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Plumbing System: How to Detect Leaks

Posted by Brian Johnston on Fri, Aug 19, 2011

plumbing_system_how_to_detect_leaksA troublesome issue that you may come across involves leaks in your plumbing system. Though you can enlist the help of a plumber to help fix the issue, some methods can be used to detect the leaks on your own to make sure that another underlying culprit is not causing the issue. After all, allowing leaks to continue and go unresolved can result in corroded pipes that need to be replaced. In worst case scenarios, mold and or pipes can burst, leaving you with a mess in your home if not taken care of immediately.

Listening for the Leak

You laugh? There is a business model, and one I have referred to for help, dedicated to adding air pressure and or performing the "gas" test. This involves filling the water pipe with industrial hydrogen and paying attention to the movement of it through the pipes with an acoustic listening device.

So before you spend the $300 for this service, perhaps the first troubleshooting step you can take to figure out this plumbing issue is to listen for the leak. Before you can do this, you need to find the water supply valve in your home and shut it off. After you close the valve, listen for leaking water wherever it may be–in the bathroom, kitchen or crawl space. It helps to get another person and two phones—ask the other person to turn off and on the water as you move around the suspect area. You can use duct tape or a similar patch to make sure that the leak is temporarily stopped once you find it, but calling a plumber soon after is essential if there’s no way for you to fix it yourself.

Looking at the Water Meter

The second step to take to definitively figure out if you have a water leak–assuming the "listening" test didn’t work–is to look directly at the numbers on the water meter. Depending on where you live, this can be plumbing_system_how_to_detect_leaksa small box on the ground or on the side of your building. Look at the digits to determine if they are moving and whether the number rises. Ask that no one in the house uses any water and I would suggest also turning off all the water supply’s to the toilets. If the numbers do fluctuate and increase, you’ve verified that you have a water leak and should notify a plumber. Pictured is a recent case, wet carpet and concrete was determined to be coming up from a leak in the pipe, in the slab, two rooms down the hall. Water travels—it flows downhill and follows the path of least resistance. 

Getting Help from a Plumber

If you’re certain that you have a plumbing leak or if you want to get a second opinion, the next step is to call a trusted plumber. One of the first steps that a plumber is going to take is going to be to confirm that you actually have a leak.

plumbing_system_call_a_plumberAll things considered, leaks should be detected immediately no matter if it is verified by you or a professional plumber. Even minor leaks can turn into serious problems, resulting in higher bills or damage to pipes or home appliances. Even worse in humid environments is mold. Detecting the leak–and having it fixed immediately with the help of a plumber–is crucial to the health of your home plumbing system.

Tags: Residential, Residential Plumbing, Outhouse Tips