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Old 03-31-2008, 05:58 PM   #1
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Water Leak Detection


We purchased our home a few months' ago. Each month we've 'used' about 7,000 gallons. When all the water is turned off on the house, the meter leak detector triangle on the meter is still spinning slowly (about 1 revolution for every 5 seconds). I had the water company come out Friday and they checked the meter - all sat. I replaced all the toilet innards, and even when that valve is off the triangle still spins. The lawn isn't wet, my walls are dry. Unfortunately, I don't have a main shutoff valve, besides in the meter box.

So my question is - where do I go from here for leak detection?

With everything turned off, I used 0.67 cubic-feet (5.01 gallons) in 40 minutes. That works out to 7.5 gallons/hour. {24 hours * 30 days = 720 hours per month ===> 5,400 gallons wasted per month} Ouch.

I called 'American Leak Detection', who said they charge a flat $350 to pinpoint the leak, and $1200 to repair if it is under the slab. They said it usually only takes a few minutes to find the leak. That sounds like a ripoff, to pinpoint a leak - doesn't it?

Thanks in advance.

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Old 03-31-2008, 06:35 PM   #2
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Water Leak Detection


You need to shut off the main, then install a main cut off under your house. This way you can turn that one off and see if the meter spins. If it does then the leak is between the valve and the meter. Water leaks underground can sometimes be a pain to locate as water tends to travel like electricity, it takes the path of least resistance, meaning thet if the ground around the pipe is less compacted than the top soil then the water will travel underground along that path rather than come to the surface. Depending on how far it is between the meter and the house you may be better off to replace it rather than patch it if it is copper. If it is plastic pipe, then a patch would be fine.

As far as 1,200.00 for an unknown repair? Big rip off! I never give an estimate like that because what if it is more work to do than I thought?
350.00 to find it? Sounds a bit pricy.


Last edited by USP45; 03-31-2008 at 06:38 PM.
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Old 03-31-2008, 08:00 PM   #3
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Water Leak Detection


American Leak Detection uses special equipment, not a rip off if you think about it.
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Old 03-31-2008, 08:39 PM   #4
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Water Leak Detection


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Originally Posted by AppleMac*Fit View Post
We purchased our home a few months' ago. Each month we've 'used' about 7,000 gallons. When all the water is turned off on the house, the meter leak detector triangle on the meter is still spinning slowly (about 1 revolution for every 5 seconds). I had the water company come out Friday and they checked the meter - all sat. I replaced all the toilet innards, and even when that valve is off the triangle still spins. The lawn isn't wet, my walls are dry. Unfortunately, I don't have a main shutoff valve, besides in the meter box.

So my question is - where do I go from here for leak detection?

With everything turned off, I used 0.67 cubic-feet (5.01 gallons) in 40 minutes. That works out to 7.5 gallons/hour. {24 hours * 30 days = 720 hours per month ===> 5,400 gallons wasted per month} Ouch.

I called 'American Leak Detection', who said they charge a flat $350 to pinpoint the leak, and $1200 to repair if it is under the slab. They said it usually only takes a few minutes to find the leak. That sounds like a ripoff, to pinpoint a leak - doesn't it?

Thanks in advance.
No, it doesn't. If they are willing to guarantee they can pinpoint the leak for $350.00, its a bargain. Leak detection is difficult at best and very difficult under a slab.

They are a franchise, so the one in your area may have very experienced folks running the equipment or totally rank newbs. Ask for some references first.

Also, check with your insurance agent, some policies will pay for the repair up to the point of actually fixing the pipe, and for the repair to the slab afterwards. Others won't. It depends on your policy. Also, consider your deductible. If its 500 or 1000 bucks, you're paying 42% - 83% of the repair costs in just your deductible. May not be worth talking to the insurance company about if that's the case.
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Old 03-31-2008, 09:21 PM   #5
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Water Leak Detection


Okay - so I guess American Leak Detection might not be a rip off.

BUT as USP45 was saying, if I install a valve for the house, I could determine if the leak is between the meter and the valve, or the valve and the rest of the house.

So - How do I trace the water pipe from the meter to the house?

The way the line kind of points toward the house (see arrow in picture) - it points toward the front door. Where should I start digging - to the right of the hosebib? BTW - behind the hosebib is the only bathroom of the house... maybe that's a clue.

Thanks a bunch for the help. My plan is to add a cutoff valve, then go from them I guess. Hopefully the leak is in the front lawn.

Here's the pic
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Old 03-31-2008, 09:24 PM   #6
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Dig in front of and left and right of the hose bib.
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Old 03-31-2008, 09:45 PM   #7
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Will do - thanks, Ron!
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Old 03-31-2008, 10:10 PM   #8
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Water Leak Detection


Kinda odd to not have a main service shutoff. have you looked in the mechanical room to see if you have a pipe coming up from the floor? sometimes behind the water heater?
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Old 04-01-2008, 04:01 PM   #9
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Plumber Jim -

No, no shutoff valve. The mechanical room is in the back of the house; whereas the water meter is at the front of the property. There is a valve going to the hotwater heater to shutoff the cold water supply, but by closing that valve, it only turns off water to the hot water heater - not the cold supply to the house.
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Old 04-01-2008, 04:31 PM   #10
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Water Leak Detection


Could be hidden behind an access panel, maybe it looks like an air duct, is behind a refrigerator or piece of furniture, in a cabinet?

You're shutting off your water at the meter and the needle is still spinning? If that's the case either
1. The valve at the meter isn't holding and should be replaced
2. The leak is between the meter and the valve
3. The meter is defective
All water meters I see have two valves, one before the meter and one after the meter. Try shutting them both down and see if it stops. If those valves turn out to not be holding call the water district and see who owns them. If they are the water districts have them replace them. If they are yours get a plumber over to replace them or you could have the water district shut down your curb stop and replace them yourself.

The water district also has equipment to locate buried pipes. They might mark the line out for free.

That takes care of half the problem. You still have a leak somewhere. I've seen leaks that were worse than yours and you would never know it looking at the yard, once you start to dig it's mud city. Installing a valve right before the house would help isolate where the leak is. That water line is probably four feet down though. They typically go under your footer, about two feet under your slab then come up through the floor where your main valve would be located.
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Old 04-01-2008, 04:58 PM   #11
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Water Leak Detection


Marlin -

If I shut off the valve before the meter (in the meter box), the triangle stops spinning - so that valve is properly functioning.

That's a good idea to have the water company come mark the lines. I'll give them a call tomorrow. Now you said the line is likely 4-feet down in the ground??? At the meter the line is only about 12-14 inches... shouldn't it be the same depth, or no?

Where does it come up into the house then, if the utility room (water heater) is in the back of the house? I'm just trying to figure out where to place a shutoff valve...
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Old 04-01-2008, 05:13 PM   #12
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It's possible being in a warmer climate than NY your water line isn't burried as deep as they are here. The way we do it here is to bury the line 4'. Then in the meter pit the line will come up to 18", you'll have your meter at that depth, then it will go back down to 4". This is done with 90 degree bends in the meter pit. If your lines are running straight out of the pit at 14" deep though that may be all it is there which is pretty convenient for you.
If the water district marks your line you'll have a much easier time determining where it enters the house and where a potential shutoff valve may be or where a good place to install one is.
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Old 04-01-2008, 06:22 PM   #13
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Water Leak Detection


Just because the meter is in the front and the mechanical room is in the back doesn't mean the main doesn't come up in the rear part of teh slab. there is an entire neighborhood that is plumbed just that very way by a builder named hoffman. they put the shutoffs just above the floor behind the water heater. its possible they drywalled over the valve. they had to have put a vlave in. It must be hidden behind a wall. I would make a line from the meter to the front most fixture that would be staring in front of it and work back. there should be a shutoff in the front wall or one of the walls after that.
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Old 04-01-2008, 08:34 PM   #14
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Just because the meter is in the front and the mechanical room is in the back doesn't mean the main doesn't come up in the rear part of teh slab. there is an entire neighborhood that is plumbed just that very way by a builder named hoffman. they put the shutoffs just above the floor behind the water heater. its possible they drywalled over the valve. they had to have put a vlave in. It must be hidden behind a wall. I would make a line from the meter to the front most fixture that would be staring in front of it and work back. there should be a shutoff in the front wall or one of the walls after that.
My house was built in 1971... Did they have to put a valve in during 1971?

I believe I'm going to tear out the drywall behind the water heater. That's near the electrical panel, which I am replacing anyway. I'll check there and call tomorrow to have the water company mark the utilities.

And YES - the lines run straight through the meter box at about 14" - no 90-degree bends.
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Old 04-01-2008, 10:07 PM   #15
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I would think so. they put them in on house in the earlier 1900's the houses i spoke of where from the early 1950's. I wouldn't go crazy but if you can figure out were the line comes up out of the slab you can at least cut in a new shutoff, then you will have one for sure. Is there a bathroom or kitchen between the mechanical room and the meter? or are they to the back of the house aswell? do your pipes run up in the attic?

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