Properly testing for a water main leak requires expertise and skill – and even then errors can be made. There are various ways to determine if a line is leaking or the source of a leak. The water can tested, the plumbing can sounded out, sometimes a dye test is appropriate. The least reliable way to test for a leak is by assuming that the visible point of the leak is the source of the leak. That is because water seeks the point of least resistance. Therefore, assuming that where leak surfaces is the point of the leak is not a wise decision. One very accurate way of testing for a leak is by using a water meter.
Situations Complicate Determining Source of a Water Leak
When the actual point of a water leak is not visible, a water leak test is required. Some situations can be very difficult to make a diagnosis with certainty. Here is a list of just 5 of such situations:
- In some instances attached houses make a determination difficult. That is because each house may have plumbing that is very close to each other.
- A blocked sewer line can sometimes cause sewer water to the surface. This can appear as if your water main is broken.
- Leaks inside your house can appear to be a broken main service line. That is because leaking water tends to travel, and can appear far from the source.
- A city water main break can seem like a service line leak as it may make a sound on numerous house service lines, or travel a distance before surfacing.
- Clogged city sewers can look like a house sewer line defect. This is because a surcharged city sewer can frequently backup into your home.
In almost all cases it is advised to contact a professional licensed plumber and utilize the NYC 311 system. If you want to accurately determine the source and type of your water leak, it is best left to professionals.
An Accurate Water Leak Test Using A Water Meter
Fresh water leaks can be broken down into 2 categories. They are simply leaks inside your home, and water leaks outside your home. In both cases a water meter can help determine with certainty if you have a leak. As water meters precisely measure water being used, guesswork and assumptions are removed from the determination. To learn more about different types of leak testing read A Guide On How To Test For A Water Line Leak.
Leak testing inside of a building
Just about all buildings in New York City now have a water meter. The meter is connected just on the house side of the main control valve on the main service line. The main water line will be the largest drinking water pipe inside the house and have a ground clamp from the electric box for the house attached to it.
On the top of your water meter is a dial with various indicator dials that move or spin when water is being used. The smallest of the dials is referred to as a ‘leak dial’. If no water is being used in the house this dial along with all the other dials should not be moving. If all of the plumbing is turned off in the house and the dial on the meter is still moving then you have some sort of a water leak inside the house. Typically it is a running toilet, but it can be something more complicated than that.
A Water Leak Test outside of the building
In some rare cases a water meter is even used to verify if a line is leaking outside of a building, such as the main service line. Even after a tap connection on a city main is closed, the source of a water leak can be misleading. There is only one sure way to make sure the service line is not broken, that involves a meter test. Water leak testing with accuracy is achieved by temporarily installing a meter between the tap connection, and the service line.
Closing the tap on the City main may stop a water leak, but that still doesn’t mean that the water leaking if from the service line. That is because closing the tap connection will also stop a leak inside the house, or stop waste water from flowing out of a defective house sewer.
Balkan Job Site Report in Whitestone, Queens
A recent situation In Whitestone, located in Queens, proved this point. The NYC DEP had responded to a neighbors call of water running into their basement and the owners for the attached house next door were not home. After determining that the situation warranted immediate action, the DEP excavated and closed the tap connection for the house where the owners were away and the leak stopped. This seemingly proved that there was a leaking water line for that house. However, this later proved to not be the case.
Balkan Sewer And Water Main Service had just replaced the line that was assumed to be defective only a month ago. It seemed extremely unlikely that the same water line was broken again, but Balkan arrived nonetheless to stand behind the ten year unconditional guarantee. Upon excavating and re-opening the tap no water appeared to indicate that a leak was present. Balkan then did a meter test and contacted the NYC DEP. It turned out that a defective sewer for the house was causing sewer water to flood the neighbors basement. That was why when the tap for the service line was closed the leak stopped.
A Water Meter Test Prevents Unnecessary Repair Work
Only because a meter was installed between the tap and the service line could it positively determined that the line was not leaking. Part of that test also involves closing the main control valve inside the house in case something inside the house is leaking. By inserting the meter, then re-opening the tap if was 100% positively determined that the service line was not leaking. Balkan is expert at performing all sorts of water leak tests. This was yet another case where proper expertise solved a difficult situation with a proper diagnosis.