Leaks can be anywhere in your house – under the ground, behind walls, in ceilings and in every pipe you can see with your eyes.
That includes all the sinks, drains, bathtubs, showers and toilets in the house. What most homeowners may not know is that every drop that makes it out of that pipe before its destination is a sign of possible future damage to property in form of rot, flooding and decay.
They go on putting off repair and soon find themselves with a mess on their hands. But the biggest problem is that most do not know how to detect leaks in their own houses and on their premises. Here are a number of easy methods you can use to detect plumbing leaks in your house.
Plumbing leaks in kitchens are mainly found in two areas; around the sinks and among the supply pipes at the base of the sinks. Faucet leaks are also a common occurrence.
For sinks, examine the lower part of the countertop for any changes in the particleboard. This is especially noticeable if you have a plastic laminate countertop. If it’s been affected by water, it will be dark, swollen and spongy to the touch.
You can also pour some water slowly along the base of the faucet and the edges of the sink i.e. where the sink and the countertop are joined or meet, and then check to see if the water drips down at the bottom. This is a sign that water is readily seeping through a tiny space in between the faucet base and the countertop and the countertop and the sink.
Examine the faucet base to see if it is loose. Constant exposure to splashes of water can gradually loosen the joint at which the faucet meets the countertop, allowing for seeping of small amounts of water to the area below over a period of time.
You should also take time to examine the area under the cabinet for dampness, water puddles and rotting floor boards, all of which are likely as the dripping continues. This is largely as a result of leaks from the supply pipes inside the cabinet, most of which aren’t noticed until long after they’ve started dripping.
A loose plastic laminate bench-top is also a sign you shouldn’t ignore. It is mainly caused by the caulk around the sink being in bad shape, which is another sign of possible water leakage.
One other easy way to spot a leak in a two story house is to check the ceiling below the kitchen for any wet or dried stains. After dripping non-stop for a long time, the water seeps through the floor joists and makes its way onto the ceiling board, appearing as a wet mark that may grow into a large puddle.
To test your supply/drain pipes, pass a dry cloth over the edge of each pipe, especially around the slip joint and shutoff valve, as water drains from the sink bowl. Areas having a leak will leave small marks on the cloth.
Toilets are perhaps one of the commonest sources of plumbing leaks in Australia and everywhere else around the world. With their construction on higher floors and subsequent connection to waste pipes, inside toilets are very prone to causing destruction through leaks. Here’s how to detect a pipe leak in a toilet system.
Add a few drops of food colouring to the water tank above the toilet. Without flushing, wait for some time and watch closely for any change in the toilet water. If the food colouring makes its way into the toilet tank, it’s a sign that there is water leaking somewhere between the tank and the toilet.
Examine the base of the toilet seat to see whether it’s loose. The base is where the toilet meets the floor and is one of the commonest sources of leaks in any house. You can try sitting on the toilet to feel for any signs of movement. The pressured water from the toilet easily seeps through this loose area, resulting in constant leaks and puddles.
Check the ceiling directly below the toilet for any wet or drain stains. For confirmation of source, you should also measure the distance from the stain to the toilet. Puddles of water resulting from leaks in pipes usually form not very far from their source, and that makes for one way of determining which pipe the leak is coming from.
Check for peeling paint and wallpaper both on the inside and outside walls next to the bathroom. This is usually as a result of a continuous passage of water though the caulk between the tiles, especially for bathtubs attached to the wall on any side. The water soon moves into the connected wall, loosening the bonds attaching paint and wallpaper to the wall, later leading to the peeling of both.
Look out for loose or falling wall tiles on the wall next to the shower/bathroom. Even though loose tiles on the wall attached to the bathtub can develop because for many reasons, one of the most common causes is water seepage. Regular leaking from the shower curtain exposes the tiles to water which seeps through the grout and caulk and loosens them over time.
You can also check for constant mould growth in certain spots of the bathroom, especially those next to the bathtub/shower pan. Moulds and mildew are known to thrive in dark places with moisture and a bathroom with leaking pipes is certainly one such place. If you find any that are constantly growing, they are a sign of possible leaks somewhere.
Stains on the ceiling directly below the bathroom are another factor that should be easy to look out for. As water constantly leaks through bathroom pipes or slides away from the shower curtain surface onto the floor, it makes its way through floor tiles and joists and later appears as a dark moving stain on the ceiling below.
If you also notice curled and loose flooring next to the bathtub or the shower, be warned of a potential water leak, most probably one from the bathtub or shower curtain/wall. Water easily seeps through the floor tiles and loosens them over time.
Check for space between the tub and floor due to gaps in the caulk. With continuous exposure to leaking water, the caulk between the tub and the floor undergoes regular erosion, resulting in gaps that let water through to the bottom of the flooring under the tub.
Underground and Hidden Pipes
Sometimes the leaking pipe may be below the ground or hidden behind a wall. That includes basements, ceilings, concrete slabs, asphalt streets etc. Determining a hidden pipe as the source of a leak is not always easy, but here are some ways you can do it.
Carry out the meter test. First, check the meter measuring the water being used in the house and notice how it moves. Then turn off every faucet and toilet, plus any other appliances connected to water within the property. Check the meter again to see if it is moving. If it is, you have a leak somewhere in the house and it could be underground. Otherwise, the meter shouldn’t move at all once every appliance is turned off.
Moulds, mildew and rotting wood in an area are also imminent signs of leaks in underground or hidden pipes such as those behind a wall. It is common to find greenish moulds and mildew growing on such walls or floors and if you see them, know that there is a possibility of a leak in the pipe behind that area.
Another thing you can check for is heat emanating from an area below a surface. This is usually due to the action of pressurised water hitting the surface at high velocity for a period of time.
You can also have detection of drain water leak sounds below the ground done using modern technology.
Whereas most plumbing leaks are likely to occur inside your house, some do occur on pipes located outside, especially the main pipe leading water to the house.
These are the signs to look out for
- Corrosion on pipes
- Increased growth of grass around the outside piping, if water is leaking before getting into the house
- Leaking hose pipes
If you still observe that there is excess water loss from your tanks than the usage, call a plumbing expert straight away to find out the leak and fix it. After all, water is precious and it is our duty to save water.