Are leak detection inspections important for your next home?
At Reliable Leak Detection, I get called out to a good number of homes that have been recently purchased, either via a “flip” or existing home that has either leaking water services, slab leaks or partially collapsed drains. It has been my personal experience that home inspectors usually don’t inspect water mains, assuming that if there’s good water pressure when they run the water lines that there isn’t a leak. The problem with that idea is that typically most normal water leaks, which run from 1/10th gallon/minute up to 1 gallon/minute don’t show up as reduced water pressure as most water lines are sized (3/4″) to handle between 15 and 30 gpm, so losing less than one gallon per minute barely registers. You can test this by turning on a kitchen sink while running a shower. If you have a 3/4″ service, you’ll barely sense a change at all. Slab leaks are going to follow the same pattern.
There is a way for you to check the service, though. Open the meter cover with a pair of adjustable pliers or channel locks, pull the plastic cover, if applicable and look at the meter. Check out this link to see what I’m writing about: http://www.reliableleakdetection.com/leak-tips/. Look at the flow indicator, which is usually a red triangle ( or blue six sided object) in a small 1/2″ circle on the face of the meter.If the indicator isn’t moving, you’re good. If it is, then you’ll want to go into the house and turn off the main. If the indicator stops moving, your leak is inside the house. If the home has a full basement, it’s probably a toilet or hose bibb. If the home is built on a slab, without a basement, then the leak may be under the slab, in one of the branch water lines feeding out to the fixtures in the home. To determine if it’s a cold water or hot water leak, turn off the valve at the water heater. If the meter stops, you know that it’s a hot water leak. If not you’re dealing with a cold water leak.
The next step is having the main drain inspected, which is something Reliable Leak Detection doesn’t do, but I’ve got a lot of experience with. Most inspectors check the main drain by running the kitchen sink and one or two bathtubs/showers full blast while they look over the rest of the home. If the drain handles the flow, they feel that the drain has passed the inspection. The problem is that if the owner has recently had the drain augered it will flow at full capacity and completely mask the possibility that there are substantial roots growing into the drain, or possibly even a partially collapsed drain. This can only be determined by scoping the drain with a drain camera. Most home buyers don’t know this inspection exists, OR they’re already spending a lot for the main inspection and don’t want to spend the extra $350 for a drain camera. If you’re buying an older home with vit clay tile pipe, this can be a really big mistake, especially if there’s one or more trees or large shrubs in the front yard.
How do you know if the home has vitreous clay tile pipe, or a newer, PVC type? If the home was built before 1970 and has had the main replaced, there will usually be a cleanout in the yard, as well as in the basement. (A cleanout is basically a cap to a vertical pipe that is installed for an auger to be run through, down and out into the main drain.) If there has only been a repair, there will only be a plastic cleanout out in the yard. If the line has only been repaired, I would still strongly consider having the drain scoped, as the tree roots may have grown around the repair and be infiltrating elsewhere.
I would advise using a company that doesn’t have a stake in selling you something, such as Mainline Inspection Services out of Loveland, Ohio. Pat Hooper is an expert with this service as that’s all he does and he is very good at it. The phone number for his company is 513-349-3357. Pat inspected our storm line last year when we had a backup in our basement and did a great job! Included in his service is a DVD with photos and video of the camera work and a brief report, which is important to be able to see what you’re up against!