pvc etc installed up there I don't know how someone could move around up there. Anyway - no obvious signs of water leaking up there.
 
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Old 04-24-11, 02:50 PM
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I guess on the positive side we might have caught this problem early on. If I'm correct 5 gallons / 2 minutes should be 3600 gallons / day. Looks like we have only consumed 8000 gallons since April 5th. We average 10-15K gallons depending on how much we run the sprinklers.
 
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Old 04-24-11, 02:53 PM
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The next thing is to touch some pipes. Wear gloves. There will be a vibration in the pipe that has the water flowing. Without gloves, touch parts of the slab & walls. If water is running, the slab will be colder in that section. Vibrations maybe felt there too.
 
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Old 04-24-11, 02:54 PM
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Do you have any refrigerators with ice makers? They're a common source of leaks, and depending on where it's tapped into the supply, you may not see the water for a while. Look under the refrigerator for water, and if you don't see any, trace the plastic tubing back to where it connects to the valve. If you can't see it, have someone turn on the water while you watch and listen.

If this is the problem, and you're able to reach the valve, you should be able to shut it off and turn the water back on.
 
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Old 04-24-11, 02:59 PM
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My calculator is a little different than yours. I get 72,000 since Apr 5 if you use 3600 per day. Have you checked the perimeter of the house for wet spots? That's a lot of water.
 
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Old 04-24-11, 03:18 PM
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I Bruno Beer,
I had pulled the fridge out earlier to check for a leak back there. No luck - but that was a good suggestion since it is very hokey how the copper tubing is snaked around the kitchen from the sink (half way around the room). I've also shut the valve which feeds the ice maker but the 'leak' persists.
 
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Old 04-24-11, 03:23 PM
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chandler,
Sorry for not being more clear. The meter was read on April 5th and reported to be at 76000. Tonight it reads a little over 84000.

But 5 Gals every 2 minutes is still a pretty good flow. That is probably like a garden hose opened all the way...

In the mean time I've also opened up the valve on the sprinkler system and turned on the water to the house thinking that maybe water was somehow still flowing even with the sprinkler valve closed. No luck there.

Another observation. Even with the 'leak' happening, my wife was able to take a shower (without complaining about water pressure) and I washed up at the sink at the same time. Normally in this house we try not to do 2 things at once. (Did I say it was built around 1967 or so). In January the water company came around and swapped out our 3/4" meter for a 5/8" meter because they were raising the rates on the larger meter. We really didn't notice much change in the water pressure to be honest.
 
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Old 04-24-11, 04:22 PM
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Exclamation Avenues of approach

With your main on, if you turned off your valve coming into the heater and all other valves in the house i.e. under the sinks, toilets, outside hose bibs and isolated your sprinkler system and your meter still turns/you here the water in the pipes, you most likely 99% chance have a leak under the slab.
The leak will only get worse with time.
If you can turn the water on and off as you need it it will of course reduce your total loss, till you can tackle the problem without a panic.
If you call a plumber, make sure they have the capability to leak detect and guaranty the accuracy of there detection (normally with in 1 or two feet) or your wasting there time and your money.
Leak detection is not cheap but without it you could be busting up concrete all over your house based in speculation and sound vibration.
If my customers request I bust a slab where the water was intruding into the home, I normally refuse because the water has emerged at the path of least resistance not at its source.
American Leak Detectors is a good company but they are not cheap.
Some local plumbers have detection devices but is an acquired art even with the right equipment.
Once the leak is detected call the plumber, they will bust the slab and repair the bad section of pipe.
Do not cover the pipe for at least a week, once your sure the problem is solved refill with clean dirt and seal with plastic sheet as best possible and pour concrete and smooth.
If all your copper is old and you suspect this is not an isolated problem but systemic, a complete re-pipe may be your other option.
Biggest thing is do not panic, turn the water on and off as you need, this gives you the time and peace of mind to make sound decisions.
 
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Old 04-24-11, 04:46 PM
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Loony2ns,

Thanks for the feedback.

I can't account for bends in the path which I can't see but it looks like the length of the copper pipe is about 50 feet. Along the path are a water heater, bathroom, kitchen sink and then another bathroom.

It's a shame there isn't some way to measure pressure along the way and detect a drop.

It's also weird that a break which amounts to 5 gallons / in 2 minutes wouldn't cause a noticeable drop in pressure at the terminal end (the far bathroom).

I'm calm but I'm afraid my mind is going to be working on this all night.

Is it possible to run new copper pipe up into the crawl space at the one end (garage) and then come down the walls in the rooms where water is needed rather than digging into the slab ? Is that a more expensive approach ?

Thanks again.
 
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Old 04-24-11, 05:11 PM
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Is it possible to run new copper pipe up into the crawl space at the one end (garage) and then come down the walls in the rooms where water is needed rather than digging into the slab ? Is that a more expensive approach ?
Sorry about your issue.

Yes thats a second option and the most preferred by the customers I used to service. Instead of busting up the slabs in the home, we offered a pex repipe up through the attic space. The issue with that is to pull the insulation batts up, lay the pipe and pull the insulation over the pex. You can find the walls up there and drill through the header. Run down in the wall, and cut a hole behind the fixture.

Another option is coating the copper under the slab with a plastice material. It works fairly well. I left the company when they were just starting this process. I only saw a handfull of homes done.


Leaky Pipes, Relining, Copper Pipe Epoxy & Epoxy Water Pipe Coatings

If you can isolate what line is leaking I would probably do a small repipe to that area with pex.

Also, most of the time there is a manifold in the wall where the main comes in. It actually come up from the slab, then from there hot and cold lines are run as homeruns to the areas of the home. There are no joints or tees under the slab.

Hope this helps.

Mike NJ
 
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Old 04-24-11, 05:28 PM
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lawrosa,

Last week you were helping me select a transfer switch :-)

I'm trying to understand your statement - "There are no joints or tees under the slab."

It is true that where the main comes into the house it would appear to be a straight path to the water heater which has a bathroom on the opposing wall. BUT the kitchen sink (the next water facility in the line) is about 10 feet east of the water heater and is on the outside wall of the house. The old master bath is then maybe 20 feet or so due south of the kitchen sink.

Where would you anticipate the joints in the pipe ?

OR - are you saying that the pipe is run directly from the main to the kitchen and then there is another pipe which would run from the main to the bath etc ? If so it is a shame that that manifold isn't readily accessible.

Thanks
 
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Old 04-24-11, 05:42 PM
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You might have me confused with another replyer, that was my first post.
Anyway, If you know what manifold feeds what pipe under the slab and where it was going or if it goes to another manifold or not, you could isolate that section of pipe and replace or reroute it.
Your leak could be something as simple as a rock that has been touching the copper for years or an old kink / bend in the pipe coming into or out of the slab.
The worse case scenario is the all the pipe is degrading though out the house and this is just the tip of the iceberg.
If you turned the valve off at the heater and the problem still exists, you at least know the leak is on the cold side.
If you know where the main manifold is you could cut and cap lines one at a time to isolate the pipe that is leaking.
Once isolated turn your water on and see how many fixtures are affected, If its more than one most likely there is another manifold in the run.
Once the water line is isolated it could be easy to rerouted.
If you choose to bust the slab you plumber can tell you how much the pipe around the leak has degrade by the wall left in the pipe.
Just remember time is money so choose as wisely as possible to keep labor down.
Most insurance companies do not cover under slab leaks unless water is emerging above the slab and could damage the inside of the house or its belongings.
Either way bad pipes are last thing you want you insurance company to be aware of unless you have to have there assistance
 
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Old 04-24-11, 05:50 PM
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You should be able to get a at least three free estimates to replace all the pipe in your house by a local plumbers.
Talk to them, they will tell you exactly how invasive it is or is not.
Isolating pipes can get expensive and invasive, all three plumbers should have an idea of how much it will take to isolate.
 
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Old 04-24-11, 06:04 PM
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Most manifolds cold and hot start behind or near the water heater and disperse to individual fixtures or to other manifolds that feed individual fixtures.
Problem is, if you had seven different plumbers rough seven of the same model homes they could they could run pressure and drain lines seven different ways and still be per code.
Common sense tells you to make you runs as short and as straight as possible to save money on material but if your not paying the bills this sometimes does not apply.
Yes there are commonly no soldered joints under the slab, its soft rolled copper tubing with a sleeve at the slab level to protect copper from touching concrete or cement.
Joints and manifolds are in the wall but where they are can be anywhere.
Common sense helps but the original plumbing contractor may not have been common.
 
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Old 04-24-11, 06:30 PM
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OR - are you saying that the pipe is run directly from the main to the kitchen and then there is another pipe which would run from the main to the bath etc ? If so it is a shame that that manifold isn't readily accessible
.

Yes that is what I am saying. Where your main valve is in the wall is where the manifold should be. The main comes up in that wall to the valve. Frome the valve it goes back down towards the slab. All the pipes for the whole house should be there. The hot water line from the heater should be near that valve in the wall also.

Also, lets say all the baths and kitchen were on the other side of the house from where that valve and HWH are. They would then run a h/c trunk line from there under the slab, then come up in a wall near the baths and kitchen. Your manifold would be in a wall nesr those baths.

Or a combo of two manifolds.

Get what I am saying?

I would cut the sheet rock near the main valve. Alot of times the leaks are right where the pipe comes through the slab, but low enough that it does not show itself as a flood on the floor. The easy fix is to just chip away the slab and repair that pipe with a coupling if this were the case.

Mike NJ
 
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Old 04-25-11, 05:22 AM
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I gave American Leak Detectors a call at 6:30 this morning. Girl said they get in around 9:00AM.

As I write this the water is off at the meter and the power is off to the hot water heater YET the HWH is making a sound like it is draining. I can turn the input to the tank off but not the outputs (only the one value).

It's not GULP-GULP-GULP its more like TICK-TICK-TICK skip a beat TICK-TICK-TICK skip a beat.

Why would the HWH drain with no faucets turned on ?

Thanks as always.
 
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Old 04-25-11, 06:07 AM
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I would of called a local plumber first before I called that company. It may be something in the wall like I said. You dont really here a slab leak except the flow of wayer in the pipe. The ticking yor hear may be a drip in the wall.

Mike NJ
 
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Old 04-25-11, 01:27 PM
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I know by the volume you were speaking of was more than a leak in the wall.
Let me know where the leak was detected and what was the condition of the pipe when exposed?
 
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Old 04-25-11, 01:41 PM
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Hmm - I thought I posted the results of the leak detector's visit but I don't see it here.

He was here between 1-2 hours. Nice guy. Been doing it 15 years. He charged $350 which is their stock price. They don't charge if they don't find the leak.

He found a leak smack in the middle of the floor about midway between the manifold / HWH in the garage and the pipes under the kitchen sink. We now have a large penciled X to mark the spot.

Had one plumber come out earlier to quote. On the phone he insisted he only does re-pipeing (?) but when he got here he wanted to dig into the slab. He said since we had some tiles to replace those which needed to get cut that would be the best course. He wanted a flat $1000. I always worry when all I get is a hand-shake...

We have 2 more plumbers coming out in the morning and calls into 2 others.

I am far from a handyman - but I am getting better with (old) age. Is my renting a jack-hammer and putting the hole in the floor a crazy idea ? (I'm assuming they have something smaller than those you see the fat-bellied hard hats using).

Personally I'd prefer to run new pipe in the overhead crawl space but my wife is worried that some day we will get rained on.

Oh - I called the insurance company. Our deductible is $2500.
 
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Old 04-25-11, 02:16 PM
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I didn't get enough sleep last night. It just occurred to me that the plumbing for the second story is already overhead. Duh.

Something else I just remembered. About 2-3 years back we had roto rooter clear the lines and he said the waste lines were bowed due to settling. I'd bet you that waste line is within a foot or so of the X in the middle of the floor. Just a thought.
 
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Old 04-25-11, 03:33 PM
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Is my renting a jack-hammer and putting the hole in the floor a crazy idea ?
Not at all. Thats what I would do since its smack in the middle, and not under cabinets. What garantee did the leak place give you that its exactly where the X is?

Once you break the 4" of slab its all digging after that.

Personally I'd prefer to run new pipe in the overhead crawl
You still would need to find the manifold and cap those lines.

Mike NJ
 
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Old 04-25-11, 04:19 PM
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No guarantees that I am aware of from the leak place. I did hear what he heard (he gave me the headset). He sure seemed good at what he was doing. He definitely had the right equipment. To me his equipment was what was worth his fee more so than his time.

After he left, the plumber who stopped by used a stethoscope to confirm the location. That's fine but it would have taken that plumber a long time to isolate the leak using only that stethoscope. The tech from the leak place had a valid point. Isolating leaks is pretty much all he does, every day, all day.

As for the manifold in the garage, there is a consensus forming that it is directly behind the water heater.

Somewhere in the research over the last day or so someone mentioned using a wet saw instead of the jack hammer. (It was an old thread). The only wet saw I've ever seen is the one the guy used to lay our mexican tile in our old house. Is there really a wet saw alternative ?
 
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Old 04-25-11, 04:46 PM
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I just called a concrete cutter. He said he would cut the hole in the slab for $375. He said much less mess than a jack hammer. Just need to mop up when he was done.

Just thinking out loud...

The plumber who came today said that he could (I believe for his $1000 fee) replace the pipe under the slab all the way to the manifold. I believe he used the term "jet it there". At the same time a simple google search on his company turns up a bbb complaint that he created a bigger problem than he was attempting to fix.
 
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Old 04-25-11, 05:54 PM
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The plumber who came today said that he could (I believe for his $1000 fee) replace the pipe under the slab all the way to the manifold.
Thats crazy, Its probably a pin hole leak and needs to be cut and a coupling installed.

If your paying $375 for the hole to be opened, exoose the pipe/leak yourself. Or the cutter may help you. Should be less then $100 to come in and solder a fitting. Then fill the hole back, and put the square of cement back. Then level with cement and retile.

In these parts it would be $3000-$3500 for a complete job. Your looking good so far. Your up to $725 so far. I am sure you can find someone to soler a fitting cheap. And ask the cutter guy if he will patch it up. heck he might even know how to solder?

I would not tunnel back to the manifold. Whats the point of doing that?

Mike NJ
 
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Old 04-25-11, 06:06 PM
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Mike, would you trust Sharkbite fittings in this case or would it even be possible to get them in. I'm asking because that might be an easy DIY for the O/P if it worked.
 
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Old 04-25-11, 06:29 PM
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No. Do not use shark bite fittings underground. I dont even use them above ground, unless an absolute emergency or quick fix until I can repair properly.

I went into a home that had a well. The guy had pin hole leak issues. He did repairs through the years, and finally had enough. He wanted a repipe. I went into the crawl space, and I kid you not, there were 27 shark bites down there all over the place. 3 were leaking.

Although doing a water service with the local water company they have some kind of industrial shark bite type fitting that they used.(did not look like a typical shark bite) They guy swore by them.

I always use a ford type compression fitting underground. Most mistakes are made because of CTS and IPS are different sizes and its hard to tell the difference because its so subtle.

The joint should really not be soldered. It should be brazed or use a underground fitting.

http://www.fordmeterbox.com/PDF/Down...d_Products.pdf

The kitchen line hot side is always the first to go on the majority of slab leaks I have done.

Mike NJ




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Old 04-26-11, 04:30 AM
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Just a layman here as plumbing goes, but why is everyone jumping to a jackhammer/wet saw for opening the slab? I had a slab leak couple of months back and opened the slab with a sledge hammer; took me about 30 minutes. Will upload a pic in a minute.
 
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Old 04-26-11, 04:41 AM
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My excavation:



Husband of wife's good friend is a plumber and we got him to do the soldering. Although I'm pretty good at it, there were multiple problems and it really needed a professional's touch.
 
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Old 04-26-11, 12:12 PM
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Well we have decided to go the re-pipe route (kind of). It is amazing how if you ask 4 different plumbers how they would address a problem you can get 4 different approaches. Also, if you are a plumber and looking for work come on down to South Florida because these guys have more work then they can handle in a timely manner. One guy suggested that there is a generational shift going on with the baby-boomer plumbers getting out of the business and not enough younger guys to pick up the load.

The last guy who came by is willing to run a hot and cold line from the manifold behind the HWH in the garage (disconnecting and capping the current buried lines) in the crawl space to the kitchen area. He will run the lines through the outside wall (in the seam) by the kitchen to the bib / kitchen sink area and punch back into the exterior wall. (Thus keeping us from any interior repair work.

At the same time he will tee off the new lines in the crawl space and run hot and cold water lines to the furthest bathroom which is currently looped from the kitchen sink - BUT he will leave those lines valved and capped at the top of the wall above the manifold so that it is right there when/if we remodel (it is currently avocado green tile). That way we don't tear into the wall yet.

He is going to bring the copper lines above the HWH up to code, replace all the (5) hose bibs and install a ball valve for the main cutoff.

$1800. He is going to use Plexar.

Ok so maybe we could have dug into the tiles and replaced a piece of copper and closed the hole up (and retiled) for between 250 and 600. But there is the chance that they would have opened the hole up to find the pipe in worse shape then they thought and there is the chance that a new problem can develop in another area under the slab next week.
 
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Old 04-26-11, 12:30 PM
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Hmmm... I would of went with the slab repair. I know your in FL. but running pipes outside does not sit right with me. Florida has freezing temps these past few yrs.

Thats just me though.

Mike NJ
 
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Old 04-26-11, 12:42 PM
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If it is freezing pipes that are your concern, we live less than a mile from the Atlantic. Generally you have to go inland to see those colder temps they show you on the news in Jersey. I could be wrong but I don't think we have ever dipped below freezing here.

Having said that, and more for the cosmetics, I was wondering if there was some way to sheath the new (2) lines that would be exposed on the outside. If that sheathing somehow provided insulation all the better.
 
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Old 04-26-11, 12:52 PM
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Well if it gets that cold what you do is run a pencil stream fro the kitchen faucet H/C. Moving water has a hard time freezing.

Good job.

Yeah plumbing is slow in NJ. I have been out of work for almost 2 yrs. I want to move but the admiral (wife)says no. Im still the captain though I think. North/South Carolina, Georgia has been looking good these days. Heck even PA.



Mike NJ
 
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Old 04-26-11, 03:19 PM
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It's ok if your wife is an admiral. The problems start if she becomes the secretary of war.
 
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Old 09-05-11, 07:07 AM
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Help!

Lawrosa you should move to NC because we need help with a problem that noone can seem to diagnose!
Let me start by saying we get our water from a community welll that operates to 40 homes. Back in May of 09 we kept hearing a rushing water noise that sounds like a toilet flushing than clicks off and starts again after about 50 seconds. We had a plumber out and they ccould not find anything. Later we come to find out a pipe at the well burst and as soon as they fixed that the noise stopped. Dont know why we were the only house hearing this noise!
So again about a year later we started hearing the noise again and contacted the HOA about it again for them to check the well. They made some adjustments and the noise stopped again.
So fastforward to now and the same noise is back again. The HOA has stated they checked the well and can not find any problems. We ignored it because what are the odds that its not the well this time. Well this time our water bill went from $8 to $39! So we had a plumber out and once again he could not find any leaks but said our water meter is going back and forth and recommended getting a new meter with a back flow device on it. He said the water seems to keep flowing back and forth so my only guess is when the water is rushing one way its acting like we are using water when in reality we are not. So waiting on the HOA to call the plumber out to get a new meter put in but I still have a feeling its the community well again. What are the odds its not but than again why would our water bill go up this time when other times it was not affected? Any ideas on where to go next. This has been an ongoing problem and its driving me crazy hearing this noise all day long!
 
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Old 09-05-11, 07:48 AM
lawrosa's Avatar
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Hi.

Installing a backfow preventer on your water line will prevent what you are describing. Then they can worrie about the well.

Also if you put in a backfow then you need to add a expansion tank to your water system.

Mike NJ
 
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