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Question DetailsAsked on 3/1/2018

Could the pipe leaks in the basement be the cause of repeated circuit breaker tripping?

I live in the basement of my grandparents 2 story OLDER home. I don't believe I'd be able to complete a full list of things wrong with the wiring or plumbing.. foundation and poor structure.. It's kind of a death trap. There is a pipe leak in the garage.. idk how long it's been there but I do know that every time someone showers my room leaks water, opposite the shower in the bathroom.. that wall is warped beyond warped.. then on the other side of that wall is the kitchen sink. Adjacent to that is an old circuit breaker. It has tripped over 5 times now since 7 last night.. becoming more frequent. The box is warm to the touch when it goes, And won't reset for usually at least a half hr. Is it linked? Estimates or guesses on fixing price range?

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1 Answer


This is an imminent hazard situation - not only a potential fire hazard, but also a possible electrocution hazard if the electricity come in contact with metal pipes or framing or such.

A breaker that trips once could be written off to a power surge or a cord being twisted in an outlet causing a short-term short - if it trips twice there is something definitely wrong and the problem should be fixed before the breaker is reseet. 7 times means there is something seriously wrong in that circuit - water, or wires being pulled tight because of the warped wall could both be possible sources. Box is warm because the circuit is pulling a lot more juice than it should - meaning (as 7 trips would also indicate) that this is 99.999% certain to be an actual overlead situation, not a bad breaker. Bad breakers tripping without cause tend to do it once and then fail completely when it is turned back on, not keep on tripping again and again.

Leave the breaker off till the source of the problem is fixed. Breakers are intended to trip upon excess current in the circuit, and except with a dead short, generally trip after the short has been going for some time - up to hours if not substantially over the breaker rating, so turning it back on can mean a partial short or overload is occurring somewhere in that circuit for possibly a goodly amount of time before the breaker trips - a significant fire hazard.

Get an Electrician in to check it out - or if one assumes the water is causing it to trip, get the leak fixed first and dry the wall out, then get the electrician in. Electrician should check out any area that got wet for damage or water in the insulation of the wiring, and also at least take out and inspect the breaker for damage if not just replace it out-of-hand (which is what I would do) because breakers which have tripped a number of times tend to be less reliable, because sometimes they will trip out more readily or less readily next time around after a number of tripping cycles.

Since it leaks when someone showers, if leaking from the ceiling (overhead shower) then probably coming from aleaking shower pan or maybe a drain line from the shower which has been pulled to much by the warping wall or deteriorated foundation. If leaking in wall, probably the drain stack (vertical drain pipe run down through house leading to the underground sewer line to the septic tank or street). A bit of opening up of the drywall or plaster at the top of the wet area would be the first step to tracking down the source - might need some pipe replacement, or (especially if cast iron pipe as is common in older homes) might be, given the poor old house condition, just a no-hub rubber wrap-around repair collar would be used.

Price range depends so much on wht the cause is, ,and what damage has been done to the electrical. I would say, "normal" case - as if there is ever a "normal" because every situation has its own issues, electrical probably $150-300 range assuming only a localized wet spot or one box or wire which has been pulled on too much. Plumber commonly $150-250 is an accessible spot leak - if the drain line in general is damaged or badly deteriorated, in some older home cases it geats into the $500 range pretty quickly. Plus commonly a few hundred $ for Handyman to fix and paint the holes the plumber and electrician put in the ceiling or walls to access the problem and fix it.

In addition, since the leak sounds like it has gone on for awhile, a wild card - if a long-term leak, the bowing wall may be indication of a structural failure because the leak has, over a long time, fed the growth of rot - so the wall may be failing from the overlying load, which can - for structural replacement of rotted wood plus drying out the wetness and remediating mold/fungus, commonly get into the thousands of $.

And bad news - for long-term leak, unless your Grandparent's homeowner's policy is VERY old and has not been updated with amendments over the years, almost certain to not cover any damage caused by a long-term leak.

IF one knew the wall bowing was due to rotting studs, then while the electrical and plumbing coudl be fixed short-term, for an overall repair the normal type of company for structural, electrical, plumbing, drywall, and repainting (and maybe flooring repair too from the water) would be a Water and Smoke Damage contractor.

Answered 2 years ago by LCD

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