Customer Ignores Minor Water Main Leak…. Only to Discover Major Problem Down the Road

When it comes to water main breaks there are plenty of unknowns. Where is it broken ? Why did it break ? Did someone else cause water main to leak ? And so on and so on. However, with all these unknowns there is one universal truth that every plumber knows for sure, leaks don’t fix themselves. Sometimes I meet a homeowner and they’ll ask how much time they have until a small leak becomes a much bigger issue. There’s no correct answer to that question. It could be 10 hours or 10 days, but you can bet on the leak getting worse.

Recently, I was on an estimate for a minor pinhole leak in a homeowner’s main service line. It was a very small leak at the time and although it caught the homeowner off guard, he thought that he had the leak under control. I advised him to fix the leak immediately because the resulting damage to the basement alone would cost almost as much as the installation of a new water main. Needless to say, he didn’t have the leak under a much control as he thought. Not to long after the estimate he woke up early one morning to a flooded basement. Everything in sight was ruined and he called us in a panic. Luckily, we were able to complete the job that very same day on an emergency basis but in the end his procrastination ended up costing him almost 3x the original cost in cleanup and other repairs.

The leak started like this

The leak started like this

And ended up like this

And ended up like this

What does the installation process look like?

Excavating for new water line install

Excavating for new water line install

Prepared for copper piping

Prepared for copper piping

The new pipe is installed

The new pipe is installed

Final connection inside new location

Final connection inside new location

Lead Pipes are Very Fragile

Aside from the health concerns involving lead pipes, another major thing to consider is their age. Conservatively, any lead water main service can be dated back to at least the later 1940’s before building codes started to change. Lead is a much softer material than copper and even the smallest contact can cause irreversible harm. For these reasons alone, you should never ignore a water main leak. It may seem like small and harmless at the moment but that can change very quickly.

Old lead water line

Old lead water line

Old lead water line

Old lead water line


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