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Hidden Waste Lines

It’s always better to have a problem out in the open than hidden. If a problem goes unseen, how can you fix it? The same thing applies to waste lines—wouldn’t it make sense to install the offset of one somewhere where the pipe is visible and easily accessible instead of concealed in the ground? Why risk having hard to find, sour smelling waste leaks when there’s a simpler solution to be had?

Last week we were called to find the source of a waste leak in an elevator pit, which could have come from any number of waste pipes buried underneath the concrete slab of the basement floor in a 20 story building with 120 residential apartments in Midtown Manhattan. Our aim was to figure out where this leak was coming from without chopping through the entire basement floor. You may think this sounds like a needle-in-a-haystack situation, but due to the availability of advanced equipment today, the task was not as difficult as it once was. We traced out the waste lines under the floor by using a specialized snake line with a pulsating sonar tip, which is then tracked by using a locator device. This allowed us to determine the locations of the lines and showed us the general area where the floor needed to be opened so we could repair the leak. Though this hunt took several hours to complete, we only had an estimated location of the leak, not the specific one and the tenant shareholders were really suffering from the odor every time they came near the elevator. But, as you can see, this is not a quick process.

So we made a prediction that the waste in the elevator pit originated from a three-inch kitchen waste line in the floor closest to the pit. But even after tracing the lines and identifying the closest pipe, we still could not pinpoint the exact source of the waste leakage unless all of the waste pipes were exposed. We could have been looking at multiple leaks on multiple pipes in different locations spider webbed under the ground. Only by opening the floor and exposing the pipes could we be certain which pipe, or pipes, were seeping into the pit.

This just goes to show that during construction, developers should consider the practicality of these structures and the costs of maintenance as opposed to just cost savings when they erect the building. All of the hunting, guessing, predicting and assuming could have been avoided if the waste pipes had been exposed and hung from the ceiling in the first place rather than buried underneath concrete. In this case, the adage “out of sight, out of mind” does not apply.

By Spencer Kraus – Account Manager – Fred Smith Plumbing & Heating Co.


When you call Fred Smith Plumbing you get an expert on the phone who can solve your problem fast. Most days, that expert will probaby be owner Philip Kraus.

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