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I came home last night to find water on my basement floor. After looking around, I located a pinhole leak on the short segment of pipe coming into the house from the street. This is the one foot of pipe before my meter and house cutoff valve so there's no way to turn it off other than having the town turn it off at the street.

My plumber is telling me that, even though this is just a pinhole inside the house, it's probably indicative of the condition of the entire line and he says the only proper fix is to replace the entire line from street to the meter in the basement. Ouch.

Does this seem reasonable? I'm trying to grasp how such a small thing is going to cost me thousands (mostly because of digging a new ditch). The house was built in 1987. The short segment of pipe that is leaking appears to be copper although I don't know if that is usually true for the entire line out to the valve on the street? Let me know if there is other info I can provide to give a more complete picture.

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In 1987 we were still using acid flux, there was also no requirement to ream cut pipe ends. In addition, domestic (U.S.) production of copper had dropped precipitously and the demand was being met with foreign copper products with dubious quality control specs. All those things have contributed to frequent failure of copper water pipe and connections from that era. I have repaired numerous pinhole leaks.

Unfortunately for you, it probably cannot be fixed without shutting down the line and draining it. Personally, I would cut out the pinhole and solder in a "no-stop" repair coupling, taking my chances on future leaks (we are talking about upstream of your meter, after all). Dig it up when you have no other choice.

In my area, the water supply utility is responsible for everything upstream of the meter.

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    The "In my area" comment makes it clear why the city water service in my area has placed the water meters right at the street by the master shut off valve. – Michael Karas Jul 29 '14 at 4:53
  • The plumber left this morning. Given that the ditch is 7 feet down and 80 feet long, we gambled on cutting out the bad section of pipe and replacing it as you said. Going to keep an eye on it for the next few days but hopefully this buys me some time. The difference in cost is worth the gamble: the job was about 5% the cost of replacing the entire run. – DaveBurns Jul 30 '14 at 14:47
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Iron or copper pipe?

Corrosion inside metal pipes forms craters that eventually open a pinhole and as the metal erodes due to corrosion compromise and water flow, they get larger.

From experience, if you have one pinhole, you have several incipient corrosion craters that will eventually leak elsewhere in the segment. You can patch them one at a time for expedience, but eventually you're going to redo the whole length.

  • Re the pipe, the part I can see is copper. That's coming through my foundation wall and going up to the meter. It's about a 1 foot length. Is that the same pipe going all the way to the valve on the street? I assume so but I can't say for sure. – DaveBurns Jul 28 '14 at 16:36
  • Heh, neither can I. Excavation required. Unless you can find out what the city planning requirements of the time were. – Fiasco Labs Jul 28 '14 at 17:49

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