We were called to a job because the owner had noticed that the front of their property had become very boggy. When I arrived at the property it was obvious that something wasn't right with the plumbing, there was a large puddle in front of the property. I checked the water meter and could see that it was running constantly. The house was on a very steep block and was setback on the high side of the road. I spoke to the property owner and they mentioned that they had noticed one spot up the hill near the house that was also wet but they didn't think it would be the location of the leak as it was about 20 m away from the boggy area at the front of the property. I had a look at the wet area and quickly found the leak in this area.
It was easy to find the leak on a job like this as the pipe had been buried very shallow and you could see signs of a burst pipe from the surface. If the pipe was buried deeper underground we would have had to use leak detection equipment. There are a few different options for leak detection that we use.
Leak detection methods
For a job like this we would typically use a line transmitter and a locator. The line transmitter would hook onto the copper pipe at the meter and send a frequency through the pipework. We would then use a locator to trace the line and find out where it runs underground. We mark out the pipe on the ground with spray paint so we can follow it and look for the burst pipe.
We then use an acoustic leak detector and follow the line we have marked on the ground. The acoustic leak detector picks up noise in the ground and displays the volume. As we move along the line marked from the line transmitter we can see if the value is getting higher or lower, we move along until we can pinpoint where the value is the highest and this will indicate where the leak is.
Once we find the location of the leak we can excavate and repair the burst pipe.
One challenge that can arise with this method of leak detection is when the water service has been run in a plastic pipe. If the water pipe is run in plastic we can’t connect the line transmitter as it works through electrical charge. If this is the case we can still find the leak with the acoustic leak detector but it's a little more difficult. This was the case for the job in Pymble but it wasn't an issue as we could find the leak very easily.
What can cause a burst pipe?
There are a few different contributing factors that can leak to a burst pipe underground. In this case the water pipe had been buried with bricks and rocks on top. After some time the harsh edges put pressure on the pipework and wore through. This is why it's so important during construction that all pipes are backfilled correctly.
The water pressure at the property was also very high (900 kpa) this can be a contributing factor especially when it comes to older pipes. The combination of these two elements lead to the bust pipe and a large water leak.
The fact that the pressure was so high at the property also meant that, even though the leak in the pipe was only small, there was a lot of water lost.
How to tell if you have a burst pipe.
There are a few ways to tell if you have a leak or a burst water pipe.
You receive a much larger water bill than you expected. This one is pretty simple. If your water bill is double or triple what you're used to there is a good chance there is a leak somewhere. The problem with this is that you might have had a leak for weeks or months before you find out. If it's a small water leak the difference in the bill may not be enough for you to notice that something is wrong. You might just assume that you had a longer shower or left a tap running.
You notice a section of your yard is very boggy. If you have a boggy section of your yard even if you haven’t had any rain lately, this is a pretty good indication that something isn't right and you should investigate further to see if a burst pipe is the source of the wet ground.
Your water meter is constantly running. I'm sure that not many people out there are checking their water meters for fun so it is not something that you would notice unless you already thought you may have a leak.
How to Investigate a leak.
This is the best way to check and see if you have a water leak. If the meter is ticking over while nobody is using water then you have a leak somewhere. Just make sure if you’re checking your water meter that no water is being used. Something like the washing machine, dishwasher or pool top up can often make it look like there is a leak when there isn’t.
A large leak will show itself very quickly on the water meter so you should have no trouble identifying the issue. Smaller leaks can be a bit more tricky to figure out. If you turn all the water on the property and the meter appears to be completely still you may have a small leak that is going to take time to turn the meter over. If this is the case the best thing to do is take a picture of the reading on the water meter and come back in 15 minutes. If the reading has changed then you may have a slow leak somewhere.
You can take note of how many liters the meter has moved over a certain amount of time and determine how severe the leak is. In the case of the job in Pymble the meter turned over about 7 liters in a minute this added up to 10,080 liters per day. Part of the reason the leak was so bad was because of how high the water pressure is on the property.
Repairing a burst pipe.
There are a few ways to repair a burst pipe depending on the reason for the damage.
Welding - This works when there is a small pin hole and the rest of the pipe around the leak is in good condition.
Replace a small section of pipework - If copper pipe has been crushed and there is a small section that has been damaged it is better to replace the damaged section rather than just repairing the hole in the pipe. Also in the case of plastic pipe you will have to replace a section as welding isn’t an option.
Replace a water line - In some rare circumstances a larger section of pipe will need to be replaced. For example if the burst pipe is under a slab or a large tree or if there is extensive damage to a larger run of pipework.
Once we located and excavated the leak at the job in Pymble it was a simple job to cut out a small section of damaged pipe and replace it. While I was on the job I did a free inspection for the home owner and found that the water pressure was very high. I recommended that they install a pressure limiting valve to preserve the life of the rest of their pipework. The small section that I dug up was backfilled with rocks and bricks so there is a good chance that the rest of the line could be similar. They would be better off limiting the water pressure no then replacing the whole water feed if it continues to deteriorate.
If you've got a burst water pipe and need our emergency plumbing services or you're looking for a local plumber near me who can help to investigate a potential water leak then give us a call on 0466 871 445.