The monthly water/sewer bill for a city home had increased exponentially over the period of a couple months. With all the water in the house turned off we looked at the meter in the ground by the street. The little flow triangle was turning. There was a leak in the water line somewhere between that meter and the house.
The problem: the water line was a distance from the house and possibly ran under a concrete stairway, and it did run under a concrete front porch, and also there were two elevations from street level, so the line itself could have been a number of feet underground in a couple places. Worse, the house itself perched on a concrete slab.
There was not any water in the meter compartment itself. Water from a break in the line usually follows the water line back into the meter, so the concern was that the leak was near the house or under the house (beneath the slab). The plumber, Ray Hunt, dug next to the foundation on either side of the concrete stairway, but could not find water line – that was bad news as it indicated the line ran under the stairs and concrete porch. The idea had been to find where the line entered the house, cut and cap it, and see if the meter’s flow indicator were still spinning. If it was, that would mean the break was between the house and the meter. If it was not spinning, that would mean the break was somewhere under the concrete slab of the house – bad news, as to repair or replace would mean breaking through the concrete slab in several places inside the house, and that would mean a huge mess and expense.
As it was, Ray turned the water on at the meter and waited a few hours. Eventually he saw the ground near the meter was moistening. Water still was not flowing into the meter compartment. Where was it going? Who knows, but Ray did find the break only a few feet from the meter itself, and that was a lucky break.
I’ve seen a few water line breaks during the course of my real estate career, but this could have been a true disaster for the property owner. It made me wonder why when water lines are installed they not run through a conduit? In other words, the water line would pass through a slightly larger line, both running from the water source to the house. That way if a break should occur, the water line can easily be pulled through the conduit and repaired or replaced. There would be an increased but negligible cost at time of construction, but a huge savings in the event of a water line break.