A Home Inspector’s Weblog by Frank Schulte-Ladbeck

exploring homes and the lives in them around Houston

Water Meter Test

Foundations can make or break a home. Most of Houston and the surrounding area sits on expansive clay soil. Our local term for this soil is gumbo soil. It is the bane of gardeners, and of foundations. This soil type will expand when saturated with water; it shrinks when there is no moisture. With our cycles of drought and flooding, our city may not be the best place for a foundation. Barring natural rain or drought cycles, homeowners have to be worried about burst pipes under their home. The official way for checking if you have a leaking pipe is called a hydrostatic test. I have heard of some plumbers doing this job, but mainly such a test is conducted by foundation companies. I was taught a sort of trick to see if you might need to look for a leaking pipe by an inspector, who has been in the business for some years. I feel like a magician letting you look behind the curtains. The method is called a water meter test. Turn off all of the running water in the house. Go to your water meter from the municipality and mark where the dial hand is located. Go back inside to check for any running water or leaks. Wait for at least fifteen minutes. Longer would be better. Go back and check the meter. If the hand has moved past your mark, water is flowing out somewhere, and that may be under your house. The important part is to make sure that you do not have water going out from a toilet that is running or some water being used for an appliance. A simple test like this one can be done by most homeowners.

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