Leak Detection Services West Palm Beach FL
Leak Detection Services West Palm Beach FL
Hidden water leaks are a source of concern and frustration for a home or business owner.
Often, the only way someone knows they have a leak on their property is when the water company notifies them that their meter has continuously been running for the last week. By that time, damage may have already progressed to an advanced state.
Water leak detection and subsequent repair are important in order to halt the damage to your property and sometimes to adjoining properties. Whether the leak is inside a wall, ceiling, or floor, or under your foundation, driveway, or sidewalk, we have the specialized equipment and skill to locate it.
You may suspect you have a plumbing leak if you have high water bills, cracks in the basement floor, unusual behavior from the water heater, or a running water sound when there’s no tap on. If you suspect you have a slab leak under your foundation, you’ll want to contact a plumber with specific skills and experience in leak detection and correct, industry-standard equipment.
When water freezes into ice, it expands and pushes outward on the plumbing components. Interior pipes generally do not suffer this damage since it probably isn’t below freezing inside the building…unless, of course, the building is unoccupied and unheated.
Physical Impact Damage
Physical pipe damage is most commonly caused by digging, with damage resulting from the use of heavy machinery, all the way down to a simple garden shovel. Occasionally, exposed plumbing components in an unfinished basement are damaged by impact.
Improperly installed plumbing components, though they may not leak at first, will not last. If someone has soldered interior plumbing without using correct methods, the fittings will develop pinhole leaks as the weak solder erodes. If pipes are not properly aligned when they are being fitted together, there can be constant stress on them, eventually resulting in cracks or broken solder connections.
Sudden Pressure Change
Sudden pressure changes can rupture water pipes, especially water mains. One such cause is known as “water hammer,” which occurs when a fire hydrant is opened or closed too fast. The drastic pressure change can affect water mains supplying multiple buildings.
Invasive root systems cause many plumbing leaks. You’ve probably noticed how a weed can grow in a small crack in the concrete. It’s no wonder tree roots are able to pry their way into plumbing and sewer systems. Once the tiniest water leak begins, roots will work their way into fittings and valves. As they grow, they push the plumbing components apart, increasing the size of the leak.
Appliances that use water will eventually fail, potentially leaking into walls and floors. Their water connections are usually made with rubber hoses or plastic pipes, both of which have a finite useable lifespan. Water heaters rust from the inside, causing anything from a small leak to suddenly discharging their entire contents.
The older plumbing components get, the more likely they are to fail. Water mains installed before 1980 are often made of cast iron, which can become brittle, and unable to expand and contract with temperature changes. When this happens, the pipes have a tendency to crack. Certain older sewer system pipes are made of clay, which also breaks easily, whereas newer water mains pipes are made of ductile iron or plastic. Softer plumbing components, such as rubber seals and nylon bushings, also wear out and cause leaks.
Modern building codes require that pipes in walls must be protected from puncture damage when the pipe runs through a wall stud. However that leaves a lot of pipe unprotected from damage from nails and screws. Small leaks from sheet rock replacement or even foundation work can stress pipes and lead to them leaking several months after the remodeling is completed.
Leak Detection Services West Palm Beach FL
Interior leaks fall into two categories – constant and intermittent. Constant leaks include any supply pipe or fitting that has a crack or failed connection. Supply pipes are under continual pressure, and that means if they have a leak, it will always be running. This may or may not result in a visible wet spot on a wall or ceiling. Many interior plumbing leaks happen inside hidden areas and go unnoticed for long periods of time.
Intermittent leaks are usually from sinks, tubs, showers, toilets, and appliances that use water. Clothes washers and dishwashers will typically produce leaks only when they are operating, and since many people leave these appliances unattended, they can leak into wall spaces unnoticed. This can result in a hidden area of your building that is dampened and dried out, over and over.
The resulting damage can occur in many forms:
Wet Or Dry Rot
Dry rot has a somewhat misleading name, as it requires a certain amount of water to become established. Like wet rot, it softens and degrades wood materials, requiring them to be replaced. Signs of rot must be addressed after a water leak is repaired.
Drywall, plywood, and composite wood products all swell and disintegrate when dampened by a water leak. With enough continuous water, cement products can also become weakened and lose their chemical bonding. The resulting tiny air pockets can cause the concrete to crumble into powder.
Insect Or Rodent Infestation
Insect and rodent infestations will only happen if there is a reliable water supply. Termites, carpenter ants, roof rats, and nesting pigeons all benefit from water leaks, particularly those in the attic or roof.
A sinking foundation can be caused by a water leak that compromises the supporting ground under the structure. This is more likely if the ground was not properly compacted before construction, but a big enough water leak can erode even firm ground.
Mold damage is not just unsightly; it presents serious health hazards as well. Once a water leak has germinated mold growth, any porous materials that are affected must be removed and replaced. This includes drywall, “popcorn” or other textured ceilings, fabric and upholstery, wood, and insulation. Undetected leaks may facilitate extensive mold infestations, particularly if they go undetected for a long time.
Rust from water leaks is mostly a cosmetic problem, at least as far as larger structural components such as load-bearing steel beams. But smaller metal components, like those holding up a suspended or “drop” ceiling, are more susceptible to meaningful rust damage.
When we come to your home or business to locate a leak, the first thing we do is determine the plumbing’s general layout and examine various telltale signs regarding the leak. An experienced plumber can narrow down the leak’s location significantly, even before using any detection equipment. Sometimes the indicators are obvious, such as a wet spot on the ceiling or wall. But that is only a general indicator, as the wet spot may result from a leak that has migrated along a pipe, possibly from another floor of the building.
A leaking pipe or fitting inside a wall can be difficult to pinpoint without cutting holes in the wall. We use infrared detection devices to spot water leaks and several other problems, such as damaged insulation, electrical hot spots, pest infestations, and mold. With non-invasive infrared scanning, we can locate and identify the leak’s source without experimental cuts in the wall. Only one access hole needs to be cut to address the repair.
A slab leak presents a number of difficulties and is one of the worst plumbing problems a homeowner might encounter. A slab leak is a designation for a leak in the pipes under a building’s concrete foundation. They can result in extensive water waste, and eventually foundation damage.
Slab leaks are a challenging plumbing repair because they can be difficult to locate and difficult to reach. In some situations, jackhammering through the concrete may be necessary, but it may be possible to use lateral tools to avoid slab demolition. Also, rather than repairing the existing pipe route, we may install new pipes around the original ones, bypassing the leaking section and saving demolition. Having located the leak, we also learn the size and type of the failure, allowing us to form a repair plan.
We use several types of leak detection equipment:
Water Leak Sounds
There are certain characteristic noises that leaking pipes make, with the “whooshing” sound as the only one consistently found in pressurized water lines (pressure greater than 30 PSI). Pressurized water lines with a leak may also make one or more of the following sounds:
Several factors affect the sounds made by leaking pipes:
- Water pressure – The higher the pressure, the louder the sound, generally speaking.
- Pipe Diameter – Large diameter pipes transmit less sound from water leaks than smaller diameter pipes. They also produce lower frequency sounds more than small diameter pipes, making their sound “darker” and muffled. Small diameter pipe leaks produce a “brighter” sound.
- Pipe Depth – Soil is very good at absorbing sounds. This makes shallow (1 to 4 feet) leaks easier to detect. Leaks in deeper locations are only detectable by sound if there are high enough water pressure and volume.
- Pipe Material – Metal pipes, such as main iron lines, copper service runs, and steel pipes, produce louder sounds and higher frequencies than PVC or asbestos-cement pipes.
- Soil Type And Compaction – Sandy, saturated, and very loose soils, such as those covering a freshly buried pipeline, do not transmit water leak sounds very easily. They also absorb high frequencies better than hard material, making the sound “darker.” Hard compacted soils transmit water leak sounds very well. Harder materials also transmit higher frequencies better than soft materials and will produce a “brighter” noise.
- Surface Type – The surface type, whether it be an asphalt street, loose dirt, concrete slab, or grass lawn, also affects sound transmission. Hard street surfaces and concrete slabs resonate and transmit the water leak sounds efficient, and the leak may be easily detected from 5 to 10 feet on either side of the water pipe. Grass lawns and loose dirt surfaces are sound absorbent and high frequency absorptive, which reduces the loudness and brightness of the leak sound by the time it comes to the surface.
How Leak Noises Travel Down Pipes
Sound waves travel through the air, liquid, and solid materials. The distance a water leak sound will be transmitted as a function of pipe diameter and pipe material. Metal pipes, especially iron main lines between 6 to 12 inches in diameter, steel pipes, and copper services, can transmit water leak sounds for hundreds of feet in either direction because they are made of dense, acoustically resonant material.
PVC and asbestos-cement pipes will not transmit the sounds nearly as far since their material is less dense and has acoustic dampening properties. Knowledge of the pipe material and diameter is essential for accurate determination of how far the leak sound may be transmitted along the pipe walls.
Once our technicians have established the plumbing location and layout, they will walk along the path of the suspected pipe with an acoustic listening device. Based on the ground microphone information, the exact leak location is determined by observing where the leak sounds are the loudest. They will take readings every 3 or 4 feet along the length of the pipe. Once directly over the location of the leak, it may be possible for them to pinpoint it by using hearing alone or, if necessary, with the help of the visual metering function of the detection device. The meter will show the area of peak response, and once that found, the location of the leak will be marked on the ground or floor with paint or flags.
There are several advantages to using acoustic ground microphone technology to identify the location of a water leak:
Acoustic detection is less effective under certain circumstances, and other methods will produce a more reliable result. These circumstances might include:
Leak Detection Services West Palm Beach FL
In these instances, pressure sensors or remote video detection may be the preferred method. It takes experience and a trained ear to recognize the subtle sounds of water leaks through an amplified listening device, and our technicians are industry experts at this method.
If your leak is under your driveway or sidewalk, it may be easier to locate than if it were under your foundation. Leaks outside the building will be from the main water line, which is typically large diameter and under fairly high pressure. Jackhammering is the likely method for accessing the problem. Still, as with the interior leak situation, it may be possible to bypass existing plumbing lines with newly routed pipe, avoiding the demolition of your concrete. Driveway and sidewalk cement is often segmented into squares or rectangles, meaning you will not have to have the entire driveway or sidewalk demolished. After locating the leak, you will likely only have to have one section of the concrete removed and replaced.
If you have a simple water leak under concrete, the average cost of locating it will be between $200 and $400. This will vary, depending on how remote the leak’s location is and the time and methods needed to pinpoint the exact spot. You might anticipate an additional 10 to 20% increase in this figure if a general contractor oversees the entire repair and restoration project. Remember that leak detection is only the preliminary first step in solving the problem. Related expenses will include the demolition and removal of concrete, cutting of access holes in walls, the plumbing repair itself, repair and restoration of the concrete or household materials. Once we have identified your water leak source, we document our results, and this documentation may be provided to your insurance company as proof of necessary repairs.
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