House Water Leak – Long

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lbperry

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My Brother-In-Law died several months ago and since his only heir, a daughter, lives in another city; it has fallen to my wife and myself to assist in the clearing out and preparation of his house for sale.
The house is a fairly standard single story brick with 3 BR, 2 BA, LR, DR, Kit, Garage; it also has a pool. It is on a slab with what I believe is copper piping. I believe it is approximately 25 – 30 years old.
Recently, his daughter who is receiving all the bills concerning his home, said the water bill has been going up the last few months. During this period the house has been unoccupied. We check it regularly to make sure it’s OK. It has always had heat in it (the weather around her hasn’t been below freezing around here anyway).
Once we found about the unusual water usage we started trying to check things out. The water department says there is definitely water usage continuing. We started checking out everything we knew to check…toilets leaking, any evidence of water leakage in house, water heater operating OK, any wet areas around yard or pool plumbing (pool had been winterized and covered several months ago), outside faucets leaking, etc. We finally turned the water off at the meter (there’s no inside shut-off valve) except when we turn it back on to search for leaks.
We have someone coming out to check out an old unused sprinkler system to make sure it has been shut off at the source (water meter). We checked it and it is shut off at the control panel. A helpful HVAC service man who came in to do semi-annual maintenance on the system was kind enough to spend an hour helping look for leaks in the house/yard even though it would have no connection to his HVAC system.
If nothing is found to be leaking with the sprinkler system, I’m about at the end of the things I can think of to check, unless you guys can give me some more ideas. If I call a plumber in at this point; do they typically have the leak detection equipment to find the leak?
I was talking to a friend of mine last night and he said he has about the same age slab foundation house with copper piping and a couple of years he had a leak that they somehow determined was in/under the slab and they had to replumb it by going thru the attic. With the plumbing cost and the wall and ceiling sheetrock damage repair, it turned out to be pretty expensive.
Any ideas on how to find the lead and what I might be looking at? I’d appreciate any ideas, suggestions or comments at this point.
Thanks,
 

Mr_David

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Depending on the soil a slab leak can go unnoticed until you get an excessive water bill. Slab leaks are more common on the hot system but can occur on the cold also. if you have a good working ball valve to water heater start there. turn it off. turn on a hot faucet somewhere and make sure the water is 100% off to hot side. some systems can have an internal crossover between hot/cold through mixing valve sometimes so unless you can isolate hot and cold 100% it makes it more difficult to evaluate. An experienced plumber can have a few trick up his sleeve. Not all plumbers are the same . you just have to talk to a few and ask questions.
 

Deerslayer

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Where are you located? Maybe one of us can refer a good plumber or two in your area??
 

CT-18

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Are you sure the neighbors aren't hooking up to the outside hose bibs and watering lawns or washing cars or filling pools.
 

lbperry

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I've gotten a referral for a plumber in the area that's supposed to be good at leak detection. I've got a couple more things I want to check out myself before I resort to to that though.

I've been around the house enough times looking for wet spots I think I'd have spotted a hose running to a neighbors. Have talked to most of them and I don't peg them for water theft. Particularly in the middle of a wet winter.

Thanks for replies and suggestions,
 

lbperry

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I'm not quitting. Things have just slowed my progress. The last thing I wanted to do before I called in a plumber in was to have the guy that put the sprinkler system in come out and disconnect it; and I haven't been able to get him out yet.
Add to that the fact that I have to coordinate all of this with my BIL's daughter, who will own the house after the probate is finished, and the person who's agreed to buy the house. Lots of moving parts in this one.
I'll keep you posted as I have progress.
Thanks for the continued interest,
 

lbperry

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Just realized I hadn't reported on this thread. After much delay by everybody involved (including myself), I called in a plumber (which I should have done long ago). The first two guys they sent out were young guys that were sincere and fairly knowledgeable but not the A Team. After spending a couple hours double checking everything I'd checked, they spent a bunch of time trying to trace the line into the house and digging up a couple of suspicious spots, they hollered uncle and said they'd send out the A Team the next day and find the leak.
Next day the A Team spent quite a bit of time double checking the first crew and then broke out the listening equipment. After a while they located the leak ( a fairly substantial one) right where the the line went under the slab at the front porch. The leak was located in a heavily mulched shrub bed which explains why all the searching in the yard never found it). They dug it up and it was a cracked PVC joint.
After replacing the joint, they checked every thing. Found that the flow indicator at the was still moving VERY slow. Plumber said leak was so minimal it would only amount to $2-$3 per month and he'd wait until the water bill went up again to proceed to fix the remaining leak. He said next step would be to get thru about a 6' length of driveway to get to the closest wall and then run a new line to the area of the water heater. Said that should fix it and cost approx $1500. If it were up to me I'd go with his suggestion and let it go until it leaks some more but the lady who's eventually going to but it from my wife's niece said she'd really like to have it fixed all the way so she didn't have to worry about it. I can understand where she's coming from but at this point I just want to wash my hands of the whole deal.
Right now I'm due to meet again with the plumber to make sure I know exactly what he plans to do and what kind of assurance he has that this next step will fix it or possibly be followed by more steps. After this I'll confer with the niece and proceed as she wishes. Wish me luck.
 
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