Building Pathology: Burst Heating Pipe – Case Study 2

In this blog I will be talking about one particular feature of the Protimeter MMS2. The mode I will be focussing on is the pinless or search mode. This way of measurement allows the user to investigate beneath the surface to a depth of around 19mm and gives its reading as a wood moisture equivalent.

When using the pinless mode of the MMS2, the digital display will give you a relative reading along with a green, yellow or red bar along the bottom of the screen depicting whether the material is dry, at risk or wet.

As I have mentioned in the Protimeter MMS2 review, this is one of my favourite features as it causes no damage and is extremely quick to use. The below case study will show how this feature can be used to great affect.

Background

To give a brief background of the situation, I was sent an email by our gas maintenance contractor stating they were having problems with a particular system where they thought there was a leak.

The property in question was a fairly new build three bedroom terraced property. The boiler in place was a Vokera Compact, so not a brand new install but not particularly old either. The boiler was losing pressure down to zero every day which is the equivalent around a pint or two of water.

Boiler-2

This water had to be going somewhere, the gas engineer confirmed that there were no defects present in the boiler and that as there were no obvious signs of leaks in the ground floor ceiling. Therefor the most likely place for a leak was underneath the floor at ground level. Due to the rate of which the pressure was going down a system leak sealer would be of little use.

Inspection

The recommendation was to lift sections of the floor to investigate further. Now, this is where we hit our first hurdle. The tenant had installed new expensive laminate flooring and wanted to find a way to investigate the flooring without ruining all of her laminate. On a side note, this is why laminate flooring is considered a tenant alteration which needs to be applied for in writing but I will cover this more in a future blog.

I advised that we would be able to use a pinless moisture meter to conduct a quick survey although I gave no guarantees that this would necessarily give us any answers especially if the leak was going straight down into the sub floor void.

Visually the floor looked okay. There were no signs of damp on the walls or skirting and the laminate itself looked sound. The laminate was laid quite tight to the radiator pipework so this was noted as a possible contributing factor. I tested the walls at low level around the perimeter of the property with the pinned function of the MMS2 which concluded that the skirting and walls were dry.

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I set up the MMS2 search mode and started checking the floor focusing around where the radiator pipework penetrated the floor. All seemed okay. I then set off testing central areas in the each room, kitchen was fine, hall was fine, lounge was fine, then on to the bathroom. The downstairs bathroom had elevated readings found in the centre of the room in line with where the pipework could be located.

This was great news as the bathroom floor covering was linoleum which could be easily lifted. I then set to arranging a joint visit with a joiner and gas engineer to open up a section of flooring in the downstairs bathroom.

Remedial Work

During the joint visit the lino floor covering was lifted and it was clear that the floor was wet although there was no guarantee this was where the prime heating leak was at this stage. The toilet was removed and the flooring was lifted to expose the heating pipe work. It was found that a tee piece was defective causing the leak. It turned out that the soldered copper pipe was not properly connected to the tee joint so it was a problem waiting to happen.

pipe defect-2

The defective joint was swiftly replaced, the system was topped up and radiators bled. The boiler pressure then remained stable so we knew that we had caught the main cause of the heating leak. The heating engineer carried out a few further checks whilst the joiner cleared the area and installed new flooring.

Conclusion

For me this really shows the importance of having a pinless moisture meter and in my case the Protimeter MMS2 although this could have easily of been the Surveymaster. It aloud me to carry out a quick, non destructive survey which successfully located the leak in question. Without the use of this device we might have opened up the floor in the kitchen and hall before discovering the dampness in the middle of the bathroom floor.

The tenant was over the moon and was very happy that her new laminate flooring did not need to be disturbed. The boiler was returned back to working condition with minimal disturbance which was great especially as the weather is starting to become colder through the night.

All in all, the use of the pinless function of the Protimeter MMS2 was the right tool for the job in this instance and was the perfect example of why good quality moisture meters have their place in any surveyors tool kit.

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