Old wells, lots of things to fix (C) Daniel FriedmanWell Water Piping Leak Symptoms, Diagnosis, & Repair Methods

  • WELL PIPING LEAK DIAGNOSIS - CONTENTS: Well Piping Leaks - How a Hidden Water Leak Causes Various Problems. Effects of well piping leaks, diagnosis, effects, remedy. A simple guide to the types of leaks that occur in water pipes, drain pipes, & plumbing fixtures. Causes of well piping leaks. Causes of well casing leaks. The Old House Repair "Spaghetti Problem" - where do we stop? WELL PIPE LEAK CAUSES What Causes Leaks in Buried Well Water Piping? Characteristics, diagnosis, & repair of well casing leaks

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Diagnose well pipe leaks:

This article describes diagnosing and repairing leaks that can occur in building water piping between a private well and the building water equipment. We also discuss the diagnosis and repair of leaky water well casings themselves. Knowing just what kind of leak is occurring in a building helps pinpoint the problem and also helps specify the necessary plumbing repair.

The articles at this website will answer most questions about diagnosing and repairing pumps, wells, water supply systems, and building piping. Our page top photo shows water around a plastic water line that had a buried but leaky fitting. The repair was simple, but the excavation to find the leak was a bit more trouble.

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Well Piping Leaks - How a Hidden Water Leak Causes Various Problems

Corroded leaky galvanized steel well piping (C) D FriedmanWell piping leaks vs well casing leaks: Here we discuss diagnosing and repairing leaks in the well piping that extends from the well bottom foot valve or pump in to the building.

For well casing leaks

Water will leak out of a well pipe at a bad connection, perforation, or cracked pipe when the well pump is running, particularly if the water system uses a submersible pump that is located in the well itself.

If you have this problem you may find a wet spot in the ground near the well piping, provided that the pipe is close enough to the surface.

You will also notice that the well pump is running more often than normal, and that your "apparent" water usage may have increased. Some people even report finding a "water fountain" or geyser in the lawn at a burst water supply pipe from both private wells and from a municipal water main.


Plastic well piping valve (C) Daniel FriedmanAir may leak into a well water pipe at a bad connection, perforation, or other damage when the well pump stops running, particularly if the leak problem is combined with a defective check valve or foot valve in the piping system.

The result may be air discharged from plumbing fixtures, improper air charge in the water pressure tank, or loss of pump prime. Short cycling of the water pump or loss of pump prime may result as well.

The corroded galvanized iron well pipe shown at above left is discussed in more detail

Photo by DJF & Rasmussen Well Drilling, Inc.

This water pressure diagnosis problem discussion below gives some added details, thanks to reader Dan Babb.

Question - Excessive Well Water Use:

My house was built in 1979, but the well was re drilled to 142 feet in 1986 by the previous owner. The copper pipes were replaced with pvc and a peroxide treatment system was installed due to the sulphur content. I purchased the property in 1997 and the last two years have been a journey.

I've replaced the well pump, pressure tank, pressure switch, chemical feeder pump, repacked the sand and charcoal filters. Currently, I'm using twice the amount of chemicals to treat the water then a year ago. If i'm using twice the amount of water that would be acceptable. I have now flow meter for proof, but that can't be.

Culligan has been out three times to confirm the feeder and filters are functioning correctly. I have not found any leaks, but have noticed an incredible increase of air within the system if it has been idle. There is no check valve on the system near the pressure tank. Would a failing check valve in the well cause this issue? Should I install a check valve prior to the pressure tank? If i installed a flow meter, where should it be located?

Answer: Quick Tips on Diagnosing High Water Use, Pump Short Cycling, Air in Water Lines

Air in the system could be a piping leak - including between the well and the building - or the well running dry. Or a bad foot valve if the pump is in the building not in the well and a foot valve is all you've got in the well. That'd also show up as lost prime.

If you see the water pressure dropping after the pump has shut off and if you are sure no water is running in the building, then there is either a leak in the well piping or a bad foot valve. If the pressure does not drop, a check valve won't fix anything.

If the pressure is dropping, try a check valve as you suggest - if nothing else, it'd be diagnostic.

Watch out: As the feedback discussion below exemplifies, the second you start touching old plumbing in a building you may find out that there are multiple problems. We call this the spaghetti problem: you can't pull just one strand of spaghetti out of the colander once it has all stuck together. That's characteristic of performing repair work on an older home.

Feedback on What Happened with Diagnosing a Well Problem: Multiple Water Supply Problems at One Shot

My system is now fixed. It was a combination of issues, but your diagnostics was correct. The air was a result of a leaking line at the well casing. After receiving your email, I looked over all the lines in the house.

No leaks could be found, but I could hear the well pump kicking on and off. I began to monitor the pressure gauge at the pressure tank. The well would pump up to 50 psi and shut-off, then the pressure would slowly drop. I could hear water moving in the lines, but no faucets were on. I shut the gate valve upstream from the pressure tank and pressure continued to drop. I noticed sweating on the pressure tank.

I turned off the pressure switch, closed a gate valve and opened the drain valve. The pressure tank drained very little water, but released the pressure. Seeing sweat half way up, I shook the tank and to confirm water was inside. The bladder had ruptured. I replaced the pressure tank, tee, and fittings and included a check valve downstream of the pressure tank.

I put the system back on-line. Air was still in the lines, so I decided to water the lawn , flowers and garden hoping to remove any trapped air from the system. It seemed to work.

Then I noticed the flowers around the well casing weren't suffering from the heat. Taking a closer look there were puddles. I began touching the ground and it was saturated. I called my well driller and he came out and confirmed the water was leaking outside the casing. He dug around the casing to reveal two pin holes in the 1" HDPE pipe. We spliced a two foot section and tested the system.

The well line is all fixed. I asked the plumber to look at my connections at the pressure tank. We added an air release valve and increased the pressure switch settings. I am very happy with the results.

My day wasn't over though. I noticed water on the garage floor by one of my two 82 gallon holding tanks. There was a rusty look to the water. I tilted the tank and sure enough there were three streams coming from the bottom of the tank. It may have been slightly leaking before, but the increased pressure possibly made it worse. I called Culligan and they no longer install galvanized steel tanks on sulphur systems.

Fiberglass tanks are now available for $460. I'm currently testing my system on one tank and shopping around for best prices on fiberglass tanks.

What Causes Leaks in Buried Well Water Piping?

A variety of installation errors can cause a later leak in plastic well piping. We list some of these below, starting with an update on WELL PIPING LEAK DIAGNOSIS from reader Dan Babb.

While the comments below describe the cause of a leak in plastic well piping, the same conditions can cause a leak in buried municipal water supply piping between the building and the street. As Carson Dunlop's Home Reference Book points out,

Poor water pressure in the house may be the result of a partially closed or obstructed valve in the street. It may also be because of blockage, such as a stone or other foreign body in the pipe. New piping may be crimped during installation or become pinched under a rock during back-filling operations. This can also cause low water pressure.

If your building is served by municipal water, not a private well,



List of Causes of Damage, Leaks, or Crimps in Buried Plastic or Metal Well Water Piping

  • Plastic well (or water main) piping damage during installation: What caused the well piping leak that we describe above? My soil is 18"-24" black topsoil, then sandy, silty clay soil. No rocks or sharp objects were found. We were careful digging around the line. We checked about 10 foot of line, but only found leaks near the fitting at the casing.

    After removing the leaking section, I cleaned it up for further investigation. It appears to me the pinholes were a result of careless installation work. The pipe exterior surface had cuts and nicks where the pinholes were. What people may not know is that HDPE pipe needs to be slightly heated to fit over the fitting.

    If it's overheated it could change the integrity of the pipe. The previous installer may have overheated and nicked the pipe with the clamps or a screwdriver. Maybe they didn't know the pipe needed heat and used brute force with pliers or channel locks to slip it over the fitting.
  • Overheating plastic piping during joint fitting can chemically change the plastic, making it brittle and crack prone near the connector
  • Under heating plastic piping during joint fitting can cause the pipe to crack when it is forced over a fitting or connector
  • Under-tightening metal connector parts such as hose clamps often leads to immediate or near-term leaks in the well piping connector.
  • Over tightening metal connector parts such as hose clamps can (rarely) crack or crimp a pipe or fittings
  • Burying plastic piping with soil containing sharp rocks can lead to later puncture and leaks
  • Driving over piping that is not properly bedded in sand or not buried at a safe depth can cause leaks in piping
  • Holes in the well pipe: Defective well piping, corrosion of metal piping (see photo near page top), or plastic piping that rubbed on a rock or other obstruction can lead to a hole in the piping that leaks water out when the well pump is running and leaks air into the system when the pump stops.


    at WATER PUMP SHORT CYCLING CAUSES we discuss the role of a bad check valve or a hole in the well piping in causing well pump short cycling - water and pressure are lost through the leak when the pump runs, and air may enter the piping when the pump stops - depending on where the leak is located.

    Leaks in "hidden" air volume controls located on well piping on certain submersible pump systems using a bladderless water pressure tank are discussed

  • Pitless adapter leaks due to gasket wear or fitting leaks -

  • Foot Valve Leaks - check

  • CONTACT us to suggest other leak causes in plastic or metal well piping

Inspect your connections carefully with the well piping under full pressure before burying the water piping.

Also see Water Supply/Drain Pipe Leak Typesand see Thawing Frozen Pipes which addresses how to find frozen and burst pipe leaks in buildings, and see  Repairing Burst Leaky Pipes. If the water supply piping inside your building is also plastic, see PLASTIC PIPING ABS CPVC PB PEX PVC.

If your building is served by municipal water, not a private well, see PLASTIC PIPE LEAK CAUSES and MUNICIPAL WATER PRESSURE DIAGNOSIS and PIPING in BUILDINGS, CLOGS, LEAKS, TYPES.

At WATER PRESSURE PROBLEM DIAGNOSIS TABLE we note that a possible explanation for loss of building water pressure, or loss of well pump prime can be air leaking into a well piping line, as well as water leaking out of the well pipe.


Continue reading at FOOT VALVES, WELL PIPING


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WELL PIPING LEAK DIAGNOSIS at InspectApedia.com - online encyclopedia of building & environmental inspection, testing, diagnosis, repair, & problem prevention advice.

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