Leak Detection Can Mean Lots Of Work

Finding a leak in a water, gas, sewer or other utility line can sometimes be a simple process of examining the exposed lines and finding a leak through sight, smell, sound or through the use of a detection tool. However, most leaks occur in places that are difficult to access, such as between walls, in crawlspaces, underground and even on or under a building's foundation slab. In the event of a leak that is not exposed, there may be considerable work in locating and accessing the site of the problem.
Leak Detection

Verify Leak

The first step to finding a leak is to verify that a leak does exist. By shutting off all of the appliances that use a utility inside the home, the meter can be monitored to verify a leak. If the meter moves when the utility is not being used, then there is a leak in the system. For very small leaks of natural gas, or other similar fuels, leak detection 'sniffer' devices can be used to find leaks that may be so small as to not quickly show on a meter test.

Visual Inspection

Once a leak has been verified, a service technician will often perform a visual inspection of the service lines and appliances. An experienced technician will know likely places for the leak to be found and will inspect these areas looking for signs of a problem. For example, pipes are more likely to begin leaking where they are exposed to the outdoor elements than they are inside a climate controlled home. Listening devices may also be used in the initial inspection to help isolate the area where a leak is occurring.

Line Tests

If there are no obvious signs of a leak, there are a number of tactics that may be used to uncover the leak. For example, a technician may temporarily unhook and plug supply lines to further determine where the leak is occurring, increased pressure may be placed on lines to make a leak easier to find and buried lines may need to be uncovered to inspect for problems. Probes or metal detectors may even need to be used to locate buried lines. This can be an especially common problem for older homes where the location of service lines as been forgotten and the location is not shown on building permit records.

Repairing Leaks

Not only can it be difficult to find a leak, it can also be difficult to determine how to fix the leak. The best way to repair a leak may depend on the location of the leak and condition of the surrounding lines. If buried lines are determined to be the source of the problem, but the exact location of the leak is unknown, it may be more cost effective to bypass the old lines and install new lines in their place. In some cases, it may be possible to 'sleeve' an old pipe that is leaking by running a new, smaller pipe inside the old one.

Though many steps in the leak detection process may seem simple, the work can be difficult and challenging. As leaks mean wasted money, having the leak quickly located and repaired by an experienced technician can result in significant savings in time, frustration and money.

Charlie Teschner started MESA Plumbing, Heating, and Cooling in 1982. Charlie has a journeyman and master plumber’s license. He was raised with a strong work ethic and he now applies those values to tasks such as Longmont, CO heating repair.
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