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破財消災:A $3,500 plumbing job February 10, 2015

Posted by hslu in misc.
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It’s very expensive. I know. I feel the pain. Worse, the stint will stay with me for a while.

Well, all I can say to comfort myself is: call it ‘破財消災’ 吧。

You see, I had what commonly refers to as a ‘slab leak.’ Yeah, water leaks out from below a slab; like the concrete slab in your basement or garage. It is very serious even though the amount of water leaked into the house around the water supply line was small: like about 15 gallons a day, roughly two toilet tanks worth of water.


The leak was somewhere along the water supply line coming into my house from the shut off valve at county line out by the street. The 1 1/4″ water supply pipe is about 30′ long but I didn’t know where the leak was and I didn’t know how big the crack was either. Although only a small amount of water leaked into the basement, some water had to have leaked into the soil which may cause the foundation to shift or settle unevenly. The recent rain and snow also made the situation unpredictable and dangeous. That could be very serious if left untreated.

First, I had to find out where the leak was. For that I called a leak detection company I found online.

Well, they couldn’t come to test the line right away because it was windy. It also rained for a few days. The guy told me he’d come on the first clear day and it would cost me $450. Any time after two hours would be $160 extra per hour. Not cheap.

The crew showed up as promised on the furst ckear day. Theyy shut the water off. Took the meter off and pressure up the line with either N2 or air. They also used a pressure gauge to make sure the leak came from the supply line. They’d then listen to the hissing sound made by air leaking out of the hole using a listening device to locate the location of the leak. That’s why he couldn’t have wind blowing around his ears or rain dropping down. Snow was okay though.

Well, the leak came from the supply line and it was somewhere near the house below the slab because the hissing sound faded away quickly once he walked away from the house. He couldn’t tell how far down the crack was because the supply line might have come into the basement from below the slab which is about 6′ below the ground level.

He suggested that a new line be put in from the shut off valve on the city line, drill a hole through the basement wall, run the line inside the basement and tie it in to the existing plumbing before the meter. This sounded reasonable to me because it beats digging a 10 foot deep hole in the ground which might not reveal the location of the leak.

That’s what we’d do but the leak detectiin company wouldn’t fix the leak and I had to get a plumber to do that.

Usually when we have a leaky pipe or  worn out faucet inside the house, we called a Chinese guy who may or may not practice the trade before he came to the U.S. He may have picked up the skill by working for a plumber over the years. People like this usually charges at least 1/2 of what a regular American plumber charges.

But a Chinese plumber couldn’t be trusted for this kind of job because it required him to work with county official and utility companies: a permit had to be applied and received, burried lines and cables had to be located before any digging began and inspection had to be performed by the county before finishing the job. Digging a 25′ long trench about 3′ deep called for a backhoe or a bobcat. All these tasks were usually beyond what Chinese plumber was comfortable doing. The bottom line was that it’d take big money to fix the problem.

I got referrals from the leak detection guy but one of them didn’t want the job for reasons I didn’t know. I got the other guy came in and told him the leak guy’s suggestion. He agreed with the suggestion and told me he’d give me a quote the next day.

He called around 8:30 in the morning and asked for $3,100 for the job. Since the guy looked honest to me and he was willing to make a trip with a short notice, I told him to come the next day. He said he’d see me the day after tomorrow because he had to get a permit from the county tomorrow because it was getting dark outside.

The next day, he sent in a trailer with a bobcat backhoe. The day after, three guys showed up early in the morning digging around the city valve which is about 4′ below ground.

An hour or so later, a guy came to mark the burried lines and cables. Soon after he left, one guy fired up the bobcat and started digging around the house. He moved away from where the supply pipe was because it is close to the city sewer line.


From utility company to mark buried cables.


Once a trench is big enough for a man to work down there, another guy started to drill the hole through the basement wall. It took him about 25 minutes because he hit steel half way through and had to push the long drill bit hard with another guy’s help.


Then the old plumbing was cut off and a new insulated flexible water line was put in. Once the entire path of the trench was dug up, two guys worked on the tie-ins and the bobcat guy started to back fill the trench. They left my house around 4:30 pm but they have to come back tomortow because it was too late for county inspection. I guessed the county guy probably was packing his stuff in and already call it for the day by then.



The lead guy told me someone will come back tomorrow and be here with the inspector. Once the insspector signed off on the job, he’d fill the hole back up, pack the soil in and pave the walk way with paving stones. All I have to do was to seed the dirt in the spring.


The hole was sealed with hydraulic cement and a layer of tar.


At the bottom of that standing pipe is the city line and shut of vale.

That will cost me $3,100.


Well, a house is kind like a person. As peoole get older, problems start to show up inside the body, skin starts to lose firmness, grey hair shows up seemly over night, wrinkles begin to appear on the face and body parts start to work not as good as before. People start to see doctors more often and hospitals and doctor’s offices become the places to visit on a regular basis and nurses begin to call you by your first name. You become a regular customer.

When a house gets older, things fell apart. My house was built 35 years ago and it had a new roof, a new siding, new windows, a new GE water heater, a new A/C, a new garbage disposal, a new garage door, a new water supply line and soon a new carpet. Deck needs a new surface. Some doors won’t close properly and cracks start to let more hot air out during the winter and can’t keep the cold air in in the summer. Handyman’s business cards start to crowd out other people’s cards and it becomes very expensive to keep the house not to mention thousands of dollars in property tax that we have to pay every year.

Too bad that I can’t claim the plumbing job as a loss on my tax return.

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