Detecting & Fixing Leaks

Leaking pipes can cause chaos, whether a slow steady leak that rots a patch of carpet or floorboards before it's detected, or a sudden flow of water that requires emergency attention. There are key measures that you can take to detect and remedy a problem before it turns into a significant expense - or worse, causes damage to other parts of your home. Solving any leak issue in the first instance is the best practice.

Detecting Pipe Leaks

Leaking pipes can be hard to spot, particularly slow, small leaks. Water may be oozing out of one place, running along a pipe for some distance and appearing somewhere entirely different. Check for moldy areas, or areas that simply look or smell damp. It may be necessary to remove floor coverings or wall boards to reveal the source of a leak.

It's just as important to check the integrity of other structures that have been subjected to damp for a period of time (floorboards or walls, for example) as it is to repair actual leaks. Such items may have rotted and need replacing.

For the really elusive leaks you'll almost certainly need a professional plumber with specialized detection equipment; professional plumbing equipment can minimize damage to your home.

Simple Methods for Checking for Leaks

A simple way to check for a leak is to turn off all taps and appliances that use water. Read your meter, and check it again after an hour. If the meter indicates water consumption, you have a leak. A small drip can waste 20 or more gallons of water per day. Fix it, and you’ll save over 7,000 gallons per year.

To check for a leak in your toilet, put a few drops of food coloring in the tank. Watch for a few minutes to see if the color shows up in the bowl. It is not uncommon to lose up to 100 gallons a day from an invisible toilet leak, and fixing one can save more than 30,000 gallons of wasted water a year. If your toilet is leaking, check all of its internal seals as well as the external plumbing fixtures.

What to Do With Leaking Pipes

Simple, easily accessed leaks can be repaired by the homeowner, however, if in doubt and for major leaks call a plumber.
  • Turn off the mains water to your home
  • Once the leak has been identified, clear the area around the pipe, and clean the pipe thoroughly
  • Joins are common sites of leakage. For a join leak, undo the join, clean it thoroughly, and repair with plumber's tape around the seal before rejoining. Check that parts are the correct size, and that corrosion on metal pipes or cracks on plastic ones have not compromised the join
  • For cracks or holes in metal or plastic pipes, purchase the correct putty, sealant and tape from a hardware outlet or plumbing supplier, and carefully reseal the damage.