Crawlspace Plumbing Problems


Welcome again in the Crawlspace Problems series, and this is Part Three (item #4).

1. Cracked foundation / possible structural problems
2. Leaking foundation
3. Drainage problems / flooding crawlspace
4. Plumbing components issues – leaking water supply lines, drain pipes, crawlspace water heater installation problems
5. Heating system issues
6. Electrical components issues
7. Floor framing and structure support issues
8. Structural pest infestation – those are Termites, Powder Post Beetle, and Carpenter Ants
9. Mold problems
10. Crawlspace ventilation and insulation

4. Crawlspace Plumbing components issues – leaking water supply lines, drain pipes, crawlspace water heater installation problems. With a good source of light, it shouldn’t be hard to locate a leaking water supply or drain line. Pay special attention to the areas located directly under the bathrooms and kitchen, follow each accessible / visible pipe, and look for water damaged floor framing under the plumbing fixtures (toilet, bathtub, shower base, sinks, etc.). Depending on your crawlspace floor finish, you might be able to find leakage stains / discoloration directly under the problematic area. All pipe connections are of course the most suspected places to look for leaks, but you might also notice blisters and excessive corrosion along the straight pieces of pipes – if it doesn’t leak yet, it will most likely start leaking soon. Check area where your main drain pipe (large diameter pipe) penetrates the foundation wall or crawlspace floor – this is also a very common area of leaks.

Water heater installed in the crawlspace area – everything from my water heater posts applies (water heater vent pipe, and water heater gas supply connectors – Illinois rules), but there are other important issues:

Due to the limited crawlspace height, it might be hard to accommodate a gas water heater vent pipe and provide proper pitch and spacing from combustible materials – this is critical, so please have it checked by a professional. I’ve seen many water heaters forced between the floor joists (often by undercutting floor framing to accommodate water heater) with a single wall vent pipe against the wooden framing, and with a negative slope – a perfect scenario for an accident (fire and a Carbon Monoxide poisoning).

Another problem is moisture, which accelerates water heater deterioration and causes corrosion of its components – open the burner chamber cover at the base of the water heater and check the chamber interior for accumulation of rust flakes or any other foreign objects obstructing the burner. They should be removed carefully by a professional and all burner components cleaned from rust flakes to ensure proper combustion.

Things to check on installed in a crawlspace-area water heater:
Stable, solid base under the water heater
Proper clearances around the vent pipe – at least 6” from any combustible materials for a single wall pipe and 1” for a double wall pipe.
Proper slope of the water heater vent pipe – it has to raise continuously from the water heater to the chimney entrance at a minimum of ¼” per foot (except for the water heaters equipped with a power vent / PVC pipe venting)
Vent pipe secured properly – at water heater, chimney and along its run.
Safety discharge pipe must be installed at TPR valve (safety valve mounted on the top or side wall of the water heater), same size as the safety valve discharge end (usually ¾” diameter) – newer downsize it, and terminate within 6″ from the floor surface
water heater gas supply connector – heavy wall pipe – no dryer / kitchen range type flexible connectors permitted in Illinois for water heater connections
Electrical water heater connections must be properly secured.
If you notice that your water heater is leaking, it will most likely require replacement, unless there is a leaking pipe right above it …

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