Same pipe burst, same home development; several residents impacted during winter storm crisis

Residents experienced thousands of dollars in damage due to poor insulated pipes, according to contractor

SAN ANTONIO – Residents living in the Highland Homes Development in San Antonio are holding the development accountable after several experienced the same pipe burst in the same location of their homes during the winter crisis. They believe this expensive and unfortunate trend was due to poor insulation.

“Just knowing that it is not just us -- so many people have the exact pipe burst and exact leak and our contractor coming in and saying that he just saw 30 houses with this same exact issue -- it is really concerning,” said Traci Uribe, a resident living in the River Rock Ranch neighborhood. “It just makes me wonder what else is out there, and we have no idea.”

Uribe, who said she knows her damage doesn’t compare to the damage some San Antonio citizens received, said she feels deeply for her neighbors.

Tamara Shannon is another resident living in the same neighborhood who also had a similar leak -- about $30,000 in damage. She said that, although it was an inconvenience, the pipe bursting was a blessing in disguise.

The family discovered their water heater’s exhaust was scorching the inner wall in their master bedroom closet.

“That really could have burned down my house, or we could have carbon monoxide,” Shannon said. “My sons’ room is directly above where that fire could have ignited. It could have been awful, fatal.”

Jill Ruggles heard a similar pop in her wall, like Uribe and Shannon, and learned her pipes were busted in her master bedroom as well.

“I literally walked in and was like, ‘What is that noise, and why are my feet wet?’ There was just watermarks everywhere. Our bed was sitting in water -- the night stands,” Ruggles said.

After speaking with their contractor, Michael Patrick with MP Consulting, these three families learned it was poor insulation around the pipes that caused them to burst.

“Some of these areas don’t have attics,” said Patrick. “These are closed off copper areas in the master bedroom, so when they put the insulation in, they put it in the joy system and the copper pipe went across the top of it and it wasn’t covered with insulation. Some of the pipe had plumbing insulation, but it still had the ability to freeze. In some cases, the pipe was insulated. In most cases, I’d say 75% of them, no insulation at all.”

Patrick was hired by more than 30 families in the River Rock Ranch neighborhood alone.

That neighborhood wasn’t the only neighborhood experiencing similar pipe bursts.

KSAT received emails and complaints from several Highland Homes residents in the Belterra neighborhood, Valencia Hills and Johnson Ranch.

Brad Harrell, master plumber, said the issue boils down to the International Plumbing Code, which states that no matter where a pipe is placed, if it is susceptible to freezing it is to be insulated 100%.

“Sounds like the plumber in this incident didn’t make sure the pipe that was susceptible to freezing was insulated,” Harrell said. “You can’t rip out sheetrock to inspect stuff that has already been installed, so it is kind of a catch 22 in that aspect. It is hard to -- once things are covered up, it is hard to go through and verify that everything is done correctly.”

“This is a tough situation because it is tough to catch,” said Chris Buchanan, owner of Big Inspections. “You have to put a lot of trust in the builder because it is tough to catch it because they are the one that is going to be responsible for that ultimately. There are things that you can possibly do by looking at it with a thermal camera, but I don’t think this issue would have been caught with that. But it is one of those things that has to be caught during the building process.”

Highland Homes, which is highly decorated with rewards, is known for its customer service.

According to its website, some of the most recent accolades include:

  • Eight-time People’s Choice Builder of the Year award winner from 2011-2019.
  • #23 on the 2016 Builder 100
  • Builder magazine’s prestigious ranking of the top 100 homebuilders in the U.S.
  • 2015 ENERGY STAR Certified Homes Market Leader Award winner

No matter their glowing resume, residents, who said they loved the homes they bought, want accountability and to be made whole.

Statement by Highland Homes regarding winter storm-related home damage:

“Last week’s winter storm and record freezing temperatures caused millions of Texans to be without power and/or water for prolonged periods. These unprecedented conditions combined with extended utility outages caused weather-related damages to many homes, and we understand how distressing this can be for our community, our homeowners, and our Highland Homes family.

“Highland Homes has received ten service calls from the neighborhoods cited in this story, and our construction experts have spoken with all ten families to evaluate the cause and offer guidance on the storm-related damage.

In the last 30 years, Highland Homes has built more than 5,000 homes across San Antonio and the surrounding areas. We stand behind our construction quality and reputation for providing an excellent customer experience and will continue to respond as quickly as possible to every single service call and warranty inquiry received.”

The development has said if you have been impacted and you are a Highland Home homeowner, call their office.

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