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Thread: Pulling our hair out in North Bend WA

  1. #1

    Default Pulling our hair out in North Bend WA

    We built our house with the help of U-build it in 2000. For the most part, U-Build it did a good job and the only part of this story that applies to them was the plumbing contractor referral. Basically, the only one available to do the job (in our time frame) was a, "just on his own" journeyman level plumber, with a brother helper with an axe to grind (with the brother). We had to deal with one major sabotage incident shortly after moving into the house.

    The problem? Well, where do we start. First more background. We have copper pipes and well water (capped at 11 gallons a minute) with high iron content. We have a recirculating pump on our hot water line. The leaks are only in the hot water pipes. Everytime we use the small jetted tub in our upstairs' bathroom we spring a leak. The plumbing air vents on the top of the house are not capped.

    The minor problems are a lot of burping and belching drains and toilets. Some times it is worse than others.

    The big problem is repeated leaks in the copper pipes. We have had our local plumber out 15 times over the last 5 years; sometimes we got a 2 for 1 deal with leak repairs. The ceiling has been cut into 5 times, the rest of the time it has been leaks in our crawl space and mechanical room. We go through 6 month stretches with nothing and then, like last week, we get a new leak.

    We have talked to our local plumber about this problem and while he has done a good job with our leaks and has had some good ideas about the situation, he really has not shown in interest in helping solve the problem.

    The first opinion was that it was electrosis (sp?) with sand/iron particles beating the inside of our pipes. That may have been a problem at one point, but it since has been solved and we believe we have removed this as a probable cause.

    We don't have a water filtration system and while that could be a possible solution, nobody has been able to say that any of their products will solve the problem. Sadly, I don't have deep pockets to get one and hope that it fixes the problem.

    Our local plumber suggested a new process of coating the inside of the pipes, but I know nothing about this product or process and the plumber, despite multiple requests, forgets to get us the information "when he can find it".

    I now have a new leak in the mechanical room that I have temporarily repaired with latex gloves (I have had to do this too many times, but it works on the short term), but I don't want to call my local plumber to put a band aid on the problem, I need a solution and a fix.

    If you asked me, as a layperson, knowing nothing about plumbing, there is a lot of pressure on my plumbing system that is always looking for an escape.

    Any bright ideas before I boldly try another plumber?

  2. #2
    Master Plumber Dunbar Plumbing's Avatar
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    You need to find out what the ph levels are of your water. Aggressive water comes to mind.

    Have it tested.
    Read what the end of this sentence means.

  3. #3

    Default PH level

    Thanks for mentioning this important point. My water has been tested and it is neutral at 7.0.

    Thanks

  4. #4
    Moderator & Master Plumber hj's Avatar
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    Default leaks

    Do the leaks occur just anywhere, or are they in the pipes, or joints, or hot water only, or in the pipes near a fitting?

  5. #5
    That's all folks! Gary Slusser's Avatar
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    In addition to what HJ stated. You don't say where in the plumbing the leaks occurred; at soldered joints, just a few inches past a joint or in an elbow or the tubing (in vertical or horizontal runs) more than a few inches past a joint etc.. A description of the inside of the tubing at the leak is important too; is it gouged/eroded out or a spot and are there more spots that aren't yet leaking? What colors are evident? Any buildup on the spots etc. etc..

    That information reduces the possible causes, or at least a few of the many and varied causes of pinhole leaks in copper tubing; in addition to low pH acidic water.

    Although using excessive flux (of an kind) or non water soluble flux or not reaming the tubing ends are the most probable causes, most of the possible causes are water quality related but... it could be the building electrical ground and other equipment grounding problems or a combination of all the above. Hence no guarantee until all possibilities are covered

    Most plumbers don't do or know water treatment, so find a water treatment guy that has experience in tracking down the causes of pinholes in copper tubing.

    A mostly complete list of water quality issues: high DO, CO2, TDS, chlorides, silica etc., low pH, bacteria, etc. etc..
    Gary Slusser Retired (= out of business)
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    CAUTION, as of Nov 12 2013 all YouTube videos showing how to rebuild a Clack valve have an error in them that can cause damage.

  6. #6
    Plumber plumber1's Avatar
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    It' also been known that poor quality copper was used and it perforated down the road.

    We don't know if your leaks are through the pipe or poor quality sweat joints.

  7. #7

    Default Location of leaks

    Well, I wish that question was easy to answer. The leaks have been in all of the spots. I would say a third of the leaks were in the joints & elbow, a third maybe an inch or two from the sodered joints and the other third right in the middle of a pipe. The leak that just erupted is about an inch from the joint.

    As far as what it looks from the inside, typically the pipes looked like they gouged/eroded from the inside and finally weakened and sprung a leak. Colors are typically just that green/aqua color usually associated with copper. No evidence of build up. As far as any spots that aren't leaking yet, I would not know, as there is no exterior evidence of an impending leak. I inspected the current leak and there is no exterior discoloring. Most have been horizontal runs (so is the current leak), but maybe as many as 4 or 5 have been vertical.

    The leaks have been primarily in 3 areas... the transition of the upstairs plumbing (area above the dinning room ceiling) which has a couple joints, the section that runs under the house towards the mechanical room and in the mechanical room above the water heater.

    Gary, thanks for the detailed response. I would appreciate your further comment with this information, but it sure sounds like I need to re-look at the building ground and obtain a thorough water test.

  8. #8
    Forum Admin, Expert Plumber Terry's Avatar
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    Default

    Seattle water has been very good for pipes.

    I have noticed some wells in the area that are hard on pipes.
    Issaquah was that way.
    Have you talked to your neighbors that have wells and see if they have similar results?

  9. #9
    DIY Senior Member Cal's Avatar
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    You say the leaks have been in the HOT side only ?? If so (fellow plumbers ,correct me if need be ) Sounds like the water heater might be an issue . No diaelectric unions , nipples ,couplings ??
    A no-see guess .

    Cal

  10. #10
    Plumber Cass's Avatar
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    Cal may have found the problem. Look at your water heater and see if the copper goes right to the top of the heater. There should be a transition coupling or nipple (dialetric) B4 it goes into the heater. What type of circulating pump are you using and is it on 24/7?

  11. #11
    Forum Admin, Expert Plumber Terry's Avatar
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    Hot water line only, maybe the pump is too much.

  12. #12
    Aspiring Old Fart, EE, computer & networking geek Mikey's Avatar
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    Irregardless (I know, I just like the sound of the word) of the cause, I think you have to accept that your pipes are shot. I'd be planning on a complete re-piping of at least the hot side, and really both -- the marginal cost of doing the cold side is small. Consider PEX.

  13. #13
    Retired Defense Industry Engineer jadnashua's Avatar
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    ir=not; less=not; = double negative; not a useful word unless trying to confuse (if you can find it in a dictionary - I know they seem to be adding them all of the time, but sheesh!).
    Jim DeBruycker
    Important note - I'm not a pro
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  14. #14
    Rancher
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    Default

    It's in my Webster's, copyright 1982, it's a non-standard version of regardless.

    Rancher

  15. #15

    Default Water heater - Pump

    Thanks for all your input and questions:

    Terry,

    All of my neighbors wells have different situations. Neighbor to the south, had to go down over 100 feet to get 1 gallon a minute. No problems. Neighbor to the north have completely different problems, is they tapped into another source and they have arsnec in their water. They have a purifying system.

    Oh, by the way, across the street from us is a 4,000 ft mountain, Mt. Si. First 250 feet of my property is geologic set back. My well however, is located probably a 1000 feet from the front of the property. I only had to go down 35 feet to get water.

    Cal & Cass,

    The copper pipes do, in effect go straight into the top of the water heater. The copper pipe is attached by probably what you call a nipple (nut head with an inch or so of copper pipe soddered to copper pipe that screws into top of water heater). Both the cold and the hotwater pipes are done this way. I'm not sure what you mean by "diaelectric unions".

    The pump was an interesting situation. For the first time I realized that the Grundfos pump was installed upside down! I'm not sure if that is significant. The pump is not connected to a timer, so it is on 24/7. The markings that I could read on the Grundfos pump was TYPE: UP 15-18 85.

    Below it had some markings I did not understand nor could fully read:

    ?(A) P (W)
    74 85

    The ? is a letter I could not read.

    I think this answers all the questions posed. I really do appreciate all the input and I look forward to your replys

    Rik

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