How To Look At A House

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Why is my water meter box full of water?

Friday, December 17, 2021

Although a water meter box full of water can be caused by a leak at the meter connection, it is more often the result of heavy rain and saturated ground, especially if the meter is located at a low spot on the property. And when your house is on a smaller lot, with neighbors close on the either side, the way the ground is required to be sloped for drainage by the building code also contributes to temporary flooding of the box.

    Modern building code requires that the ground slope down at least 6-inches on all sides within the first 10-feet, to keep standing water away from the house foundation. If the home is less than 10-feet from the property line, it must drop 6-inches in a shorter distance to the property line. This creates a V-shape low spot in the ground along the property line. That shallow valley collects a lot of rainwater as it, in turn, slopes toward the street. Water meters are often located in, or very near, the river of water coming down the property line during a heavy rain. To further complicate things, the sidewalk can act as a low barrier that slows down the water flow just past the meters. 

    At most homes, the site grading is barely discernable and you may have to look carefully to see it. But where there is significant slope towards the front of the lot, like in the photo below, it's very obvious.

    If you actually have a leak at the meter, water will be bubbling out of the meter box; or, if it’s a slow leak, the ground will be muddy at the bottom of the box when the surrounding area is bone dry. You might also check a nearby neighbor’s box for comparison. 

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Field Guide for Home Inspectors, a quick reference for finding the age of 154 brands of HVAC systems, water heaters, and electrical panels, plus 210 code standards for site-built and manufactured homes, and the life expectancy rating of 195 home components. Available at for $19.95.
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    Here’s links to some of our other articles about water meters and site drainage:

• How do I look for yard drainage problems when buying a house?

How much is the ground required to slope away from a house? 

Can a water meter box (vault) be installed below ground level (grade)?

• The cover plate for my water meter box is broken. Who is responsible to fix it?

Why is the cover plate of some water meter boxes in the ground painted purple?

• How do I find the main water shut off valve for my house? 

My water bill went way up last month. How do I look for a leak?

• What does it mean when the water meter spins back and forth?

• Does a home inspector check site grading and drainage? 

   Visit our SITE page for other related blog posts on this subject, or go to the INDEX for a complete listing of all our articles.

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