By Patti Godwin
Water leaks can be one of the most frustrating and expensive aspects of owning property. An undetected leak can create enormous havoc in a very short time. Think about this: a hole the size of a pinhead can waste 360,000 gallons over a year, enough to fill about 12,000 average-sized bathtubs.
The loss of that much water has two negative effects. First, the property owner is paying for the water that is disappearing into the ground. This is often compounded by sewer rates that are tied to water consumption. If a leak occurs in January, it could be even more expensive since some water companies do not read meters during the winter. The April or May water bill could be a real shocker!
The second effect is the damage that can be done by all this water. Water permeating the ground underneath a building can cause swelling and contracting of the soil, which in turn can cause foundations to buckle and crack and footings to sink. Insurance adjusters have pointed out that water damage often is more expensive to repair than damage due to fire.
Signs of a Leak
A property owner may have some clues to the existence of a leak, such as: a sudden increase in the water bill, tenants complaining about hearing running water or experiencing a loss of water pressure. Some visible characteristics could entail sinkholes or wet spots around the building, uneven vegetation growth or cracks in the foundation. Sewer odors are often a sign of leaks in the drain, waste & vent system of the building.
Swimming pools and spas are also common places for leaks. They usually have plenty of concealed plumbing beneath the decks surrounding them. A simple bucket test can determine how much of a loss is due to evaporation versus any suspected leak.
What to do Next…
If sleuthing does not turn up the source, yet there’s still a suspicion of a concealed leak – it is probably time to bring in a professional. In the past, the “search and destroy” methods have provided variable successes. Jackhammers or backhoes were used as the primary tools. In general, 75% of the cost of repairing a leak in this manner comes from repairing the damage done in looking for it.
Technology Locates Leaks Quickly and Inexpensively
The technology used for leak detection has developed dramatically over the past three decades. In brief, a combination of radio waves, sound and sonar technology are used to isolate the location of leaks, even to a depth of 8 to 15 feet below concrete slab, asphalt or underground. By locating the leak first, the size of the hole to handle the repair can often be as small as 15 inches square. Thereby greatly reducing the costs, and disruption of property and tenants. And most importantly: eliminating the property owner’s nightmare.