The water service line going to our house is leaking. The leak is originating from our lawn down to the street. The plumbers who have looked at it are saying that our pipe is made of polybutylene, which is known to crack. Our neighbors have had the same issue before. The line is going from the city shutoff to our water meter, which is about 50ft away. Our house is on a concrete slab and we do not have a basement. The plumbers have given us some options:

  1. Spot fix the line. This is the cheapest option. The line from the leak to the city shutoff valve would replaced with a copper pipe. However, they are not recommending this because they say that since the pipe is fragile, moving it could upset the rest of the pipe and cause more leaks

  2. Replace the entire line by threading the new copper line through the existing pipe. The existing pipe would split apart. They are saying this does not have a high chance of success

  3. Run the copper line up to the garage. Once inside the garage, the copper line would be run along the walls until it got to the water meter. They will wrap track wire around the pipe and plug it into an electrical outlet; the purpose of the wire is to keep the pipe warm. They will then insulate the pipe and wire assembly.

Is option 1 recommended? Options 2 and 3 are more expensive, and I don't have high hopes for option 2. For option 3, I am concerned about the maintenance required. For example, what if there is a snow storm and our power goes out?

  • where are you located? Commented Nov 30, 2015 at 1:16
  • 1
    Middle of New Jersey Commented Nov 30, 2015 at 1:54
  • In #1, you say that "moving it could upset the rest of the pipe and cause more leaks". How much more of your piping is polybutylene?
    – Jacob
    Commented Dec 1, 2015 at 22:45
  • The whole line, from city valve to our meter. Commented Dec 1, 2015 at 22:54

1 Answer 1


I would either minimize the repair and have them spot fix the line and at that time inspect it to verify its structural integrity, or maximize the repair and run a new polyethylene pipe including going under the footing and inside properly due to the reasons mentioned. This is invasive and will require multiple trades (concrete, excavation, possible wall repair, etc) for access and repairs but running main lines external to the wall sounds like a problem waiting to happen.

PB usually reacts with the additives to the city water and breaks down or it stays just fine. But deterioration is usually from the inside out though so you have to cut the line to tell. So if your line is still structurally intact there is a chance having the leak repaired could be a long term solution.

How many times can you have a leak repaired over how many years before it equals the cost of a new main line?

  • 1
    We ended up going with option 1. Option 3 sounds like a bad idea. Option 2 sounds like a science project; one contractor wanted to directionally drill under our house to the meter. Why did the builders place the water meter so far into the house? Commented Dec 8, 2015 at 18:23
  • Typically, the city shutoff would be at the meter location and any other shutoff is owned by the property owner and for convenience for service and repairs. As a note, all piping and valves after the meter are typically owned by the property owner; all piping and valves before the shut off are typically owned by the utility company. Water meters are typically placed at the front of the property I think for maxmium accessibility by the utility company while maximizing the site development options for the owner.
    – Damon
    Commented Dec 9, 2015 at 14:33

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