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Discussion Starter #1
I have a mystery leak in my house and I don't know what it is!?

So a few months ago my husband and I noticed that we hear the water on all day and all night (you know ... the drone you hear, when you leave the garden hose on, and you realize you've left the sprinklers on all day... not a splash splash sound though). I didn't actually think much of it 'cause we have a refinery by our house, so i figured that the location of the bathroom window made the droning sound.... Anyway recently we've also noticed that the water pressure has dropped a bit.

So we tested out the theory of whether its the water or a refinery. Turned the main water valve off. And no droning! Turn it on, and its droning! So we've concluded that there is actually water running somewhere. Did the same with the hot water tank valve. No change. So somewhere in the house there is water running... But its been going on for months. If there was a burst pipe, we would definitely know by now (i.e. no flooding, no soggy walls, no extra green patches of grass...).
Also shut all the valves in the house we could think of (all toilets, all sinks, laundry room, dishwasher.... not the out door valves or the shower valves <- no access)

Some facts:
- House is about 60 years old
- water pipe is copper (original part of house) and flexible tubing (polyethylene? not PVC, new part of house)
- the droning is in one interior wall for sure. This is the 'plumbing' wall (i.e. two bathrooms, maybe the kitchen, and maybe the outdoor water piping and plumbing goes through). This wall is exposed in the crawl space though, so if any water was leaking in here, we would have seen it by now. Went to the attic above the wall, don't really hear the droning, nor see anything.
- we do have a hot tub pad, but I don't know if there is water going out to it....

My theory: the water is definitely not coming out inside the house, so it must be going to the sanitary drain, the perimeter drains, or the roof. Unfortunately there is no sanitary sewer clean out (on the outside of the house... i guess there is one in the basement). but I don't really hear any water going through the main sanitary line that goes through the house.

Help me!
 

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Wow ...sounds like its driving you crazy :eek:..
.I am no plumber but heres what I would Do first ....With all taps off ,close the main valve to the house . Then open a cold water tap on the upper floor for a full minuet then close it. ( use the highest tap possible ie laundry room tap is higher than bathroom sink that is higher than your bath tub ...)
Turn the main valve on again and slowly open the same tap again....If there is water immediately then you could not possibly have a leak , as the water should of ran out the open water pipe by way of the damaged line.
If there is air coming up the water line you open ..you have a leak.
There are other noises it could possibly be ..maybe the pressure regulator . Causing a hum traveling up the line.
First thing is to find out if you actually have one. Try that as seeing no water is a bit odd.
bill
 

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An interesting problem!
Three questions:
1) Is your house heated by hot water?
2)Do any of your toilets 'run on'? (I am sure that you would have figured this out already if this were the problem, but we have a toilet tank that runs from time to time, even starts up when we haven't been using it, and this causes a humming in our pipes even though it seems to involve a miniscule amount of water. The toilet doesn't flush or leak or anything...it just runs itself a bit.Perhaps a flap doesn't fully settle into place.)
3)Does your refrigerator have an automatic ice maker?

One thing to check is whether there's an outdoor connection that you've missed. For example, if an outdoor hose is turned on even slightly, you can get this kind of noise without noticing any water running. Most systems have a shut-off valve for the outside taps. Perhaps there is a tap to your hot tub pad?

We have an old house, too (built in 1918) and it is definitely quirky. Lots of different pipe sounds.

I think it's possible to have running water without a leak. For example, a refrigerator that uses water to make ice, a toilet tank with an idiosyncracy, an exterior hose that is barely on, not even enough to cause a puddle at the end of your hose, ... I'd love to hear what the problem was, once you find it
 

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Discussion Starter #4
Wow ...sounds like its driving you crazy :eek:..
.I am no plumber but heres what I would Do first ....With all taps off ,close the main valve to the house . Then open a cold water tap on the upper floor for a full minuet then close it. ( use the highest tap possible ie laundry room tap is higher than bathroom sink that is higher than your bath tub ...)
Turn the main valve on again and slowly open the same tap again....If there is water immediately then you could not possibly have a leak , as the water should of ran out the open water pipe by way of the damaged line.
If there is air coming up the water line you open ..you have a leak.
There are other noises it could possibly be ..maybe the pressure regulator . Causing a hum traveling up the line.
First thing is to find out if you actually have one. Try that as seeing no water is a bit odd.
bill
We tried that... in a backwards way. We turned of the main shutoff valve, and opened the top tap (in this case the bathroom faucet). It ran for a second or two (normal given the pressure in the system). Then left the top one open (so that the air can get into the system). Then opened the next one (ran a few seconds), opened the next one (again rain a few seconds). This means that the 'leak' would have to be above the top tap (washroom)... otherwise the pipes would have already been empty....
 

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Discussion Starter #5
An interesting problem!
Three questions:
1) Is your house heated by hot water?
I assume you mean a boiler. No its natural gas

2)Do any of your toilets 'run on'? (I am sure that you would have figured this out already if this were the problem, but we have a toilet tank that runs from time to time, even starts up when we haven't been using it, and this causes a humming in our pipes even though it seems to involve a miniscule amount of water. The toilet doesn't flush or leak or anything...it just runs itself a bit.Perhaps a flap doesn't fully settle into place.)
Nope. Closed all the water valves to the toilets

3)Does your refrigerator have an automatic ice maker?
Nope.

One thing to check is whether there's an outdoor connection that you've missed. For example, if an outdoor hose is turned on even slightly, you can get this kind of noise without noticing any water running. Most systems have a shut-off valve for the outside taps. Perhaps there is a tap to your hot tub pad?
This one is the unknown one... I don't see one. The home owner that put the original pad in lives up the street so I could ask if they put a new one in...

We have an old house, too (built in 1918) and it is definitely quirky. Lots of different pipe sounds.

I think it's possible to have running water without a leak. For example, a refrigerator that uses water to make ice, a toilet tank with an idiosyncracy, an exterior hose that is barely on, not even enough to cause a puddle at the end of your hose, ... I'd love to hear what the problem was, once you find it
I'd love to know too! :D
I'll let you know when I solve the mystery.

The thing is you when you live in the house long enough you know what sounds like a person washing their hands, sprinkler, toilet etc... this one is definitely in the "I'm watering my lawn" category.... i.e. sounds like a lot of water... but it could just be resonance too...
 

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We tried that... in a backwards way. We turned of the main shutoff valve, and opened the top tap (in this case the bathroom faucet). It ran for a second or two (normal given the pressure in the system). Then left the top one open (so that the air can get into the system). Then opened the next one (ran a few seconds), opened the next one (again rain a few seconds). This means that the 'leak' would have to be above the top tap (washroom)... otherwise the pipes would have already been empty....
Yea a bit backward .:D...when you opened the 2ng tap water came out ? If so ...its from the lines above.( hard to say how the pipes are run ) In doing it that way vs how I discribe is mainly to see if you are infact have A leak. Leave the tap open for say five minuets and close and if you have a leak you will get a wack of air. If you dont you have no leak. You dont want to open more than 1 tap as it will allow air in .From what I read you hear water and assume a leak but no evidence ..:)..No air into system = No leak from what I know ....and we covered that .
Try that even if its just to humour me if you would :).

edit .
not knowing how the lines are run to each area you may want to try it on a couple of taps unless you get air .
 

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Discussion Starter #7
Ok, i am officially not CRAZY!
I have a plumber in here, and he agrees that there is water running, and he's stumped! He's out exploring right now.
 

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do you have in floor radiant heating on the new part of the house?
do you have hose bibs located away from the house?
maybe a trap primer blew
 

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Well, if it sounds like you're watering your lawn, then there's a good chance that you are.

Our 'haunted' toilet makes that sound -- it causes the water to sound like it's running in the pipes, even though it's not flushing or anything. (Probably not when it's shut off, though; we haven't tried that)

But if you think you can hear water running as if there's a hose going, then chances are, there is. Air in the pipes doesn't make the same noise. Drains don't make the same noise. Furnaces sound entirely different.

Our pipes have a shutoff valve where they leave the house -- just inside the basement ceiling at the front and at the back, so that we can shut off our front yard hose and our backyard hose for winter.

After your thorough inspection efforts, I'm guessing that you either have a hose that you don't know about (perhaps it comes off the garage or the hot tub pad) and it's on very slightly, or you have a pipe that exits the house to your hot tub pad or unknown tap, that has a leak under ground.

Possibly, someone opened a tap at the hot tub pad or as-yet-undiscovered outside pipe slightly during a cold spell to prevent it from freezing, and never turned it all the way off again. Or perhaps a pipe cracked a little bit outside, where you can't see it, during a cold spell. Or, does your hot water tank have a runoff into a drain? Perhaps it is leaking slightly or something, and the water is going down the drain. (Our tank has no drain, so when it goes, we find out right away because of the flood...) Maybe you can track the mystery with your ears.

I know what you mean about becoming familiar with the noises of a house. We've lived in this house since 1992, and on several occasions our ears have identified problems before we could see any problem. If you are hearing water running all the time, then it's running somewhere. But it's probably not a tiny leak. When we developed pinhole leaks in some copper pipes due to corrosion, we did not get that running sound. The first sign was water dribbling down from our bathroom ceiling.

A very interesting problem, and I like reading people's ideas!

PS to Snapple: I have never had radiant heating. What's a trap primer?
 

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I trap primer automatically drips water into a floor drain. The trap "traps" the water, which will evaporate if not primed. The water in the trap prevent foul gas from running from the outside sewer line back to your house.

If you have a floor drain somewhere in your basement - usually around te hot water tank, Check it out. The should be pipe just right above it. Is it flowing?
 

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Discussion Starter #11
We don't have radiant heating (might be nice though....)

Well... So we've (my, husband, and plumber) have come to the agreement that the water running is within about a 3m area, centred around our 2nd fl bathroom. This is confirmed by touching the copper water line under the bathroom sink. You can definitely feel the pipes vibrating, but only the cold water line, not the hot (which makes sense because closing the hot water tank line does nothing).

I am hoping that its a water line outside that we don't know about. Maybe to the hot tub pad, and the pipe cracked. I am going to go talk to the old home owners tomorrow and see if they installed another water line at some point.

sNApple, what is a trap primer?

At this point we are looking at gutting the bathroom to figure this out... which is fine because we were planning to demo/reno the bathroom anyway in a few months. Gives us more incentive to do it now.

The mystery continues..... duh duh daaaa!
 

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Discussion Starter #12 (Edited)
I trap primer automatically drips water into a floor drain. The trap "traps" the water, which will evaporate if not primed. The water in the trap prevent foul gas from running from the outside sewer line back to your house.

If you have a floor drain somewhere in your basement - usually around te hot water tank, Check it out. The should be pipe just right above it. Is it flowing?
uh hah...that is a negative negative....which is a good thing you made me check gklaw! I learned today that my basement tenant's toilet and shower drain are attached to the sump pump (i was thinking how weird it was that the sanitary sewer line going out of the house was higher than the drain level of the basement!... so I made my husband flush the toilet, and voila the sump pump turned on. Explains why my crawl space reeks!). The sanitary drain is about 8" above the basement floor level, so trap primer is out.
 

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That is a very strange plumbing setup, in your basement!

At least you've identified the area of the piping that's making the noise, and there's no water gushing from the area.

Good luck.

uh hah...that is a negative negative....which is a good thing you made me check gklaw! I learned today that my basement tenant's toilet and shower drain are attached to the sump pump (i was thinking how weird it was that the sanitary sewer line going out of the house was higher than the drain level of the basement!... so I made my husband flush the toilet, and voila the sump pump turned on. Explains why my crawl space reeks!). The sanitary drain is about 8" above the basement floor level, so trap primer is out.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
That is a very strange plumbing setup, in your basement!

At least you've identified the area of the piping that's making the noise, and there's no water gushing from the area.

Good luck.
Haha... that's what happens when you have a 60 year old house with many previous owners!

Yes, I've narrowed it down to about a 3m segment of pipe now... It goes along the exterior wall, so our guess is something that goes out of the house...
 

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Haha... well here is the status report:
- Got a leak detection specialist (aka special plumber) to come in and take a look. But before we discuss this part, I need to rant about another thing... So I called the company and insisted that I talked to the manager directly, since I had an odd problem and I had to make sure they brought the right equipment out. So the manager says he understands why I want to talk to him... I do have an odd problem. So he says to tell the dispatcher to make sure the guy brings a geoscope (aka glorified stethoscope). I also ask him to make sure to bring a pressure gauge that they can hook onto the hose bib outside so that we can see if there ACTUALLY is a leak or not (you open the hose valve, and the pressure should go up. You then close the main house shutoff valve, and if the pressure stays the same then no leak, if it drops a lot it means you have a leak)... and the guy pretty much scoffs at me. Says EVERY truck has it!
Anyway the plumber guy comes in... looks around... uses the geoscope along the service line to the house.... says he thinks its the pressure from the main water line, since we don't have a pressure reducing valve, which is causing the pipes to vibrate... so there should be no leak... So I say "Ok.... I suppose that could be it... where's the pressure gauge? Can you see if there is actually a leak?"... the guy says "Its on my hot water tank, I don't have it". WTF!? I ASKED for the thing, and the guy humiliated me, and you DON"T have it!?! Anyway... so I paid the guy and he left....

So I talked to the guys at work (I am an engineer at a consulting engineering firm that deal with municipal sewer and water stuff... i.e. we know our stuff). And we conclude that the whole pressure thing doesn't quite make sense. The pressure and flow in the main will vary throughout (during high demand hours, like 5 - 7 pm) the pressure in the system should drop because of high demand. But the sound doesn't change throughout the day, which it should based on this theory... Plus the sounds started recently....

Anyway I borrowed a pressure gauge from the office, and still need to go to Home Depot to get a adapter to make it work on a hose bib at the house...

That's the status! I sleep a bit better at night now... two plumbers have confirmed that it's 'probably' not leaking in the house.
 

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my god,, sound a big happen,, hope you can find help!
 

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Discussion Starter #18
Ok we are good!
I got the pressure gauge installed! There is no leak :D. No pressure drop, and the pressure is within a 'normal' range!
I guess its just old pipe.
Thank you for everyone who tried to help out! It was very helpful and I learned a lot about house plumbing:)
 

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Ok Update....I thought it was done, but I was wrong!

We do have a leak :(
Good news: its not inside the house
Bad news: its in the front lawn

The reason the pressure test was ok was because we only tested inside the house, not from the house to the road.

We were walking around the front lawn (admiring the new exterior paint job), and *SQUISH*! That's right, there is a HUGE puddle under the grass.

Now I hate that plumber even more. *Sigh* there goes a couple of grand down the drain (no pun intended). Anyone know a good contractor?
 

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Is your waterline lead or copper? If it is lead, just suck it up and get it replaced, copper can be spot repaired fairly easy by a contractor. If you want to have some peace and mind about the condition your sewer is in, get them to camera your sewer while they are there. At the point your house is old the sewer might be tarpaper or claytile which have a short lifespan. It was cheap to make during the warsince all the plastics were going towards the war effort. The actual pipes are probebly long gone, but the ground has hardened around them and is still functioning just fine but when they do the waterline fix it will then collapse and you will be caught off guard. I did sewer and water replacements for 4 years before I became a plumber and I have seen some people start crying when they find out it will cost them $3000 now instead of the intial $500 waterline repair. My city actually pays for half of the bill if you do a full sewer and waterline replacement.
 
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