How to Identify and Prevent Leaks in Your Home
Leaking water in your home is never good, especially if you don’t know where it is coming from. Leaks from pipes or drains can cause major structural damage if left untreated, which is why it is imperative that you know how to identify where water is coming from and what the common culprits for leaks around the home are.
It is recommended to check for leaks twice a year at least, ideally before and after the coldest season. Since many leaks aren’t visible, this can make them hard to detect. Water stains, mold, or a significant increase to your water bill could all be signs you have a leak. Take some time to go through your home in order to identify potential problems. While it may not be the funniest way to spend your time off, it could save you thousands of dollars in water bills and future repairs.
# Indoor Drain and Pipe Leaks
Often it is easy to identify leaks inside your home. Just look to faucets or underneath the sink, and if there is water seepage, you will likely be able to see it. The real danger inside the house is finding leaks that may be within the walls and to take the time to check each spot in the home, since there are likely to be many.
The first step to identifying a potential water leak anywhere in your home is to turn off the water to your home and then check the water meter. The water should not be run against the meter when access is cut off to the home. If the meter continues to run, then chances are that you likely have a major leak between the house and the meter, to the main pipe. If this is the case, then you’ll want to call a professional plumber right away.
If it runs slowly or, chances are likely that it is either in the home, or there is only a small leak to the main. If you suspect a leak within the home, the next step is to carefully through each room when the water is turned back on. Pay attention to water connections and check the appliances or rooms that could be the root of the issue.
To find leaks around the home, start with a simple check list that looks like this:
- Garbage disposal
- Under sink
- Bathroom (s)
- Tub / Shower
- Other Household Appliances
- Water Heater
- Washer / Dryer
As you go through the rooms and check faucets, pipes and appliances, paying special attention to slow drips once the spout is turned off or residual pooling. Be sure to carefully cross everything off your list, noting any drips along the way.
Below are specific trouble areas that are common in homes, with tips for where to look and what to look for beyond the most obvious areas.
Appliances such as complete home humidifiers, swamp coolers and dishwashers are all often unidentified leaks because they may not leak water directly. Rather, they can pool within the appliance and you never really know that there is a problem other than your raising water bill.
# Around the Sink
Everyone thinks to check the sink faucet and underneath, but a common leak point for sinks is also the rim. When the rims themselves can lose water causing pooling in cabinets and drawers. When checking your home be sure to note any stains or puddles underneath the sink or around cabinetry that is connected to your kitchen appliances. If spotted early enough, these leaks can often be fixed by caulking or tightening a pipe.
# Tubs and Showers
Tubs and showers are common causes for leaks because the connecting between the tub and drain can separate slightly, causing water to leak in to the floor below. Fiberglass and plastic shower pans are the most at risk because those materials are made to flex which can increase separation. To check if you have a drain leak, fill the shower or tub to create a puddle at the bottom and insert a test plug in to the drain and wait a few minutes. If the puddle of water has shrunken, you have a leak.
Tip: Make sure to test shower doors as well. Splash some water along the edges, if you find any water outside of the shower, you have a leaking door frame seal. This type of leak can eventually damage your subflooring and cause rot or mold.
# Outdoor Leaks
Outdoor leaks are sometimes harder to detect, however there is an easy way. First, go to the water spouts on the outside of your home. With the water turned off to the home, open the spout. If water continues to pour out of the hose, once the line is cleared then you have a leak.
Pools are common causes for outdoor water leaks. To check if your pool or spa is the problem, fill a bucket of water and place it inside the pool or spa water, making sure the water lines are equal. Then, wait 24 hours and check the levels. They should still be the same with the water in the bucket matching the line outside. If the water in the pool or spa is below that which is in the bucket, then there is the source of your leak and you may want to call a specialist.
# Resolving Leaks
Most leaks, once detected, can be resolved on your own at home by caulking or replacing a part. Even if you do have to call a plumber, it is best that you do so early and as soon as you detect an issue. Having more information by checking yourself before you call a professional can save you time by knowing that there is a leak early, as well as pin pointing the issue.
If you are unable to find a leak but notice that there is an increase in your water bill, a professional plumber can then take more intensive steps or even use camera technology to get to the root of your problem. In any case, these helpful tips for detecting leaks should at least give you the upper hand and help you be an informed homeowner.
Leo runs a professional plumbing company in Northridge, CA. On his free time, he enjoys blogging, reading and watching soccer.