Check before you Dig to avoid Water Leaks


Weekends are always the worst and most common times when you come across a water leak or blocked drain at your house. It’s always a pain in the butt to try and find a plumber that will firstly want to come out on a weekend (and usually it’s a Sunday afternoon!) and when you do find one, the call out fee is usually a minimum of $250 plus labour. I don’t blame plumbers for charging a higher rate on weekends because they are being called away from their downtime which is valuable time spent with their family.

Consumers often complain about the extra charged for out of hours work, but keep in mind that employees who work out of hours generally get paid double time or triple time, so the same principle can be applied to trades – even if they are blue collar workers.

With that said, you can avoid calling a plumber on a weekend if you want to avoid paying a larger bill by organizing them to come on a Monday. Some jobs, like blocked drains need to be attended to straight away because you can’t use any fixtures in the house because they back up. But some water leaks can be avoided or managed by simply turning off the water meter and organizing a plumber to fix the leak first thing Monday morning.

A job I attended to today was a perfect example of a water leak that could have been avoided, but the client was smart enough to know that he could turn the water off to his house and organise a plumber to fix the leak on Monday.

The client had been digging in the garden to plant a new tree and poked a hole into the 15mm water main running from the meter to the house. The client turned off the water meter and dug around the pipe to expose the hole, so all the plumber had to do was fix the leak. It only took 20 minutes to fix the pipe and the client avoided paying a weekend call out fee.

The leak could have been avoided if he had seen that the water meter was directly in line with where he was digging to plant his new palm tree, but he explained that he didn’t expect the copper pipe to be so shallow in the ground.

My husband has done the same thing trying to plant trees in our back garden, but instead of a water pipe, he has cracked what he thought was our 100mm sewer pipe, but it was only a storm water pipe. Thankfully he’s married to someone who could fix it straight away. I’m still waiting for him to pay me my call out fee though!!

So to avoid breaking pipes in the ground whether they be water, storm water or sewer pipes here are a few things to check before you dig (for residential only):

For water, check where your water meter is and where the first front hose tap is located on the house. Generally the water line will run directly to the first hose tap so you know that it is best to avoid digging in that area.

For sewer and storm water pipes, check your house drainage plan which will detail where the main lines run outside of your house.

For larger commercial jobs where excavation works need to be done, plumbers must call ‘dial before you dig’ to ensure there aren’t Telstra cables or other services running under ground. There are also technicians that are able to use machines to detect how far services or pipes are in the ground to avoid digging them up.

At the end of the day, if you do break a pipe, it’s generally an easy fix. To save money, dig around the broken pipe so it is exposed and there is easy access. You will avoid paying the plumber to dig it up and your plumber will love you for making their job that much easier.