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Water Line Replacements: Water Main Problems and How We Can Help

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Sometimes, a simple plunger routine won’t solve your plumbing needs.

Most homeowners experience house water main problems (or house water service line problems) at one point or another, and in many cases, a professional is needed in order to remedy the situation. Here are some of the things you’ll need to know if you find yourself in need of a water line repair or replacement.

What is a House Service Water Main?

House water service diagram

Your water main is the primary (or, “main”) pipe bringing water to your home. Labeled "private water service line" in the diagram above, it's usually located underground and connects your home to your community’s water source. Your water line should not be confused with your private sewer lateral, which takes used water and sewage away from the home.

Common Water Main Problems

Holes or cracks may develop in a water main over time, usually as a result of external corrosion from the soil or frost.

Water pipes are under pressure, so a break in the water main will cause water to flow out of the pipe and eventually to the surface level, whether that be the street, your front lawn, or the basement of your home. This could also lead to contaminated water in the home. It’s crucial to stop using appliances or drinking water when this occurs.

Typical residential water service connection

Photo of home water shutoff fixture on side of house

There is usually a house shutoff valve that will turn off the flow of water through the main in an emergency. If your public utility doesn’t shut off the water flow first, you can locate the homeowner shut-off valve (next to your water meter) and turn the water flow off yourself. This is done with a water meter key.

A leaky water valve is a common problem, as well. Some types of water valves (such as gate valves) are more prone to leaking. It may be possible to tighten the packing nut on the water valve to stop the leak. Other DIY methods include adding additional washers or replacing old washers. However, in most cases it is best practice to call a professional plumber to fix the leak. Professional help will be required if the valve needs to be replaced.

How to Detect Leaks in Your Plumbing

An unnoticed leak in your water main can cause extensive (and expensive) structural damage to your home. This can include damage to flooring and walls, mildew and mold issues, and water waste that is harmful to the environment and increases water bills.

How can you tell if you have a leak in your water main or other parts of your plumbing? Wet spots or mildew on your floors and walls are often one hint. You can read our full list of sewer line problem symptoms here; a few of them apply to water line leaks (namely numbers 8 and 9).

Remember, leaks are often located in hard to reach places, such as under a slab or buried in the lawn, hidden from view until they cause significant damage. The only way to positively know that your plumbing is leaking is to make sure all yor water fiztures are turned off and look at your water meter to see if water is flowing or not, or hire a leak detection company. Leak detection is a specialized skill, and our team is happy to refer you to a local leak detection professional whose technology will accurately search out any leaks in your plumbing.

Water Main Repair and Replacement Tips

If a leak is detected in your water main, it’s important to fix the problem as soon as possible to avoid any long-term damage to the home and property.

Exposed Primary Water Shutoff Valve Being Shutoff with a Water Key

Here are some things to keep in mind.

1) Choose a Full Replacement When Red Flags are Present

Water main red flags include:

  • The home is over 50 years old
  • Plumbing problems have persisted for many months/years

These are all signs that a repair may not actually solve your water main problem.

2) Choose Trenchless Replacement

Trenchless technology allows you to replace a damaged water main without digging a large hole across the entire property. This strategy is now extremely popular with homeowners. Learn more about trenchless pipe replacement.

3) Know Before You Dig

Did you know an underground utility line is damaged once every 6 minutes in the USA? Before attempting a water line repair or replacement, it’s crucial to call 8-1-1 to speak with a utility line inspector so you and/or your pipe repair professional will be properly protected from dangers such as electrocution. Learn more about underground utility replacement and the 8-1-1 service.

4) Avoid DIY Repairs

Some online videos and articles will outline the basic steps necessary for pipe repair, but in our experience, this is a job best left to professionals. Those who attempt a DIY repair often end up paying more in the long run by leading to an expensive do-over. There may even be more damage to fix after the DIY goes wrong.

Learn about why you should avoid a DIY sewer pipe repair.

Talk to Plumbing Experts

For individual help understanding your water main problems, or to ask a question about a water line replacement or any other plumbing issues on your property, contact the experts at Pipe Spy.

Close Up of Primary Water Shutoff Valve Being Turned with a Water Key