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Bypass garage leak/grounding/water heater bonding

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Joined: Apr 21 2006

Bypass a water leak in the garage & grounding the new pipes


I just went through a bunch of learning. I’ve lived in my Eichler in Castro Valley all my life. You’d think I know more about this stuff.

We had a leak in one of the incoming water pipes in the cement in our garage. This was the second time in approximately the same area. We had two choices. Fix the lead or bypass the whole garage area. Since this was the second time we decided to bypass to avoid future expense. Fixing the leak would have cost around $800 and the bypass cost around $1700. We used a highly recommended plumber and they did a good job with two exceptions which I’ll explain later. They came highly recommended and I would use them again.

We have copper pipes but I understand that some Eichlers use steel. Copper is better. Probably more reason to bypass. They cut the line just before the shut off valve in the garage corner. They ran a new line to where the hot water heater is. They ran this pipe inside the garage along the wall about a foot off the ground. They replaced the shut off valve with a newer (better one). We had one of the old round ones. The new one is a lever which is much easier to use.

This was all going great till they brought out the inspector from Alameda County. He gave the following requirements:

1. Need to ground water pipe within 5’ of shut-off to main electrical panel with #6 copper wire.
2. Bond hot water pipe and gas pipe to cold water pipe at water heater with #6 copper wire
3. Need to braze all fittings of underground copper pipe

I should tell you that I’m a computer nerd and a manager. I am NOT handy around the house and have great respect for anyone that is. My first thought…call an electrician. He quoted me $150 over the phone and then $500 plus after he saw the job. I decided to do it myself.

Here are the ingredients:

130 feet of #6 bare copper wire – Pete’s hardware in Castro Valley sold me a whole reel (275 feet) for $65 which was cheaper than buying just 130 feet. Home depot had the same reel for $87.

Pipe clamp to connect the wire to the pipes. These were a few dollars each. You will need four. You connect these to the pipes and then connect the #6 copper wire to them.

Staple gun that uses 9/16” staples – or whatever you want to use to secure the wire. The inspector said I should not have used the staple gun but when he wiggled the wire and saw how tight it was he seemed to change his mind. I don’t think there is any rule against it and it’s much easier than solutions that use screws or nails.
A hammer for lightly forcing the copper wire to bend and push into corners.

Screw driver

Wire cutters - #6 copper wire is pretty thick. I used my garden branch cutters but I have no idea if I did damage to the cutters or not. I don’t think I did.

Where to run the wire:

As it turns out there is enough space in the cracks between the wood in the ceiling to run this wire. But barely! What I had to do in some cases was to push, then pull about 20 times to open up the crack a bit to allow the wire to get through. I also had to do some pulling and pushing from the other end once the wire went through.

We live in a 4 bedroom (really 5) Eichler. The model with the big peaks in the middle.

I started in the garage close to the garage door.
Over the tracks of my garage door.
Over the beam in the center of the garage (through the cracks between the ceiling planks)
Over the beam on the wall (car port side of the garage)
Over the beam that makes the bottom of the triangle in the carport.
Over the first beam of the bedroom (through the cracks between the ceiling planks)
Then I did something different. There are thin glass pains along the roof of the bedrooms in front of my house. On the bottom of these windows is a little ledge. I ran it on top of that ledge as it was not visible unless your 8 feet tall.
Finally to the electrical panel (where the meter is).

The electrical panel

To get the wire into the panel I had to drill a hole in the wall just below electrical panel box. Then up through the bottom of the box. On my box there was a ground on the left side of the box. You should see the existing copper wire for the house ground there. That runs down to the grounding rod. I loosened that screw holding the original copper wire and stuffed mine in with the original and tightened the screw. Do NOT touch anything else in that panel. I didn’t have to turn off the power but if you like you can. The upper connections will stay live even if you turn off the power.

Bonding the water heater and gas pipes

Here is where you need the last three clamps. Place one on the hot water and cold water pipes coming out of the top of your water heater. Then place one on your gas line. My gas line went to the boiler so it was right next to the water heater. Now connect the three clamps with one piece of #6 copper wire. It does not matter what order they are in as long as they are all connected.

This all got me a passing grade when the inspector returned.

2 problems with our plumber

They sent a guy to do an estimate. I sometimes work out of town and had to talk to the guy over the phone when he was at my house. He kept saying that had to jack hammer the floor and cap the pipes at the leak in order to bypass the leak. I kept saying they didn’t have to and that just bypassing it would be enough. I gave in thinking that he was the expert but I really didn’t understand or agree. When they got started jack hammering the floor they realized that they didn’t have to. So the plumbers had to repair the floor for nothing. They left a nice carved etching in the floor where they intended to jack hammer as well as cement that looks “filled in” where they had started. Don’t let them jackhammer. Assuming your plumbing is like mine, they don’t need to.

The second issue was where the brought the pipe into the house. Right in front where we walk and can be seen by anyone looking at the front of our house. Ugly and in the way. Destined to be hit by trash cans and other things that would most certainly break it in the future. They said they told my wife that this was where it will go and that she agreed. They did not for my wife would have never agreed to such an absurd thing. They had to reroute it and fix the hole. They just put in caulking so I need to figure that out as well. By the way, a great place to put the pipe through the wall is by using one of the rectangular holes that are already there (like duh!). That’s where they ran and they wanted to charge me for this. I refused and they relented.