Digging Up The Water Pipes at Our House

Posted by Madison on August 5, 2008

I had a big day planned for writing. I was going to write a weeks worth of posts for My Dollar Plan and Kids and Money. Instead, my house was a revolving door of subcontractors and city workers getting ready to dig up our front lawn.

Running Water

We were on vacation for two weeks in July. When we got back we had very little water pressure. For the last week, we’ve noticed it everywhere.

The plumber. We called the plumber on Monday morning to find out what was going on. They measured our water pressure at 25 psi. It should be 40-60 psi. He also found that he could hear “water running like a banshee” in our pipes, but the meter wasn’t running, and he couldn’t find water spilling out anywhere in the house.

The city. Next, the city came out to see if it was on the city service side. They shut off our water connection and determined that it’s somewhere between the hookup to the city service and the entrance to our house.

Here’s the problem, it’s 8 feet underground at the connection, and they’re guessing that the pipe runs under our foundation to the rear of the house. Somewhere that pipe has burst.

The diggers. The diggers should arrive this morning after diggers hotline confirms the location of all the utilities, and they will dig until they find it or hit the house. We’re hoping it’s in front of the house. We haven’t discussed plans if it’s under our house, but the plumber did say that it would likely involve tearing apart our basement (which is all finished).

The developer. Ironically, I found out a couple of our neighbors had similar issues and the city believes the developer had an “inexperienced” plumber do all the hookups at the water service. They will be represented on site today too.

The insurance company. Our insurance company won’t be sending someone out today, but they instructed us to take lots of pictures and get the broken pipe. Once we determine who is at fault and the total cost, we can decide if we want to file a claim. It’s questionable at this point whether or not our policy covers this.

Who Is Responsible?

We’ve lived in our house 2 years, but we had a 1 year warranty from our general contractor. The city claims it is not their pipe. The plumber says it isn’t their work, and the developer isn’t saying anything.

Ultimately, it looks like we’ll be on the hook for it. The only estimate we’ve received is a minimum of 3 men to dig until they find it, 1 plumber to fix it, and then put everything back together including sidewalk, sod, and landscaping. I’m not sure what that adds up to, but it sounds like $$$$ to me.

The Personal Finance Connection

I wouldn’t be writing about all this if it didn’t have a personal finance lesson. When we bought our first house, I use to take 1% of the purchase price and put it into a savings account each year for maintenance. Of course, over time I’ve gotten a little lax about that so there isn’t much in it anymore…

Do yourself a favor and set aside some money for household maintenance. Skipping this step and pretending something won’t happen is a recipe for disaster!

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Comments to Digging Up The Water Pipes at Our House

  1. We had to do that at our house about 18 months ago. Be thankful that it occurred during the summer months and you don’t have to worry about pipe freezing as well. Our was caused by the house being 100+ years old and the galvanized pipes rusting away to nothing. We never found the culprit, but ended up just putting in a new line.

    One thing I learned from the process is make sure you find out from your city the specific codes that should be followed for the line from their termination point to your house. Once you have it fixed, make sure they approve it before it is buried. I would investigate if they had it approved before to find out who may be a fault (if the developer did not have it approved, I would recommend pursing them).

    Sick of Debt

    • Yep, just found why I have no pressure and take “bucket: showers these last 3 weeks. I have water coming up that looks like Jed hit oil while hunt’in fur some food. It’s late winter but will have to patch it up I guess till I can run a new line. Digging here on Whidbey Island reminds us of why they call it the rock…not fun. My problem is I have no time, but also have no choice. This is what happen when you buy an old house in the country I guess.

      John Raymond

    • What did you end up paying for the repair? I am dealing with a similar situation- 100 year old house, corroded pipes backing up into the basement drains and washtub. Plumber is coming out to assess tomorrow but I would like to know what to expect financially.

      Jeni S

  2. I’m sorry to hear that, it sounds awful! I really hope you can get that resolved with minimal out of pocket expenses.

    Thanks for the reminder on the home maintenance fund. I also started one a long time ago and *big surprise* have stopped contributing to it. I need to get back into that habit immediately.


  3. What a nightmare! I’m hoping that they find it quickly and can repair it easily.


  4. I really like the idea of setting aside a percentage of the houses purchase price to cover regular and not so regular maintenance. I am curios though, why did you decide on 1%? Would you have chosen a higher percentage if your house cost less?


  5. I was in my house one month when water started gushing out from the crack in my garage that separates the drywall from the slab. It was behind my 15 year old hot water heater – the plumber my home warranty people sent out swore it was going to be the hot water heater – umm, no. I had a slab leak – lucky for me, it occurred in the one stretch of pipes that went from the main entry to the split by my kitchen sink – a 10′ section of wall had to be torn out and a 10′ section of copper pipe to reroute the water installed. But, they did replace my hot water heater (woo hoo). The cost was $1000, but it could have been much, much worse. With only one month under my belt – home ownership seems like it’s going to be quite the roller coaster!!


  6. Man…I’m feeling for you. The city is going to put a pipe through our backyard and I’m not sure if I have to get two (huge!) trees out of the way. In general, pipes just suck.


  7. Homeownership is always expensive, either fixing it up, or just fixing it. All the more reason to not push your budget with a huge mortgage payment (unless you would otherwise spend it on lattes !).

    Todd A

  8. @ Sick of Debt: Thanks for the tips! The city inspector (along with lots of other people) was here to approve the work. Thanks for reminding me how much better this is in the summer!

    @ Eden: Ok, we’re both on record for restarting our contributions to our home maintenance fund.

    @ Steward: I vaguely remember reading something in a home buyers book about the 1% rule. I couldn’t tell you for sure though, it was a long time ago.

    @ Jennifer: Oh dear! You just made my situation sound so much better. That sounds horrendous!

    @ FMF, James, and Todd: Thanks for your thoughts!

    We took some pictures of digging today and I’ll find a good one to post tomorrow!


  9. It’s probably too late, but they do NOT have to dig until they find it. For our break, they put a camera into the pipe to find the blockage. It’s a full color deal, too (as my DH found out when he stuck around to see it. In our case, it was the sewer line. Lovely!) I don’t know cost-wise if there’s a difference, but at least our whole yard didn’t have to be dug up.


  10. Oh, I should have kept reading first. Oh well!


  11. We’ve always kept a ‘house repair fund’ of varying sizes, but never had a system for the amount to have in it other than the potential projects that we had line of sight to.


  12. @ AnnMarie: Thanks anyways!

    @ NtJS: Glad you have a house repair fund… I hope you never need to use it.


  13. Have an issue with a new purchase old home – about 60 years. Home was remodeled prior to our purchase. Found a “copper pipe” in the back yard next to the house coming out of the ground. Took me a while to figure out what it was…. Good thing I didn’t decide to dig it up!! It is a copper pipe that appears to send the Hot Water to the HOUSE! Is this normal? Thought the hot water pipes would run through the house, not through the back yard! We bought a 1 year warranty on purchase so still under that, but not sure what to do…. call a plumber?

    Loren McGuire

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