10 Tips for Finding Small Water Leaks at Home
Many people ignore small water leaks in their homes. After all, what’s the big deal with a few drops of water here and there? As a homeowner you’re probably more concerned with bigger water emergencies like floods or burst pipes.
But small leaks are a big deal. They do their damage over time, and before you know it, you’re faced with a big mess and even bigger repair bill. Here are a couple of reasons you should be paying attention to small leaks:
- Small leaks can lead to big damage. An undetected leak, no matter how small, can cause long-term structural damage to your property. Small leaks can also lead to bigger leaks or pipe bursts over time, resulting in catastrophic damage. Best to find those water leaks now.
- Small leaks waste water. A drop of water here and there doesn’t seem like something to worry about, but even those infrequent drips can add up to thousands of dollars over the course of a year. So that drip, drip, drip you hear is actually your money, slowly dripping away.
- Small leaks create mold. Water building up behind a wall can start to rot out the frame of your home and cause toxic black mold to develop.
Why Leaks Happen
Your pipes can spring a leak for all sorts of reasons. Here are the most common:
- High water pressure. When your water pressure is too high, more strain is put on your pipes and pipe joints. High water pressure can wear out fixture components like washers and gaskets, leading to leaks in faucets and showerheads. One of the telltale signs of high water pressure is a banging noise in your pipes (known as water hammer) whenever you turn off a fixture.
- Frozen pipes. When water freezes, it expands. When water freezes in pipes, it causes big spikes in water pressure that can cause a pipe to burst. A big concern in more northern latitudes where temperatures really drop in the winter. Pipes usually freeze due to poor insulation, so if you live in a place with cold winters, consider checking up on your insulation situation.
- Worn out plumbing components. If you live in an older home, you might just have really old pipes and plumbing fixtures. These things don’t last forever. Think about replacing old fixtures like sink faucets and showerheads and getting your pipes inspected.
Detecting Leaks with Flo by Moen
The Flo by Moen is a smart water monitoring device that can detect leaks as small as a drop per minute. The device links up to your smartphone and gives you up-to-the-minute updates on the status of your home’s water pressure, temperature and flow. For the record, Flo by Moen can detect leaks both big and small leaks (anything from a burst pipe to a small leak at a drop per minute.)
Look for Spots on Walls and Ceilings
It can take a while to notice water leaks behind drywall. Warped or bubbled drywall or ceilings, or areas of brown or yellow discoloration are all signs that there’s a leak somewhere inside the walls.
The tricky part with these leaks is that the source might be from somewhere else in the house. Water spots on an upstairs ceiling could mean you have a leaky roof. Water spots on a downstairs ceiling could be from a leak in an upstairs bathroom.
If you notice warped or discolored walls, assume you have a leak and start thinking about your next steps. Decide if you want a professional to handle it or if you want to tackle the problem yourself.
Watch Out for Mold and Mildew
Signs of water leaks behind walls tend to show up well after the leak has started. Which brings us to the next big sign of leaks, mold. When water leaks are left unattended for long enough, mold is sure to develop. Let mold develop for too long in your home and you and your family could be dealing with allergies, sinus and respiratory infections.
Household mold is black and can usually be found in basements, crawlspaces and rooms that are prone to condensation, like bathrooms and laundry areas. Sometimes, you won’t be able to see any mold, but you’ll notice a musty, mildew-like smell — a sign you should investigate further.
Check Around Your Water Heater
Water heater leaks are a big deal. Leaks are usually an early warning sign that your hot water heater is on it’s last leg. If water starts building up below the tank, you should make arrangements to get a replacement installed as soon as you can. If the leak gets any worse, or if the tank ruptures, you could end up with a huge, costly flood to deal with.
Test Your Toilet
We’ve all dealt with that toilet that just won’t stop running. The sound of the tank filling up and emptying over and over again could drive anyone crazy. But it’s possible your toilet might be running without making any noise at all.
To find out for sure, you’ll need some colored dye (food coloring will work too). Remove the lid from your toilet tank and add in a few drops of the dye until the water changes color. Give it a few minutes and take a look at the water in your toilet bowl. If any of the dye from the toilet tank has made it into the bowl, you’ve got a leak in the tank somewhere.
Inspect your Shower Area
There are plenty of places for leaks to occur around your shower. The first area to inspect is the showerhead. If it’s dripping while the shower is turned off, chances are there’s a worn out washer that needs to be replaced. Some washers are easy to replace on your own and parts are easy to find online.
Beyond the showerhead, you’re going to want to look around the base of the shower or tub and look for any pooling water. If the shower was recently used, dry the area completely and check up on it again in an hour or so. Leaks that pool onto the floor can work their way through the floor covering and into other parts of your home over time.
Inspect Your Appliances
Your refrigerator, washing machine and dishwasher are all connected to a water source. Even if you paid top-dollar for brand-new appliances when you moved into your home, they are still prone to wear and tear over time.
A big problem area on these home appliances is the hose connection. Hoses start to wear down after a few years and these worn-out hoses can be the source of small leaks when running your appliances.
Don’t Forget To Look Outside
If you haven’t been able to find the source of the leak inside your home, there’s only one place left to go. Outside spigots can develop leaks over time either by having a worn out washer (much like the shower head) or from sustaining damage due to freezing over the winter.
Move along the perimeter of your home and check up on all your outdoor spigots. One by one, turn them on and then off again. If water continues to drip from the spigot, you might have to replace the washer (or the entire fixture). If water starts coming from other places, like further up the pipe, you might have a rupture.
Install Leak Detectors
There are several leak detectors on the market today that can help you keep tabs on potential problem areas in your home. There are devices out there that can monitor the supply-side or drain-side of your plumbing system, depending on what your security needs are. Flo by Moen offers both types of protection with the industry-leading Smart Water Security System.
For supply-side protection, the Flo by Moen Smart Water Shutoff is installed on the main water line. Every day, the Shutoff performs pressure loss tests to detect leaks as small as one drip per minute. And, newly added this year to the Flo by Moen system, Smart Water Detectors work a little like smoke detectors: install them next to showers, water heaters and other appliances and they alert you immediately when they detect water where it shouldn’t be.
Hire A Leak Detection Service
Sometimes a leak is so elusive that you just have to leave it to the professionals to track it down. Leak detection services like American Leak Detection can detect leaks in hard-to-reach areas like beneath the slab of your home and the pipes that run behind your walls and under your floors. ALD also offers leak repair services, so you can have your leak found and fixed all by the same service.
It’s important to find and take care of small leaks before they turn into bigger problems. Keeping tabs on your water meter and installing monitoring systems will help you stay ahead of the curve and keep your property safe. It takes a little due diligence and preventative maintenance, but it’s worth it in the long run.