Uh oh! The dreaded discovery of a wet floor, water dripping from a ceiling or a sky-high water bill are the makings of a homeowner’s nightmare. Yet, while the sign of a plumbing leak in your home can certainly be alarming, being proactive and educated about what to do can help lessen the inconvenience and costs associated with these unforeseen household emergencies.
Could It Be a Plumbing Leak?
If you know what to look for, you can usually identify a leak before it becomes a major problem or causes costly water damage to your home. The most common signs of a leak inside your home are:
• Your floors, walls or ceilings are wet, damp, spongy or discolored when there hasn’t been a spill
• Continuous sounds of water running when nothing is turned on
• An unpleasant smell emanating from floors or walls near drains
• You feel warm spots on your floor, especially if it’s a concrete slab floor
• Your water meter reading changes when you aren’t using any water
• Your water bill is abnormally high when compared to other months
• Your home’s foundation cracks
• Dripping or leaky faucet
Unfortunately, there are many causes of plumbing leaks. One of the most common is a leaky toilet. There can be a leak from the tank into the bowl due to a bad flapper, a bad fill valve or a cracked overflow tube. Water can also leak from a bad wax seal. In this situation, you’ll most likely see water on the floor around the base of the toilet.
Tubs and Showers
In the case of tubs and showers, leaks can originate from several sources including the trap, the tub waste shoe, the tub waste pipes, the overflow washer, grout, caulking, the faucet plates, the tub spout, the shower valve behind the wall and the pipe to the faucet or shower head.
Because there are so many possibilities, it’s important to not ignore any sign of a leak and to work with a professional plumber who has expertise and experience in identifying the source of the leak.
Water Heater Leak
Another common water leak culprit is the water heater. If you see water collecting at the base of your water heater, it may indicate any of several problems. These include loose valves or a corroded water tank. If water is spraying from pipes near the water heater, there may be a water pressure issue.
Immediately turn off the valve that controls the flow of water to your home. This is typically located near where the cold water pipe enters. There is often a red handle on the shut-off valve. If you can’t find the valve, shut off the water supply to your home and call a professional plumber immediately.
Broken Water Line
Is there a stream of water coming from a wall or ceiling? If you’ve ruled out that something has overflowed, like a bathtub or washing machine, the next possibility is a water line break. Remember- water will flow towards the weakest point in the ground or through a wall.
Broken Water Main
Do you hear a rumbling or hissing sound coming from the water main at the point where the pipe enters your house? Are you experiencing a loss of water pressure? If you’re not running water, it’s likely you have a broken water main. The sound indicates that water is exiting the pipe somewhere between the house and the city water main. To determine if this is the cause, it’s vital to get an inspection from a licensed plumber.
The leak that homeowners probably fear most is the dreaded slab leak. This is a leak in a pipe under a concrete foundation or slab. It’s particularly destructive because it can cause the foundation of a home to move or crack, and it often goes unnoticed for some time before it is identified. All homeowners should be aware of what to look for when it comes to slab leaks. Cracks in walls and floors are obvious indicators. An unexplainable spike in water usage on your monthly bill may also indicate a slab leak. Interestingly, many homeowners first identify a slab leak while walking barefoot on a floor. There is often a hot or damp spot that doesn’t feel quite right. The good news this type of leak is not that common. Most homeowners will never experience one, and if they do, they’re often covered by homeowner’s insurance.
Causes of Leaky Water Pipes
Like with toilets, tubs, showers and water heaters, there are a variety of causes of pipe leaks. The most common include:
Time takes its toll on your home’s pipes. Through the years, pipes can begin to rust and leak. As well, foundations can shift causing plumbing to loosen and even separate which can lead to water leaks.
If not found early, these leaks can cause serious damage to your home. If you have had your home’s plumbing inspected in years, you may want to do this before a leak begins.
Extremes in temperatures can cause pipes to burst and crack. Simple steps to protect pipes by covering them during cold weather can help prevent this from happening.
Grease, hair, pieces of food, and even children’s toys can cause serious clogs that can damage pipes. Because clogs often happen at the most inopportune time, like over a holiday weekend, it’s important to have an emergency plumber who you can count on.
While not common, faulty installation and poor quality materials can lead to leaks. Don’t put your home at risk by working with an unqualified plumber or attempting to manage plumbing repairs yourself.
All homeowners are at risk of leaks. The key is being able to identify them early and get them repaired before the extensive damage begins to set in. With a proactive approach and even preventative maintenance, you can go a long way toward avoiding costly, extensive repairs.