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Avoiding problems caused by water leaking from flexible hoses to appliances, taps, etc

I am wondering if anyone has any tips on how to avoid the problems that can arise when water leaks from the flexible hoses now very widely used to connect appliances, mixer taps, toilets, etc. to a water source.

Apparently, such leaks are quite common, can cause major damage, and result in many insurance claims. The problem must be significant because several insurance company websites contain tips on avoiding problems with the flexi hoses that are an inner rubber tube wrapped in braided layers of stainless steel.

I was reminded about this problem by Matthew Steen’s March 2021 Choice story on dishwashers which contained a couple of tips on avoiding problems from hose related water leaks:
• turn off the water supply when going away for a long period
• install an anti-burst water inlet hose.

From what I can see, there are 2 main types of flexible hoses – braided steel covered hoses and plastic hoses.

Some tips applicable to both types that I have come across so far are:

  1. Turn off the water supply if the premises will be unoccupied for more than a few days.
  2. Check the hoses at least every 6 months for any signs of wear, cracks, drips, leaks, etc. and if there are any replace or repair the hose.
  3. Be aware that hoses do not last forever and should be replaced before they reach the end of their life.
  4. Ensure that the water pressure is not too high, and if it is reduce it, for example with pressure reducing valves.

A tip that is probably specific to the braided steel covered hoses is to not store household chemicals near them, for example under kitchen sinks and laundry tubs, because the chemicals in the air there can cause corrosion.

And, a tip that is probably specific to plastic hoses is to consider installing anti-burst hoses.

I’d be interested in receiving comments on these tips and hearing about any others you may have.

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Just one tip.

A good plumber can install fixed copper pipe rather than a flexible hose.

The braided rubber hoses have a finite life as you suggest. Whether it is the synthetic lining or the steel braid failure can be very rapid from pin hole to flood. A quality product that is fit for purpose in this application should have an indefinite life. If not, the insurers may be within their rights to refuse claims due to failure if the type of hose has not been routinely replaced.

It’s a very challenging problem.

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Perhaps that could read if the appliance is not used every few days.

We have a built-in dishwasher that gets used perhaps once or twice a year. The plumbing is buried at the very back of a 45 degree corner cupboard. Perhaps a decade ago I could have inspected it, but not now. I am not even sure where the watercock is for the dishwasher. If it is up the very back, there is no way I can turn it off. So in theory the water should be turned off, but it’s never going to happen.

What is worse for the rubber pipe; to leave it sitting there empty to dry out and perish, or to leave it full of water under pressure?

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Not sure about that. Maybe others have views? Frequent turning the water on and off could result in pressure surges that may weaken the hose. Related to that, I have been told that before reconnecting the water supply to a tap it is best for the tap to be open and to only close it after some water has flowed…

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Not really.

Unless one is next to the appliance and observant when the leak appears, it might not make any difference to the outcome. How many times a day might the home be empty or all soundly sleeping? Note many cisterns, wash basins, mixer taps etc have the final connection made with a flexible hose or tube. It’s not just the DW that’s at risk.

There has been some discussion about the quality of the flexible braided hoses and the solid plastic tubing on the web. Worth considering the issues around plastic pipe for general run copper piping and hot water rated flexible tubing?

We used to turn the water off when away, just in case, so that a leak did not cause the pump to empty the house tank, possibly also destroying the pump if the run dry brains do not work it out. Our HDPE household cold water pipes are 25+ years old. I know if there is a leak or tap left on. I can hear the house pump start up or running!

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The company I work for makes a product that monitors water flow (how long for and what time of day) on the main water connection. It builds up a database of “typical use” over time and will either send a warning (ie: leaky cistern, very small flow for extended period) or automatically shutoff the water for high flow outside of “typical use” ie: burst hose.

It works similar to the way traffic (speed, volume/density & type of vehicle) counters work placed across a road, they can tell if its a truck, car, motorcycle, bicycle in inferring time and pressure pulses recorded.

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This occurs anyway when a tap is turned on. When a tap is turned on, the pressure in the pipe drops. When the tap is turned off, the pressure then increases.

This phenomenon is the basis for how pressure pumps work if one is off the grid. The pressure pump starts when a loss of pressure is detected in the pipe (tap open)…and turns off when pressure increases (tap off).

In theory, if say a washing machine is turned off at a tap, the pressure in the hose should be static and at mains pressure (if there are no leaks) until such time the tap is turned on and/or washing machine operated.

We always turn off taps to washing machines and dishwashers as we know of a couple of others whose hoses have burst sending water throughout their houses.

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Not always easy depending on where the tap/s are. Older style homes have the WMC taps on the wall above the machine. Newer homes have the taps for appearance and human vanity hidden under the adjacent laundry tub at the back. DW’s have universally been connected to hard to access taps under the sink.

The turning off and on might not be that practical.

Alternatives?
Dish Washers come with or have options for hoses with some form of flood protection from major failures and or leaks. There are after market hose kits.

It would be useful to know if the same needs and options exist for Washing Machines.

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The following is a link to a warranty statement for a trade quality braided flexible water hose.

How long should the hoses supplied last?

These steel wire braided hoses intended for Australia Plumbing installations typically have a ten year warranty. (Branded trade product)

It’s highly conditional. It reflects some of the points from the OP.

This warranty will apply only under all of the following conditions:

  • The item has been installed by a licensed plumber
  • The item has been installed for and subjected to domestic residential use only
  • Failure is due to a fault in the manufacture of the product
  • Proof of purchase (including the date of purchase) is provided
  • The installation of the product is in accordance with the instructions provided

This warranty does not include faults caused by:

  • Unsuitable or improper use
  • Incorrect installation or installation not in accordance with the instructions provided
  • Installation or part installation by the purchaser or any person other than a LICENSED PLUMBER or tradesperson licensed to install this product.
  • Normal wear and tear
  • Inadequate or complete lack of maintenance
  • Chemical, electrochemical or electrical influences
  • Harsh detergents or abrasive cleaners used on product finishes

How ‘normal wear and tear’ might be argued by the average non trade knowledgeable home owner or what constitutes ‘adequate maintenance’ is not defined.

The following note from the warranty is worth noting.
Plumbers/Contractors, please ensure a copy of the installation instructions is left with the end user for future reference.

It may be more reliable and less expensive in the long term to not have any of these types of braided products.

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This isn’t recommended for appliances for a number of reasons, including…

  • many appliances can move/vibrate and a fixed copper pipe is likely to fail due to such pressures/movements. A flexible pipe removes risks of such failures.
  • a fixed copper pipe means an appliance can’t be easily moved and may requure a plumber to disconnect should the appliance need to moved for some reason…e.g. buying a new one, sliding out for for cleaning under etc.

For appliances, my understanding is they have to be easily accessible. While their location may not be ‘convenient’ and may require bending down under the sink wtc, they can be easily turned off if one wishes to do so. A suggestion is also install a ceramic valve rather than a traditional washer valve…the ceramics are easier and quicker use.

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Perhaps this is confused?
There’s a product link and qualification the hoses were intended for fixed plumbing. The OP referred to two types of flexible hose including examples of their use.

Mostly these types of braided hoses are used to complete connections to toilet cisterns, sinks, basins etc. It’s quick and convenient. Also one of the off the retail shelf Bunnings home renovators buys. It minimises the skills and tools required, although not a DIY job.

There are also options for flexible plastic pipe and fitting systems, plumber installed. The pipe/tubing is Australian Standards approved. Manufacturers warranties are typically 25 years.

Appliances?
Dishwashers and Washing machines, Fridges and some Driers. They have their own hose systems. There is no suggestions these need replacement with fixed copper.

We might need to disagree whether bending down and reaching into the bowels of the cabinetry is convenient. Age and condition of knees etc considered.

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I found this to be an interesting article: https://plumbingconnection.com.au/bursting-the-flexi-hose-bubble/

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Concerning Stainless Steel wire braided EPDM or PEX type flexible plumbing hoses.

It’s from a plumbing industry online publication, and reflects many of the prior posted recommendations and concerns. There is a great technical assessment and commentary on very significant insurance risks.

A caution is it’s a magazine tied to the industry and commercial advertising. The outcomes of the covered workshop remain supportive of braided wire flexible hoses. Although there was a general observation many may be installed incorrectly, including by trades plumbers! This accelerated or caused early failure.

There are comments about manufacturers (OS based) defrauding the testing approval process and supplying substandard product, vs the quality Aussie manufacturer present.

Further advice is to pay for a biannual plumbing inspection to manage the risk and replacement of hoses on a regular basis.

P.S.
If a failed hose is replaced the advice to plumbers was to keep photos and the hose as evidence of the damage caused. It’s not clear whether this is the best advice, given any insurance or warranty claim is by the homeowner. As a householder, the failed hose remains the property of the home owner. A degree of trust required?

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Perhaps the plumber keeping evidence is more about professional indemnity so no gross claims by householders about sub standard workmanship?

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Not long after we moved into our present home in 2015, we found that the gas cooktop would not light one day.

The flexible hose connected to the 9kg LPG bottle online had ruptured and all the gas had escaped.

Our plumber recommended replacing the flexible hoses with copper pigtails, which we did. Apparently. it is a common problem.

No more problems since then.

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Makes sense to me. I am adding it to my list of current plumber problems.

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I think burst/leaking hoses are common and potentially very costly problems, which is why I:

  • have raised them here for discussion
  • want to increase consumer awareness of them
  • want give people useful practical tips on how to reduce their occurrence.
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Very costly when some can be avoided…such as those outlined by @mark_m. We are also potentially paying extra for insurance…

https://www.iag.com.au/faulty-hoses-dampening-australian-households

It would be interesting to know number of claims out of all policies issued rather than percentage of burst hoses in all water damage claims. Raw numbers would give a better idea of how big (or small) the problem is.

We have some undersink ones and I might replace with copper, ones that can, in the near future. Others which can’t be replaced with copper, I might replace with new ones since they are cheap to buy.

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I agree, it is interesting and informative. I read it before I started this conversation.

Re; reducing/avoiding corrosion of metal parts of flexible hoses caused by chemicals stored nearby, the article suggests having vents to increase the airflow in cupboards (eg under sinks and laundry tubs) where there are metal coated flexible hoses and chemicals are stored.

I think this is a good idea to add to my final list of tips, as also could be storing such chemicals in air-tight containers. I already mention not storing chemicals near metal covered flexible hoses but this may not be possible for many people. Comments welcome.

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Before buying any new flexible hoses it might be worth checking out whether there are differences between brands etc in how long they are expected to last, and in costs. Also, to help you/others in the future, when installed consider attaching a plastic tag showing the installation date. I think I’ll add that to the final tips.

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