How to Detect Water Leaks in Your House
Water leaks in a house can be hard to detect because they are often hidden from sight and may be a very slow drip.
There are two DIY friendly methods to help detect elusive leaks:
1) Pressure Test To Detect Leaks
A static water pressure test can help identify if you have a slow leak in your plumbing.
A static pressure test involves measuring your water pressure with all outlets fully closed. If your plumbing system has a leak, the water pressure will gradually drop over time.
Inexpensive pressure gauges are readily available at most hardware stores. These pressure gauges can be attached to any of three common fixtures in your home:
- Outdoor hose spigots and hose bibs
- The supply connection to your washing machine
- The drain at the bottom of your hot water heater
If your pressure stays constant for 10 to 15 minutes, with all your outlets closed and no water running, you probably don't have a leak. The longer you run the test, the more confident you can be.
If you do see a pressure drop - check all your outlets carefully, to be sure you don't simply have an outlet dripping. For example, toilets are a common source of very slow "leaks" (tip: add some food coloring to toilet tanks to see if there is a leak between the tank and the bowl). Drips on external hose bibbs or in landscape irrigation systems might be another source of slow drips, causing pressure drops.
2) Water Meter Flow Test To Detect Leaks
Another way to detect a hidden water leak is to monitor your water meter. Like the pressure test, start by closing all water outlets in your home. With this test, rather than measuring water pressure drop, you are going to see if the water meter detects any flow with all outlets shut.
Once all your outlets are shut, locate your water meter and take a current meter reading. Wait at least 30 minutes without using any water, and then take another reading.
If the meter reading is the same, then you likely don't have a significant leak. It is important to note that water meters measure usage in gallons or cubic feet: so a slow drip might not move the dial very far in just 30 minutes.
Even a slow leak can cause significant damage over time left undetected. A slow drip in a hidden location like a wall cavity, could potentially be causing damage by creating conditions ripe for mold and rot.
How to Find the Location of a Water Leak
Visual Signs of Hard To Detect Leaks
If a pressure or meter test indicates you may have a leak somewhere in your plumbing, the next step is to find out exactly where that leak is.
Methodically inspect hidden areas in your home: in or behind cabinets, behind appliances (like refrigerators with water line connectors), in closets, under rugs and carpets, attics, and crawlspaces.
Look for any signs of moisture: discolored walls, bubbling paint, or musty smells. If you suspect the leak is in or under a slab foundation, we wrote an article detailing all the signs of a leak under a slab.
Contact a Leak Detection Specialist
If you still can't confidently rule out the possibility of a leak, or you can't locate the leak; contacting a leak detection specialist is your next option.
Leak detection specialists use specialized equipment to locate a leak. We recommend hiring a specialist, not a plumber. Leak detection specialists don't perform plumbing services, and will have no bias to "find" a leak, for them to subsequently repair.
Here are two leak detection specialist companies we often recommend who have local branches in most markets across the USA:
What to Do If You Have a Water Leak
Water leaks can cause significant damage to your home if not dealt with promptly, so it's essential to take action as soon as you discover one.
If you have identified the source of the water leak in your home, turn off the water supply to prevent further damage.
It's important to determine whether the leak is a localized issue or a systemic issue. Localized issues can be fixed by repairing a specific part, such as a slow leak in a washing machine's supply shut-off valve or a leak in the supply line to a fridge.
Systemic plumbing issues such as old CPVC piping, old polybutylene pipes, leaks under slabs, pinhole copper leaks, or failing galvanized plumbing require a full home repipe to solve your water leak problems permanently and cost-effectively.
Document any damage caused by the water leak by taking pictures or videos. This can be helpful if you need to file an insurance claim or prove the extent of the damage. We cover types of water damage coverage by homeowners insurance here.
A full home repipe will ensure the integrity and longevity of your plumbing for many years to come. Most systemic issues cannot be fixed with just a one-off repair. If a water leak has occurred once, it's likely to occur again.
Our One-Stop Repipe™ Process can be completed in just 1-2 days and comes with a lifetime warranty. We also offer a range of Repipe Financing Programs to take the sting out of any unplanned leak repair expenses. Schedule a free in home consultation today.