There was a cascade of water flowing down the cobblestone driveway. As I approached the four car garage, I noticed steam. I then saw water pouring out of the electrical service panel, that was about four feet long and three feet tall. I then ran back to my truck and got my rubber gloves, rubber boots and my leather gloves. I doubled up the rubber ones and put on the leather gloves before opening that panel. I then saw that water droplets were hanging like grapes. The steam was making the whole panel drip everywhere.
Where was the hot water heater? Nobody living there knew. O. K., I started opening doors in the vicinity of the panel. Finding two 100 gallon electric heaters, I shut the water off on both. They were both cranked to the max. I turned them to “vacation”. Then I went back to the panel and looked again. Everything was dripping so much from the top down that it was impossible to tell if the water had come from above or behind or what. I proceeded to cut some small observation holes in the wall directly behind the panels to find if there were any pipes there. It would sure have been against building codes if there had been.
I knew that this home had had a problem with pinhole leaks. The home was only five years old, so I also knew that there had been sloppy workmanship on the part of the plumbing crew that built the mansion. The owner asked why he had over four different plumbing companies come to fix the leaks that had occurred in the last six months or so. I then knew that his problem was caused by the sloppy workmanship. Time had caught up with it, so the copper pipe was wearing out long before its usual working life. This was so unfortunate, because the lack of proper soldering techniques was going to cause leaks to spring up at any time anywhere.
After I eliminated the possibility of a leak coming down from a pipe above, I then tried to feel if a pinhole had occurred below and squirted up. My inspection mirror was fogging up so bad I couldn’t see anything. In goes the hand, I couldn’t feel a stream coming from there either. I had to tell the owner the hot water was going to be turned off all night. The maids and the houseman found fans, and set them on the hoods of the cars, with lots of towels underneath. We ran my extension cords tied up off the floor for safety.
The next day, my co-worker and I found that the panel was sufficiently dry, so we were going to try to reproduce the leak. He turned the hot water on very slowly, cracking the valves on only a little bit. We then watched the panel to see what would happen next. It took quite a while, but then we saw water rising up from a flex line hole. What??!! How weird. We were mystified!
The wires led us to the breakers that said “kitchen.” We went to look. We saw a kitchen that was about 20 feet long and at least 15 feet wide, with no island sink. The hand painted Italian tile was magnificent, with the cupboard doors hand painted by an artist to match. Fit for a king.
We then opened every cupboard door to look. We also asked the maid to turn off the washers and dryers. The owner was asked to turn off his projection screen T. V. We listened to the walls. Nothing. Then my co-worker said,” Ayyii, yi, yi, whattawegonna do next?’
“Hmmmm, hmm. I know! I’m going outside.”
Climbing around the side of the house, I noticed there were no windows along that entire side. It was very long, about 200 feet of jungle bushes. I thought “These people must really like their privacy.”
Finally I saw it. Water was dripping profusely out from underneath the stucco overhang of the slab house. This was the only place where the bushes had been cut back, to let the light get in the kitchen window. Of course it was burglarproof, and above where I was. I knew trying to shout to my co-worker was futile, so I had to climb through the bushes. Again!
We got the tin snips, the short sledge hammer, a long one, the wire cutters, cords, sawzall, extra wood blades, and the solder stuff. We got 1″ and 3/4 fittings. Lug, lug, ugh!
I tried the first smash. No way. Then the big sledge rebounded. O. K. We were both mad now. Time to demolish! After making as much noise as a car crash, my co-worker was sweating and panting. Finally we cracked enough cement stucco off to snip the wire mesh, then tore off the tarpaper and finally splintered in. Drilling was out of the question, for fear of cutting anything we shouldn’t. We could finally see inside.
After an exploratory finger probe, I cut a triangle into the ¾ shear wall required for category five earthquake prone area. Then I got my arm in. A virtual shower. Every wood blade we had we used till they smoked. You see the photo. The water squirted on the flex line, filled up the sleeve under the slab and forced the water all the way under the house, and came up out the electrical panel!
Cussing loudly we found soft copper and 1 1/4 inch pipe. It sure was dicey cutting that off with a hacksaw blade! We removed the pipe and saw an unburred joint. The sharp edges cause turbulence that wears the pipe out from the inside. Sloppy workmanship causing pinholes. Truly a b****!
The owner wanted to know why he had so many leaks. I tried my best to explain it. He finally understood, but he wanted to know what could be done to prevent it. I hated to tell him that if it occurred in more than one place then you can figure that the whole house was going to have pinholes eventually. I said “Live with it or re-pipe the whole house.” I was sorry to give such bad news.
Then he had to face the music, and I said he could hire a plumbing crew that would give a 10 year warranty. He had to have a maid stay there while the work was being completed. He and his wife flew to Europe during the operation for a long vacation. When he came back he called my company to thank me for being the only plumber that took the time to explain the reason why pinholes occur. I was very glad to know I hadn’t wasted my breath explaining it. I did wonder what contractor had made that pile of money on that job!