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Help - Water main leaking!

Post in 'DIY and General non-hearth advice' started by cbrodsky, Oct 19, 2007.

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  1. cbrodsky

    cbrodsky Member

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    Looks like I've got some fun to look forward to this weekend... would appreciate any advice on this. I'm getting a steady drip off the straight threaded pipe section between the well tank and the shut off valve on the right. This all just started since last night - fortunately I happened to be in the basement tonight and last night to see it or this could have gotten much uglier.

    The worst part is that it is not leaking at the threads - the pipe itself is splitting open on the bottom. I checked this more than once to be sure by drying the pipe. It looks like the plumber used a pipe wrench on the section between the well tank and shutoff valve, gouging the bottom of the pipe. Since it's often got condensate on it, I'm guessing that in 5 years it's completely corroded through the teeth gouges and is now leaking. I have no way to stop it other than shut off the well and drain the tank. I do have a shutoff valve to avoid having to drain the house pipes at least.

    Despite the threaded ends on the pipe, it's not clear to me that I can remove this without having to cut the copper pipe above the elbow to allow things to rotate and take out the bad pipe. Am I missing anything to make this job easier?

    I could just cut the bad pipe out and then remove it, but then I'm not sure how I would get a replacement inserted. If one of the sides had a reversed thread, I could see how this could have been made easier but doesn't look like it.

    -Colin

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  2. kevinmoelk

    kevinmoelk New Member

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    I'm no plumber but I'd unsolder the threaded connection to the right of the main just before the elbow, then unscrew everything to the left. Once the offending pipe were replaced, then I'd just resolder the joint back in place.

    -Kevin
  3. nshif

    nshif New Member

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    Looks like that valve might have a union fitting on the right side. If so break that loose and remove the valve and the pipe, replace the pipe then retighten the union.
  4. Shak

    Shak New Member

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    I had a similar situation about 8 months ago. I cut the pipe at the leak and soldered a coupler on it. It was fast and effective.
  5. Sandor

    Sandor Minister of Fire

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    ...what Kevin said.

    Sweat (off) the 3/4 NPT to 3/4 copper piece to the right of the valve.

    Unscrew the 3/4 pipe to the left of the valve, and replace with a galvanized steel pipe.

    Sweat the NPT fitting back together.

    If you not comfortable with soldering, then cut the copper above the 90 degree street connection (to the right of the valve), spin off the valve and bad section of pipe, reassemble, then use a brass 3/4 union compression fitting to put the copper back together. Make sure you leave at least an inch above the elbow to make room for the union.
  6. cbrodsky

    cbrodsky Member

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    Darn - OK - sounds like I'm going to have to break out the torch for this one...

    I have not had the best luck resoldering used fittings with my propane torch, but have done OK on fresh couplings. I'm also worried that it may be hard to resolder right next to the shutoff valve since those usually act like a giant heat sink - haven't had as good luck with them.

    I may try to cut the vertical pipe and put it back together with a slip coupling - have not had any problems when soldering those.

    This is one I'd consider outsourcing but in this part of the country I'd likely be out $200 for it at least and if the job went quickly, it should really only take 15 mins.

    -Colin
  7. nshif

    nshif New Member

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    Get a tank of MAPP gas for your torch, its hotter then propane
  8. cbrodsky

    cbrodsky Member

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    Does that require a different torch as well?
  9. velvetfoot

    velvetfoot Minister of Fire

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    I'm sure there's loads of experts here, but my last attempt at sweating pipes with no-lead solder did not go well.
    I did not practice since my $400 plumber experience, but I should. :)
    I've been told MAAP works better too.
    Remember, you are taking a whole-house water outage, and how long can you do without water?
    Also, don't do this on a Sunday when stores close early.
  10. cbrodsky

    cbrodsky Member

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    I'll probably do this tomorrow AM - I've had good luck w/slip couplings which I'd use to close up the 1" copper line that runs up vertically - I'm more confident in that approach vs. trying to solder close to the valve which will just suck away heat.

    Every time I've had problems soldering, it's been for that reason - for example, on my boiler when I tried to repair a solder joint right next to the threaded fitting going into the DHW coil plate I couldn't keep it hot enough. Was much easier to solder a new elbow/pipe section on the floor and then thread in the completed assembly, making a solder coupling away from the NPT fitting going into the DHW coil.

    Apparently shark-bite makes some sort of slip coupling which would really be nice to make this super easy, but last time I was at HD I didn't see those. Per another thread on here, I really liked using them in conjunction w/PEX to install my HW recirculator into copper lines.

    The one other thing that should make this a little easier is I have a shutoff valve not too far downstream of this area so I will not have a lot of trouble getting it dry.

    I'm still very surprised this failure could happen after only 5 years... will be interesting to get the pipe out so I can get a closer look at it.

    -Colin
  11. nshif

    nshif New Member

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    MAPP gas will work with the same torch, looks loke the same cylindar as propane only yellow instead of blue
  12. jjbaer

    jjbaer New Member

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    DO NOT use a regular torch with MAAP gas!!! My MAAP torch says to ONLY use specific torch heads specifically made for MAAP gas......get a MAAP torch kit that comes matched with a tank of gas and a MAAP torch head that includes a built-in ignitor (push the button on the torch head and it ignites the gas) and you'll never fumble again for a way to lite it and you'll forever have the correct torch head.......... VERY CHEAP way to ensure your safety.....
  13. Shak

    Shak New Member

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    Just remember when you sweat the joint, clean and dry are the key. Use sandpaper and steel wool to clean the copper. When you think it's clean enough, clean it some more. Don't be bashfull with the flux either.
  14. nshif

    nshif New Member

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    My torch says MAPP or Propane, and Ive plumbed the whole house with it with copper and no problems, still works great. I aggree the self ignighter is a great thing, I wouldnt be without it.
  15. Czech

    Czech Minister of Fire

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    Colin,

    It almost looks like that is a 3/4" brass nipple between the tank and the ball valve threaded on both ends? If so, cut the nipple in the middle and unscrew both pieces. You can then replace with two smaller brass nipples and a brass union, it may get tight but you might make it with close nipples. If you go from one metal (brass) to another metal (steel or copper), you may need a dielectic union to prevent electrolysis between the different metals in the future.
  16. cbrodsky

    cbrodsky Member

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    Now that's an idea I like. I will have to look for that this evening - I will always choose a hacksaw option over a torch if possible :) I've got a total of 5" clearance to work with between the shut-off valve and well tank fitting. I'm not sure how the NPT diameters are defined, but that copper pipe is a 1" pipe - it drops to 3/4" through the house after passing a branch for the outdoor hose. So I'm assuming that makes the brass nipple also 1".

    I've got a color printout of this to take to HD tonight to see what I can find as well.

    -Colin
  17. Czech

    Czech Minister of Fire

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    Now that I look again, that may be 1" when compared to the 3/4" boiler drain. When you measure, take into account the length 'made up', meaning how long it will be when everything is righty tighty. You'll probably have a little play to snug the union up, but you don't want too much stress on the copper. Might as well dope it too just for the hell of it, not the union itself, just the threads where the 1" nipples go. Don't forget the part about electrolysis between differing metals or you'll be replacing this again someday, although most likley a ways down the road. Recycle everything you don't use, you should be able to retire on the 1" brass nipple alone.
  18. Czech

    Czech Minister of Fire

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    On my drive home, I was thinking that the dielectric union may not be an issue if you use all brass, I think brass to copper is ok. If I recall, the problem is more going from galvi or black to copper or brass, but I've been out of the trade for quite some time. Maybe someone here can clarify? Good luck, keep us posted!
  19. elkimmeg

    elkimmeg Guest

    I think brass to copper is ok. I

    that is correct
  20. cbrodsky

    cbrodsky Member

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    Got to love HD - no brass nipples, but the guy working there swore up and down that "oh, just use galvanized - it holds up great... I've had it in my house forever..." I didn't waste my time trying to explain why one would use brass.

    They did have unions, but only in galvanized and frankly, they didn't look very high quality - don't think I would trust them to make a reliable seal. I did pick up a MAPP torch - since I also have a hose outlet that I need to replace at some point, I figured I'll be using this at least twice to make it worth the money.

    Similarly, you would be amazed at how hard you have to look to find copper flashing - even though none of the PT wood they sell can be used with galvanized anymore. There were a couple rolls tucked away on the floor and that was about it. I'd bet 99.9% of people that don't know about the issue just get the galvanized... our local inspector was surprised we actually used the right flashing on our porch we're building because he sees it wrong nearly every time.

    Shouldn't have wasted my time there last night.

    -Colin
  21. Eric Johnson

    Eric Johnson Mod Emeritus

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    I've read the MAPP gas tank too, and it says to use a special torch head. But I don't and it works fine. So I don't know. I don't think it's going to blow up in your face. It does get a lot hotter than propane.

    I think galvi is appropriate for domestic water systems. They sure used a lot of it back in the day. I'd probably convert it to copper, since it's such a small area and copper is a lot easier to work with. Two fittings and a small 3/4-inch copper nipple. You want to stay away from black iron, of course. Good lucking finding brass nipples at HD or Lowe's.

    Anyway, any other point I was going to make, somebody already has. Especially the part about thorough cleaning and sanding--go overboard. Oh, and when you're soldering the final connection, make sure there's a valve open somewhere nearby so the pressure can escape. If there's pressure (usually accompanied by steam) in the line, the solder won't flow into the joint, no matter how good you are. Good luck, Colin. It will take you 5 times longer than any plumber, but in the end I'm sure you'll be glad you did it yourself and satisfied with the results.
  22. cbrodsky

    cbrodsky Member

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    Well, round 1 didn't go so well today... got the new 6" brass nipple installed and pressurized it up to the valve to check that it was leak tight before going any further - no problems there. I'll have to post a pic of the old one - it was cracking right down the middle.

    The attached picture shows the disaster I had trying to solder the final coupling to reconnect the water supply. Don't laugh - I know it's a mess. I think I'm not getting it hot enough, which is frustrating given that this is the first time I'm using the MAPP gas torch. I never saw the solder flow - on this joint or the existing one right below it where the 1" pipe goes into the elbow. I suspect that water in the brass nipple is just a huge heat sink and preventing me from getting up to temperature. Eric - I had an outside faucet open which is not too far beyond this point to help vent. I also went at the surfaces of the pipe and coupling w/wire wheel on the dremmel tool to get off any corrosion following by a light sanding, and thought I had it all nicely covered w/flux. Any other ideas on what is going wrong here?

    To go at this a bit differently, I'm thinking I could cut the pipe above the messy coupling and take out the elbow/NPT transition and assemble a replacement on the floor with the right length of 1" copper pipe. Then thread that assembly in, and do the final coupling with a 1" shark bite slip coupling rather than risking screwing up another solder connection at the very end.

    In case it's not obvious, I really don't like soldering...

    -Colin

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  23. cbrodsky

    cbrodsky Member

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    By the way, here are a couple pictures of what started this... the original brass pipe was splitting wide open after just 5 years. The bright teeth marks from a pipe wrench are from me taking it off as it really didn't matter at this point, but there are some from the builder's install. Not clear if they caused it to start splitting or not.

    Also got a picture of the inside - there is a lump and some other crud along the crack on the inside of the nipple.

    I couldn't help but notice the Made In China stamp on the pipe either :)

    Any ideas on what caused this failure? I have a much easier to access similar brass nipple on the other side that connects up w/the poly line to the well, but I'm not sure I should even bother with it - as I understand, that is not necessarily under the same house water pressure.

    -Colin

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  24. GVA

    GVA Minister of Fire

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    You still have some water in that pipe and since you heated it ....ALOT.....All the flux burned away...... Can you open the valve there and then the boiler drain valve and let the steam out?
  25. Hogwildz

    Hogwildz Minister of Fire

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    Any chance the pipe ever froze weakening the pipe?
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