How to locate a pipe leak on sloped driveway?

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice, Tips & ' started by ballvalve, Sep 6, 2010.

  1. ballvalve

    ballvalve General Engineering Contractor

    Messages:
    3,261
    Location:
    northfork, california
    My driveway slopes at about 16% for 75 feet. Near the base of it, but still on an uphill run, I have a seepage of about 5 to 8 GPM. I have isolated it to a pressure line of 50 to 80 PSI that exits a pressure tank and feeds the house and yard - it is 1.25" PVC

    The roadway is asphalted with a deep base of gravel, so the true source of the leak is quite problematic to discover. I have used a stethoscope in the area of the seep, but results are confusing; cannot zone in on a noisy area. The pipe may be 18 to 25" deep.

    Also in this trench, unfortunately, is 2" electric, 2" pumped effluent [far below the pressure line], telephone and another 1.5" water line from another source.

    Any tricks to pinpoint this leak? I can turn up pressure to 100 psi and then.... tin can with ear on it like some motel room voyeur? Stethoscope with a rod attachment into drilled holes? [had one cannot locate it]

    Tear it all up with the backhoe and block access for a few days and probably hit the electric first?
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 31, 2010
  2. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,258
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    leak

    Or you can do what I would and call a professional leak locator, NOT a plumber with a leak detector. It will be a lot cheaper than a backhoe, especially if you damage the electrical line.
  3. Jerome2877

    Jerome2877 In the Trades

    Messages:
    397
    Location:
    BC
    You could try using a hammerdrill with a small bit and drill holes along the driveway until there is no water that comes up. Then just use some ashphalt sealant to plug them when your done. But do you know where the line runs, this could be a problem.

    A leak detection company would have better equipment to locate the line and find the leak.
  4. johnjh2o1

    johnjh2o1 Plumbing Contractor for 49 years

    Messages:
    1,141
    Location:
    South*East
    I would take hj's advice. With all the other lines under the drive way drilling holes is not a good idea.

    John
  5. Steve_P

    Steve_P New Member

    Messages:
    41
    Location:
    East TN
    I just went thru this... I called a plumber and they referred me to American Leak Detection. They tried several methods and ended up disconnecting the line and charging with helium and then detecting the leak. Found the exact location. Cost ~$300. Not cheap but easier than digging up the lawn.
  6. ballvalve

    ballvalve General Engineering Contractor

    Messages:
    3,261
    Location:
    northfork, california
    What method do these leak guys use? The only ones within 60 miles of here would use a willow wand.

    I laid the lines years ago, and am trying to find the photos, although I did map them. I'll start with the holes and a probe as I know the minimum depth.

    Seems like a engine type stethoscope with a 18" probe [had one used it for similar things] could be used in those holes as the leak must be making a big squeal out of a fitting somewhere. [?] We have earthquakes pretty regularly, and the land seems to always be seeking a lower level.

    I'll start with a sawcut perhaps 3' square and locate the pipe at the seep. Its possible that its also the leak point. Then I'll get the phone book out.

    Thanks for the ideas
    Last edited: Sep 6, 2010
  7. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

    Messages:
    14,770
    Location:
    Bothell, Washington
    The leak detectors I have used used had electronics. I've had them spot the leak within inches.
    That is your best bet if you want to limit how much driveway will be cut out.

    You can find pipes with rods, wires, and willow rods maybe, but someone with electronics can pin point the leak.

    [video=youtube;UBXmqzBs-ng]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UBXmqzBs-ng[/video]

    I shot this when I was down to 166 pounds. I'm now back to 200 pounds.
    200 pounds feels a lot better when I'm lifting the one-piece TOTO toilets made in the USA.
    The avatar picture on the left was taken a few weeks ago.
  8. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,258
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    The good ones use ultrasound, CO2, Helium, and infrared, among other methods. And if the pipe is metallic, they can tell you where it is also. Plumbers with leak detecting equipment usually only have ultrasound.
  9. Unitedleak

    Unitedleak Water Leak Detection

    Messages:
    3
    Location:
    Indiana
    Different methods are used for different situations. The helium worked well due to the soil that the pipe was contained in. It does work well for an application like yours. There are some applications where only ultrasound will work well. Also, helium can be a challenge on windy days (of course so can ultrasound). Glad you found it.
  10. Thatguy

    Thatguy Homeowner

    Messages:
    1,460
    Location:
    MD
    The soil will be more electrically conductive in the area of the leak so in principle you could probe it with two gutterspike electrodes that penetrate the asphalt, but by now the whole area is probably saturated.
  11. ballvalve

    ballvalve General Engineering Contractor

    Messages:
    3,261
    Location:
    northfork, california
    FWIW To finish this off:

    Found my kid digging a huge hole along the edge of the mountain, about 4 feet in from the drop off. WET MESS, having a blast.

    After a friendly discussion, I noticed a "spring" bubbling up.

    finally found my home made underground map and found a branch off the main line heading near there.

    After a hideous battle with tree roots, 2 septic lines and an electric line, the leak was found within 6 inches of the edge of the hillside. For some bizarre reason, the leak went uphill [backwards] along the line and popped up in a obscure area.

    This was a 40$ a month leak, so I was just ready for air test and helium, but it likely would have not worked because all indications were a small seep 100' away.

    Moral of the story - look hard and far and keep a map of your diggings. Have a kid that likes to dig. Use POLY pipe and put boxes or indicators at joints.

    The seep at the sloped drive seems to be about a gallon an hour from a different system. I'll absorb that until it blows out.

    Thanks for the help.
    Last edited: Oct 30, 2010
  12. Redwood

    Redwood Master Plumber

    Messages:
    7,453
    Location:
    Connecticut
    Wow United I see you all over the forums waking up old threads from the dead....
  13. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

    Messages:
    14,770
    Location:
    Bothell, Washington
    If there is clay in the soil, then the water can go most anywhere.
    I've also found that out the hard way. That's why plumbers like to either bring in a "leak detector" or just replace the line.
    The hunt and search can be very frustrating. Marking a joint with a box isn't a bad idea, though I've never had a joint go bad again. Most of the time, it's on the 30 year old stuff and older.
  14. ballvalve

    ballvalve General Engineering Contractor

    Messages:
    3,261
    Location:
    northfork, california
    You got that right - 25 years, clay, earthquakes and steep slopes. More to come!
  15. liplumber

    liplumber New Member

    Messages:
    6
    Location:
    Long Island, NY
    My nephew had a problem like this once, although he didn't have a gravel driveway. That does make it a more complex issue. However I'd have to agree with jerome. A friend of mine is a plumber long island and he worked on my nephews plumbing for years. He did what jerome said basically, creating small holes along it and just taking note of where the water stops. I'm sure there are better, more complex plumbing methods you can use but if you just want a dummie test, try it. Good luck.
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