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Question DetailsAsked on 10/13/2016

I need a pressure test for a gas leak.How will the find the leak and how much will it for a townhouse?

The meter is red tagged/ locked by the gas company. They have determined that it is comping from my home. I have been told by a couple of plumbers that the pressure test alone is about $500 and then repairs can be tricky because my gas line is probably in the walls. How will they find the leak if the leak is somewhere within the walls of my townhouse?

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2 Answers


I am assuming this is not fairly new construction, where a leak might be covered under new home warranty. Also - if you have a Home Warranty plan, it might (after some tooth and nail fighting with them) cover at least some of the cost. Homeowners Insurance - almost guaranteed NOT to cover this sort of issue because while they would cover any fire/explosion damage typically, leaks are considered long-term deterioration issues not covered by the insurance - unless the leak was caused real recently by an "acute event" - line bumped into and broken or accidetnally hit by a nail or drill or such while you were doing DIY work on the house, for instance.

Below is a link to a prior response to that - for a standard "short" test in normal labor cost areas. A long test (some areas now require at least a full day (24 hour) test period under pressure and allow less pressure loss - commonly 1 psi under 15-30 psi test pressure - and sometimes for 1 to 7 days now) probably in the $300-500 range for the testing in normal cost areas - plus any repair cost. So sounds like your plumber quotes are in the range for moderately high to high labor cost area, or maybe you have a branch line they are planning on capping and testing separately.

Repair cost - depending on the type of line you have, can be anything from $50-75 or so (additional, on same return visit when they check the amount of pressure leakdown) for a simple exposed joint leak to many hundreds if the leak needs to be traced down in the walls. Plus of course wall surface repair and repainting as required, which in a nasty case or one where there are multiple leaks can be many hundreds as well.

In some cases I have heard work of in the trades, has run well over $1000 for the plumber alone because (in newer construction) some of the tubing/pipe from Asia is coming in with very non-standard or out-of-spec threads, so the threads either do not mate up well (allowing leaks) or have sharp burrs and sharp thread edges that shred the plumber teflon tape, allowing leaks. My recommendation on piping these days - (in addition to avoiding cheap foreign products) is use Rectorseal rather than thread tape on gas lines, or plumbers dope on water lines.

Commonly, there are four ways to track down leaks in the pipe:

1) if it has not been long since it was red-tagged, opening up walls in various locations along the pipe run and sniffing by nose for gas odorant smell - it has a strong residual, so assuming the entire townhouse was not saturated by gas, you can commonly tie down what wall or floor the leak is in that way - if you get to it within a day or three. Normally this does not require holes in drywall - removing wall outlet plates or light fixtures to smell at those openings works. Sometimes a gas sniffer will tell you where it is, sometimes the more sensitive nose is needed.

2) using soapy test solution on each joint and fitting (on fittings as well as the joint connection itself in case the fitting is split or cracked) to look for bubbles while the line is pressurized with air in some jurisdictions, with nitrogen in others and by industry standard recommendations (to keep any moisture or contaminants out of the line and to make the gas in the line non-explosive). Usually start with checking all the appliance shutoff valves because they commonly leak somewhat as they get older and are a very common leak point.

3) breaking joints apart and isolating sections of the line where accessible and testing section by section. Commonly this is also a good measure where you have underground runs, long individual runs to a gas stove or gas lighter for a fireplace or barbecue or gas-heated pool or spa/hot tub or such.

4) if no joy with those methods or leak is found to be somewhere but unknown exactly where within a floor or wall by above testing, then usually one of two following methods - especially if interior finishes are fancy or expensive. Neither of which is usually needed on residential jobs but occasionally are used -

a) remove appliance shutoff valves and disconnect from meter and cap the line at each of those locations, then run the test pressure up to the rated test pressure for the type of tubing/pipe or about 150 psi (whichever is less) and listed along walls/ceilings for the leak using a stethoscope.

b) use non-corrosive non-explosive odorant test gas in the pressure test, then sniff around for where the smell starts popping up to tie down specific wall or floor location. several "flavors" exist - some (like the garlic-smelling chemical) are not suitable for places like where italian food and such are cooked frequently because not distinguishable from "resident" smells. Concentrated mint and banana oil and vanilla are other flavors available depending on source and area.

c) normally a commercial project method, commonly used only where a LOT of pipe has to be checked and particularly in buildings where tearing into the wall finishes is highly undesireable (office buildings, hotels, hospitals, museums, etc) - flush the line with nitrogen (to ensure it is non-explosive), then pump in heated air (about 100 degrees typically to avoid overheating tubing or thread tape) and use a thermal infrared scanner to look for where the warm spot(s) appear in the walls.

Answered 3 years ago by LCD



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