Emergency Plumbing DIY – How to Fix Main Water Line Leak!

Yesterday, my mom called me and told me that their yard was literally filling itself with 2 feet of water, it was some kind of an emergency water leak in the pipe underground.

Well, since I knew a plumber friend, I called him immediately so he and his crew can head to my parent’s house, that was around 3PM.

Upon getting to my house, my plumber friend started diagnosing the problem.  It seems that the problem was coming near where the main piping connects to the house piping.

“Main”, is the pipe that connects from your house to the city’s water piping I learned.   This “main” pipe basically is the heart of your home’s water supply.   In other words, if your main pipe has leaks, you won’t be able to shower, use the toilet, cook, or even water your lawns.

Since my plumber friend had over 15+ years of plumbing, I was hoping that they would be able to get my parent’s house to get water before the end of the day.

Of course, I also took the liberty of taking my Canon 7D DSLR camera along the way, so I could document the whole process of fixing an emergency main water line leak.  Although I felt terrible that there’s a good chance my parent’s house wouldn’t have water for next couple days, I needed to document the whole process just in case everything went well.

When I first came to my parent’s house yesterday, this is what it looked like.  My mom had gotten the city to turn off the Main pipe line to the house so it wasn’t leaking any more but this is where the water had flowed up to like 2 feet.

This is where the main water line from the city goes into the house water line.

My plumber friends started digging away to find the leak point.

After a bit of digging, there were still no signs of leaks nor water.  But my plumber friends were pretty sure that the leak was not too far away.

After a bit of digging, we found some standing water and also signs of slight “bubbling” which my plumber friends told me that the leak point isn’t too far away.   Big sigh of relief here because it’s a definite sign that the leak is somewhere in the joints, not in the middle of my parent’s lawn, which would take some serious trenchless pipelining, which we don’t want.

To keep digging and to be able to clearly diagnose and analyze the leak point, we have to pump the standing water out with a manual water pump.

After a bit of more digging (and about 3 by 5 feet of dirt removed), we’ve got to the root of the problem, we found where the copper piping meets the PVC piping that connects to the city’s main water line.

The joint of the PVC piping had broken due to the house settling over the years. (Or as my plumber friends were telling me, the dirt on the lawn of the house had settled.)

This settling has caused the copper piping to literally put a lot of pressure on the PVC joint and slowly degraded until it gave up.   I have some more detailed photos of this below so keep on reading!

So, now since we know the problem, we need to remove those piping and replace them with new pipes.   First, my friend cuts the copper piping on top with a manual cutter.  (We tried using an automatic saw but it was a no-go due to the limited space of the hole.)

(The problem piping joint cut off.)

And what you see here is the cut piping piece and what went wrong.   Part of the PVC joint has fallen off, causing a leak.  Since this is where a great deal of water pressure is coming from the city’s main water line, it was causing my parent’s garden to literally start flooding from the get-go.

Next, we try heading to the nearest plumbing supply store because my plumber friends came in a hurry and didn’t have time to bring all the piping.  Well, we got screwed because it’s 5:40PM now and every plumbing supply store is closed.

But we get lucky and find all the needed parts at the local Home Depot, which opens until 10PM.  What we got at the Home Depot were the PVC joints, 45 degree angle joints, 90 degree angle joints, 2-inch PVC piping, and also some copper piping that we needed to re-solder the old copper pipe back into the house.

Since the copper piping didn’t have problems (and should be good for another 100 years), my plumber friend said it was fine to re-use them but we needed all new PVC piping.

It’s almost sunset and we need to move a bit quickly but my plumber friends are working hard on it.  They are getting to prep the new parts to make new PVC pipes for the old, broken ones.

Next, my plumber friends prep the copper pipe for soldering.

Here’s a quick look at the new PVC joint that will be replacing the old, broken one on the left.  The purple stuff is called the “primer” that you need to apply before applying the actual cement curing material for the PVC piping.

Here’s my plumber friends cutting the 2-inch PVC piping to exact lengths so it will fit between the house water line and the main water line to the city’s water line.

My plumber friend applying some pressure to cure the new PVC joint.  It takes 15 minutes for the PVC cement to form a bond and additional 30 minutes to fully cure and be able to handle high amount of water pressure.

Now, connecting the copper piping to the PVC piping.

The prepping of the new pipe takes a long time because of PVC cement curation time and also because it’s a tedious process that needs to be done right first time.  If any measurements are slightly off, it can cause severe water leaks from the high pressure water line and my plumber friends must start over.

It’s complete pitch dark now and my friend is in the hole, getting ready to put the final measurements together.

Making some final measurements inside the hole, this process takes a bit longer than I expected as the PVC pipe ends need to be kept super clean before making the final attach to the existing PVC main piping.

Hey, how about a little smile?  This guy’s been working for 5 hours straight, he’s determined to make my parent’s house be up and running again with fresh water.   I thank him for that.

Now, some copper “stuff” is applied so the copper piping can be re-attached, soldered, and won’t leak water for the next 100 years.

Here’s some more tedious prepping and making 100% sure that everything is correct before the new piping is placed back.

There’s a bunch of black widow spiders lurking around my parent’s house and it’s pitch dark.   We better get finished quick and I quickly rub off a black spider off my friend’s back.

Alright!  The new piping is placed into the place!

Next, the copper piping is soldered.

After the copper piping has been soldered, now we must wait additional 30 minutes so the PVC cement can fully cure before turning on the city’s main water line back to the house.  If we don’t wait and turn out, it can cause leaks and we might have to start all over again.

This is the most critical part of the whole job as we will have to wait and see if the job has been done right.

After 30 minutes, we called the city’s utility people who came out and turn the water back on the main water line.

Hurry, there were no leaks and we started getting water in the house again.

My plumber friend then told me to first turn water ON on all the bathtubs in the house FIRST because there will be some dirt coming out initially from some of the work done.   So I went all over my parent’s house and made sure all the bathtubs were clear of dirt and running fresh, clean water.

After that, my plumber friend told me to do the same thing with all the faucets and showers.

A lot of people do this the wrong way and what can happen is that the dirt clogs up your filters first and you might have to replace them before you can use your faucets again.

Anyways, everything went very well.  By this time, it was almost 11PM.  It took about 8 hours for three of my plumber friends to diagnose and fix the main water line leak at my parent’s house but all well worth it considering that my parents were able to take a shower, use the toilet, and cook food thereafter.

Also, if I didn’t know my plumber friends, other plumbers could have screwed my parents and left them with no running water for the house.   That would have been BAD.

I also became a plumber (sorta) for a day and learned a whole lot about how main water line in your home can leak and how to fix it.  The process isn’t all that complicated but it’s very time-consuming and tedious as you need to do it right the first time.

Of course, I’ve just documented the process of “how to fix main water line” but I don’t expect you to do this yourself unless you are a total expert on it already.

You should really call your local plumber if you have emergency water leaks in your home as every leak situation is different.

And yes, if you live in the San Francisco Bay Area, don’t forget to call my plumber friends at Sewer Specialists Inc. and tell them you know Max from Zedomax.com to get special treatment like I did and work overtime until the job is done and your water is working again.

(Thanks guys, Josh, Trinidad, and Serg from Sewer Specialists Bay Area Emergency Plumbers! We are gonna party next week for sheezy!)

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