What the hell is leaking in my basement?
May 31, 2014 3:41 PM   Subscribe

There is a slow drip in my basement. Complicating factor--it seems to be coming from a gas pipe, not anything that should have water. It could be condensation but I don't think so. Many more details plus photos inside.

Went downstairs to find a drip coming from the basement ceiling. Enough water had dripped to soak three large boxes down one side and make the cardboard start tearing, so quite a bit of water. It seemed to drip a drop every 5-10 seconds.

I got up there to see what was leaking, and it is a long yellow pipe that seems to dip in spots, more like a hose than a pipe. Google tells me yellow = high pressure gas pipe. But the water seems to come from next to the pipe where it is pressed against a support beam. There is no water above that spot, and the entire beam has moisture spreading down.

Assuming that is the source of the water, it is then dripping onto a white PVC pipe, spreading out about 8-inches, and then falling to the ground.

Near this gas pipe IS a small, copper water pipe that provides water to our refrigerator above. But it is over 6-inches away from the wet beam, and the pipe bends BELOW the beam, so the water pipe in close proximity doesn't seem to be a logical culprit.

Now the next guess might be condensation but Dr. Google doesn't really tell me that gas pipes are prone to condensation. More, it's only happening RIGHT HERE at the baseboard. I walked the entire length of the pipe (about 40 feet or so) and there isn't any evidence of moisture except at this one spot...so I don't know why condensation would happen only at one point along a 40-foot pipe. The pipe is bone dry in the other spots so it's not like water is condensing along the entire pipe then just flowing along the pipe until it drips in the lowest point.

Some images are here in case they're any help:

image 1

image 2

Hoping the hive mind can help me diagnose and figure out who to call if repairs are needed (do plumbers do gas?)
posted by arniec to Home & Garden (6 answers total)
Is it possible the drip pan for your fridge is misaligned or overflowing?
posted by cellphone at 3:54 PM on May 31, 2014

It appears your water inlet to the refrigerator is leaking. The surface tension causes the water to travel down the side of the copper then hit the gas line and flow horizontally then down again. That would be my best guess based on the wetness around the pipe in the second photo. I would pull the fridge and check the connection to the inlet.
posted by vonstadler at 3:58 PM on May 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

There should be no moisture or condensation issues with the gas pipe. The moisture is most likely coming from the fridge or the water line to the fridge. There may be a path for the water through the beam that makes it look like the top is dry. If the beam is touching the copper line, moisture may be absorbed into the beam via capillary action.

Lastly, in your second photo, it looks like you are saying that there is moisture around where the copper line is exiting the floor. Could moisture also be traveling from that source down the electrical cord, which looks like it's touching the beam in the right area?
posted by Behemoth at 3:59 PM on May 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

If there is a shutoff in that water line to the fridge, turn it off. See if the dripping stops.
posted by beagle at 4:09 PM on May 31, 2014 [1 favorite]

Something to keep in mind as you track this down is that when a water supply line develops a pinhole leak, the water doesn't just ooze out and drip lazily off of the pipe; it shoots a fine stream like a tiny water pistol. The stream can be very difficult to see, and can wet an area some distance from the pipe.
posted by jon1270 at 6:48 PM on May 31, 2014

Seconding jon1270
The previous owner of a house we bought had wrapped string very tightly around a copper pipe in the basement ceiling. You know what killed the cat? Right. I unwound the string and found a tinier- than-pinhole leak spraying a fine jet of water. I re-wrapped the string. Apparently these tiny holes are not all that unusual in copper pipes.
posted by Cranberry at 12:11 AM on June 1, 2014

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