How to Find Hidden Plumbing Leaks and Fix Them
25 October 2016
Has this happened to you before: you look at the water bill and think “How did I use up so much water in a month?” If your water consumption hasn’t changed drastically, the culprit is most probably a hidden plumbing leak. Such a leak can be dangerous and costly not only in terms of water bills, but also repair costs for all the damage it will cause if not seen to as quickly as possible. Here are a few things you should know about hidden leaks in your plumbing installations, how to find them and how to fix them.
What Are Hidden Plumbing Leaks?
Hidden or internal leaks are usually caused by wear and tear as well as aging of the property and its installations. For houses in particular, with time the structure shifts and settles and that results in cracks in the foundations and shifting of the plumbing, including all the supply pipes and the tub and shower drains too. If left unattended for a long time, leakage can cause a lot of damage, which will be extremely costly to repair.
What Problems Can Leaks Cause?
Problems caused by hidden leaks can cause damage to other parts of your property and even the house foundations if you don’t detect them early on and do the necessary plumbing repairs. Here are a few of the common issues that plumbing leakage causes:
Broken tiles – water damage often causes the tiles to shift and break. This is not only an aesthetic issue, as broken tiles can lead to water seepage into the walls or floor and result in costly repairs.
Rotten flooring – It the leak is left unrepaired for a longer period, water can saturate the flooring and cause it to rot.
Mould growth – If you regularly scrub the bathroom tiles and they keep getting dark, this is a sign of mould. Steady moisture produced by plumbing leaks promotes mould growth on the grout, tiles, around the drains and the tub. Mould, especially black mould, can be very harmful to your health, so you should find the cause for it and nip it in the bud.
These and all other problems caused by hidden leaks should be detected as soon as possible and the underlining problem should be addressed by a skilled plumber right away, so that it doesn’t spiral out of control.
How to Detect Internal Plumbing Leaks?
Leaks can be quite tricky to detect. However, there’s a sure fire method to test if there are any leaks in your plumbing installations and it is very easy to implement.
1. Turn off all your appliances that use water, including the washing machine, the dishwasher, all sprinklers, etc. The aim is to shut off all water usage at your home for a particular amount of time.
2. Locate the water meter. Write down the number on the meter or take a picture of the display.
3. Don’t use any water in the next 3-4 hours. Don’t turn on the faucets, flush the toilet or turn on any of your water-using appliances. For greater convenience, you can do that at night, so that your normal routine isn’t disturbed.
4. After a few hours, check the water meter again. If you have followed all the above steps closely and there is still a difference in the number you first wrote down and the current number on the meter, then you have a plumbing leak on your hands and you will have to take measures to fix it.
Note that this method can only be used for detecting leaks in the clean water supply. If you suspect a leak in the drainage, you may have to call in an expert plumber to find and repair the issue.
Locating and Fixing the Leak
If you are lucky, the plumbing leak may be in some place where it can be easily seen, such as in a faucet, the toilet tank or in the water supply pipes of one of your appliances. In that case, you can attempt on the plumbing repairs yourself if you feel confident enough in this type of work. Often changing a tap connector or gasket or tightening up a joint will be enough to stop the leak and you will barely have to spend any money to repair it. If, on the other hand, the leak is in the water heater, you may have to replace it altogether.
However, if the leak is in a place where you can’t easily reach it or you cannot determine where exactly it is and in the cases where there is a problem with the drainage system that simple drain unblocking cannot solve, you will have to contact the experts for help. Experienced plumbers have advanced methods for detecting hidden leaks and use different tests, such as colour tests and pan tests, to find where exactly the problem lies. They also have all the tools and knowledge necessary for fixing such leaks. Hiring a plumber may cost you a certain amount that will vary depending on the issue, but it will definitely save you a lot more money and trouble in the long run.