How to Detect a Water Leak Your Home: Signs to Look For + Solutions

Whether you live in an apartment, studio, condo or house, water damage can wreak significant havoc on your living spaces and end up costing you thousands of dollars. Even drying out a property that has not been structurally compromised with mold or had damage done to the carpeting and drywall can cost up to $2,700 after a leak. If restoration and repairs need to be done, that figure could rise to $7,500 and beyond.

Not to mention the money you would be wasting every month on your water bill by having leaky faucets, appliances or piping. Letting leaks continue to drip or allowing toilets to constantly run can cost you anywhere from $1 to $70 per month! It is always a good idea to be vigilant in your home, and there are some simple and smart ways to detect a leak before it’s too late.

How to Spot Water Leaks

One of the easiest ways to tell if you have a water leak is by keeping an eye on your water bills. Compare your most recent water bill to another one you got 3-5 months ago. If there has been a substantial increase with no change made in your regular water use, you may have a leak.

Another proactive step you can take is checking your water meter. The first thing you are going to want to do is turn off the water supply to your home and make sure no appliances that use water (dishwasher, washing machine, etc.) are running. Then go out to your meter and look for any movement or changes. An immediate change with no water running in your house almost always means you have a leak.

If you don’t see any immediate change, keep the water off for a couple of hours and check back with the meter because some underground leaks are subtle, minor or slow-moving but they can still cause a lot of damage and cost.

Knowing what is normal in terms of water usage for your home is helpful too. For example, let’s say you live in an apartment with one roommate. It is typical for water usage to be between 80 and 100 gallons per day. Bump that up to a household of 4, and you are looking at about 400 gallons per day or roughly 12,000-13,000 gallons per month. If your household average lies outside of these ranges, you may have a problem.

One tell-tale sign of a leak is mold, and a dead giveaway that you have mold is an unpleasant odor in or around your home. Typically mold will smell like wet and dirty clothing, and rotted wood.

Checking inside and behind your cabinets for visible leaks is an excellent place to start too. Keep an eye out for pooling water behind or around your appliances, discolored drywall or stagnant water around your bathtub and toilet.

Don’t forget to keep an eye on the exterior of your home as well. Underground irrigation, drip systems, and sprinklers all rely on piping that can easily become damaged or compromised. This will typically result in a spot in your lawn or your backyard that is flooded or consistently has pooling water on it. Also, check your outdoor faucets to make sure they have been shut off all the way and are not dripping.

fix water leak

What is Likely to Cause A Water Leak?

There are a few usual suspects when it comes to water leaks, and you would do well to know what they are and how you can know for sure if they are indeed leaking water.

The first place you should look is your sinks and faucets. If your sink piping is leaking, then you have probably noticed that the water pressure has dropped. If you look in the cabinet under your sink, you will most likely see puddles of water directly under the piping as well.

If you suspect that the faucet spout itself is leaking, try placing a cup directly under it or placing a paper towel under the spout. Make sure the faucet is shut off entirely and if you see water on the towel or in the glass, you have a leak.

Showerheads that become scaly can clog and force leaks from other areas. Check to see if your showerhead is emitting water where it shouldn’t be. To test your tub for leaks, try sealing the tub with heavy-duty duct tape and filling it with an outside source of water. Let the water sit for about a half-hour and check for any visual signs of leakage on the floor or if you are testing a second-story tub, on the ceiling directly under it. This will tell you whether or not your shower floor is leaking.

Underground water leaks can be detected using a dye test. A dye test involves placing a tablet of colored, non-staining dye in the main drains or downspouts of your home and flushing it out with water. Where you see any coloration that correlates with the dye color is a good place to start hunting for a leak.

The dye can also be used to test toilets for leaks. Simply place some dye or food coloring in the tank of your toilet and wait for about 20 minutes to see if any of the dye shows up in the bowl. Hearing water run long after you have flushed either is also a sign of a leaking toilet.

How to Prevent Water Leaks

If you take the time, you can prevent leaks from occurring in the first place. The best way to prevent leaks is to have your home checked annually by a professional plumber or home services contractor. Regrouting and recaulking as needed, is also a great way to prevent water damage.

Now that you know the tell-tale signs of leaks and what is most likely to cause leaks, there is no better way to prevent a leakage than by keeping a sharp eye on these areas of your home and the many warning signs.


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