How To Find A Plumbing Leak & Prevent Water Damage
Plumbing Leak, Water Damage

Find A Plumbing Leak To Protect Your House From Water Damage

Let’s face it, we tend to take our plumbing systems for granted. Although we use our plumbing daily, it’s all too easy to overlook issues that can lead to water damage or mold growth. While you can detect most plumbing problems with a visual inspection, the majority of your plumbing is hidden in the walls. This makes locating a plumbing leak difficult. Although you may see water stains or puddles, there is no guarantee the leak is nearby. It could be traveling through the walls or dripping from a distance.

7 Signs You May Have a Plumbing Leak

If you have a flood or leaky roof, identifying the cause of water damage is usually straight forward. Unfortunately, finding a plumbing leak can be more difficult. When pipes within your walls leak, the water can travel down the pipes and gather different places within the ceiling or floorboards. While one or two of these isn’t a guarantee you have a water leak, several of them could indicate a plumbing problem.

  1. Your water bill is abnormally or unexpectedly high
  2. The dial on your water meter is moving, even though all the faucets are shut off
  3. There are unexplained stains or spots on your walls, ceiling, or floors
  4. You hear water running or dripping, even when you have everything turned off
  5. There is a persistent damp, musty smell
  6. Your pipes are abnormally loud or make knocking or moaning sounds
  7. There are an unusually large number of bugs in your home

How to Find a Plumbing Leak

If you suspect you have a plumbing leak, inspect your property to locate the problem. Open and thoroughly check cabinets below sinks, as well as in closets, pantries, and other areas you seldom inspect. Look for signs of corrosion on plumbing fittings and connections. Check that each fixture and faucet are properly sealed and replace plumbers putty, PTFE tape, washers, and gaskets as necessary.

Inspect surfaces to see if they are damp or deteriorating. Listen for sounds of dripping or running water. If you see mold, you have some water leaking nearby. Survey walls and ceilings for water stains, peeling paint or wallpaper, and bubbling or sagging drywall.

If you find signs of a water leak, you will need to systematically test your plumbing if can’t identify the source. Run faucets separately to see if the water leak gets worse. You may need to run faucets for several minutes in order to rule that water line out. While this method is effective at determining which water line is the problem, it may take a good deal of time. Unfortunately, it won’t necessarily pinpoint the water leak.

You may still need to open up walls to locate the source of the problem. If you need to cut into your walls, use a stud finder to locate the pathway of the pipes. Studs are typically 16 or 24 inches apart, so look for readings that fall in between the studs. Make as small of a hole in your wall as possible until you locate the plumbing leak.

Avoid making repairs to water damaged drywall, ceilings, wood, or other materials until you’ve fixed the plumbing leak. In addition to repairing the water leak, disinfect the area as well to treat against mold.

The Most Common Plumbing Leaks

Toilet Leaks

Almost 30% of the water used in American households is used on the toilet. That makes sense since you flush your toilet from several to potentially dozens of times a day. A toilet leak can waste around 200 gallons a day. The easiest way to determine if you have leaky toilet is to listen for it running. If it’s been a while since you flushed and you hear water running from the tank, you probably have a leak.

The best way to identify the source of a toilet leak is with food coloring. Put a few drops of food coloring in the tank and wait a few hours. If the inside of the bowl is colored, the leak is going down the drain. You may need to replace the gaskets and washers to stop the leak.

However, if you see food coloring outside the toilet bowl, your leak is more serious. The food coloring might leave a trail back to the source of the toilet leak, but you may need to unseat the toilet to determine the problem.

4 Things to Check on a Leaky Toilet

  1. Flapper and seal
  2. Bolts holding toilet to the floor
  3. Rim around the toilet base
  4. Intersection of the toilet tank and toilet bowl

The toilet flapper, seat or seal is usually the cause. It’s a cheap and easy fix. If the toilet flapper is peeling, crumbling, or isn’t adjusted correctly, that is also a sign that it needs to be replaced. (When you’re out buying replacement parts, keep in mind some people refer to the toilet flapper as the “flush valve seal.”) Take the old flapper with you to the hardware store so you don’t waste time at the return desk later.

Leaky Faucets and Fixtures

Go room to room and check every faucet, handle, valve, supply line, and drain pipe for leaks. To find leaky plumbing parts, use tissues or toilet to identify problem areas. Pay particular attention to plumbing connections and joints. If the tissue is wet, there is a small water leak. You may just need a new washer in a spigot, handle, or compression joint connection. Test every connection twice, once with the water off and once with it running.

As you inspect each area, check shut-off valves for moisture. Make a trip to the basement or crawl space and look for shut off valves. Most shut off valves are gate valves that have a packing nut and washer that prevent leaks. If those items are old and worn, they’ll need to be replaced. Other shut offs are ball valves that have a ball joint that seals the valve. Ball valves may have a washer, but leaks often indicate a problem with the valve itself.

In addition to your faucets, check the water connections on your washing machine, dishwasher, hot water tank, sprinkler system, and outdoor hose connections.

Does Insurance Cover Plumbing Leaks

Your insurance normally does cover plumbing leaks, but only if they are addressed immediately. If you have been negligent about locating and repairing the leak, your insurance company will likely deny your claim. For this reason, it’s important to look for a plumbing leak at the first sign of a problem.

Restoration Services for Water Damage Caused by Leaky Plumbing

If you have water damage caused by leaky plumbing, Restoration Local is here to help. We are a nation-wide network of local contractors that specialize in water damage restoration. If you have a plumbing leak, find a contractor near you or call 1-888-443-3110 to speak with the on-call contractor in your area. Our on-call contractors always offer 24-hour emergency services, 30-minute response time, and a free, no-obligation estimate.

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