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Bad Story, Happy Ending


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We just moved into a new (built in 2000) house last month. It's an acreage with a 50 gpm well.

The event I'm describing happened Holloween night, so interpret that as you will. [:-alien]

I'm in the basement, on one end of the house minding my own business, getting ready to take our 16 month old for his first trick-or-treating. And I hear this sound. It's sort of like the sound of a jet engine from far off. My parents happen to be there, and I hear my dad yell my name from the other end of the basement. (the basement is big, about 2,500 s.f.)

I go over there, and he's standing in the doorway to the mechanical room, which also serves as a 400 s.f. storage room. I look over his shoulder, and I see a horizontal column of water plowing across the room. Now, remember we just moved in, so we have TONS of stuff in the storage room: photo albums, guitars, christmas decorations, computers, etc...

All this stuff is just getting fire-hosed. There's a sump and a pump in it, as well as another floor drain on the other end of the room, but you can imagine it's only doing so much, and the water is rising. My dad goes back upstairs for brooms to push the water, and I make my way through the torment of water to the electrical panel.

So there I am standing at the electrical panel, this mayhem going on around me, and I'm frantically trying to read the panel cover listing to find the breaker for the pump. There's two 200 amp panels in this house, both are FULL so it wasn't as easy as you'd think in "peacefull" times.

I found the breaker, and swiped at it with a short prayer that I wouldn't get zapped too badly. Thankfully, I did not. We proceeded to start the 3 hour clean up, and halloween was basically over at that moment.

Analysis: The water break happened at the 2" line that goes through the poured foundation wall, where the a.b.s. meets the copper line/expansion tanks. At first we thought the pressure switch in the supply line has malfunctioned while the pump was running, which propably would have made the pump keep running until it built so much pressure that it blew the plastic pipe off the copper fitting. The pressure switch is fine, though. Our conclusion is that there has been settlement outside the foundation, which has pulled the plastic pipe away from the fitting slowly over the last 3 yearrs or so. It was too short to re-attach to the fitting. So an extension was put on, and it's re-clamped, and all is well.

What a crappy halloween. We're already bracing ourselves for next year. [:-crazy]

Side notes: Happy ending - because we were home and acted quickly, the only thing actually lost is one computer monitor. Everything else was pulled out and dried, and so on. No stains on the walls, etc. We had 3 dehumidifiers, 3 fans, and a shop vac. So we got the water out pretty fast. The insurance company said nothing would have been covered because technically the source of the problem was outside the structure of the house. F-ing A-holes... Good thing we didn't lose much.

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What a bummer!

To make things worse, you now have a water problem listed on you house's CLUE report. A CLUE (Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange) report lists its claim history for the past five years. CLUE reports are available only to homeowners and the insurance industry. CLUE reports include every claim inquiry or report by a homeowner, even if it didn't result in a loss payment.

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Not sure what code you are under Konrad but FWIW: 2000 IRC P2603.5 Pipes through footings or foundation walls.

Any pipe that passes under a footing or through a foundation wall shall be provided with a relieving arch; or there shall be built into the masonry wall a pipe sleeve two pipe sizes greater than the pipe passing through. (from 2003 but not changed from 2000)

From 2000 UPC (but not changed from 1997)

313.0 Protection of Piping, Materials, and Structures

313.1 All piping passing under or through walls shall be protected from breakage. All piping passing through or under cinders or other corrosive materials shall be protected from external corrosion in an approved manner. Approved provisions shall be made for expansion of hot water piping. Voids around piping passing through concrete floors on the ground shall be appropriately sealed.

313.2 All piping in connection with a plumbing system shall be so installed that piping or connections will not be subject to undue strains or stresses, and provisions shall be made for expansion, contraction, and structural settlement. No piping shall be directly embedded in concrete or masonry. No structural member shall be seriously weakened or impaired by cutting, notching or otherwise, as defined in the Building Code.

Out here the builder would most likely still be on the hook.

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Well the pipe is sleeved.

I must say I don't know what a "relieving arch" is. It's unlikely I could get anyone to prove anything. It would require *extensive* demolition of the brick veneer terrace above to get to the location where the line enters the foundation. Basically, try to visualize a front porch, but made with foundation walls, brick veneer, and a concrete slab on the porch.

I replaced the computer monitor for $89.00 today (got a used one), so it's mostly just a damned lucky break that we were there when it happened. Hell, even if it'd been while we were asleep it'd been a HUGE loss. I'll take my one monitor and run.

From an inspector's point of view, I don't know how a guy could visually determine that this plastic pipe was about to come off the copper fitting inside the home. It's not like you can see through the plastic pipe, which fits over the copper fitting and is clamped on.

But I'd bet that if this had been a client, they'd have been calling their lawyer!! [8] [:-thumbd]

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In your first post, you mentioned that the pipe was ABS. It's not rated for water supply. That might be part of the problem.

Then, in the last post you describe the plastic pipe as being fitted over the copper and clamped on. That sounds more like PE tubing. If it was clamped directly to the copper tubing, that's an incorrect connection. You might want to reconsider that connection method.

- Jim Katen, Oregon

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Black 2" plastic water line is probably HDPE (High Density Polyethylene). The line from the well to the pressure tank is normally connected with a clamp to a special female fitting that is pushed into the pipe prior to fastening the clamp. Most of the water lines from well I see come in under the footing through a 4" sleeve. Typically the sleeve terminates in the basement floor and extends out 5' from the outside wall of the house.

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