Signs of a Plumbing Leak

Benjamin Franklin once said (no, not us, the original Ben Franklin), “Beware of little expense. A small leak will sink a great ship.” The reason this quote is still in circulation more than two and a half centuries later is because it is true!

Plumbing leaks, in the early stages, are easy to ignore. We lead busy lives and often the first signs of a plumbing leak or clogged pipe are put on the back burner, to resolve sometime soon. You should act quickly if you see the signs of a plumbing leak, as if left without repair, these leaks typically get worse and can damage to your home and be a health risk due to the water creating an environment perfect for toxic mold growth.

It Starts Small…

By its very nature, a plumbing leak is progressive. When water finds a way through pipe threads, joints or cracks, it eventually widens the breech and creates damage to the area that cannot be ignored. You can think of it like this: water wants to be everywhere; we channel it to make it work for us.

Not all leaks are easily detected. You may have a leak somewhere in your plumbing system that is hidden behind walls or flooring, or in some dark corner of the basement or foundation. Knowing what to look for can help you prevent costly repairs to your entire system, or damage to your home.

Your plumbing is divided into two overall systems: the water supply that comes into your home for use and the waste water that is carried out of your house and to the city sewer. Leaks can occur in either system.

Watch Your Water Bill

Water bills fluctuate seasonally both in the amount of water used and the price you pay. What you want to watch for is an unexpected rise in the amount of water your household is using. Many water bills include month-to-month and year-to-year comparisons to help you spot increases in your usage. If it seems like you are being billed for more water than you are using, your next step is to check your water meter.

Checking Your Water Meter

The idea here is to see if your water meter indicates water use at times when you are not using water in your house or on your property.

  • Ensure that you have no water running inside or outside the house. Turn off any automatic water systems such as irrigation, sprinklers, icemakers, etc.
  • Find your water meter. It is usually located near the street under a concrete or plastic lid stamped with your water company’s initials. If you have trouble finding your meter, call your city’s water department.
  • Check the low flow indicator on the meter face. This is a spinning dial or wheel. If it is moving, it means you are using water when you shouldn’t be. You may have a leak in an appliance or pipe somewhere in the system. Note that your water meter does not indicate where a leak is! It will just tell you that water is still flowing when it shouldn’t be.
  • Even if the low flow indicator wheel is not moving, write down the full number you see in the meter window and note the time and date. Leave the water off for at least two hours – four hours is better.
  • After that time has elapsed, and all water has been shut off during that period, take another reading. Did the numbers change? If so, you will need to check for leaks in your plumbing system.

How Much Is Your Leak Costing You?

If your water meter indicates that you may have a leak, you can estimate how much it is currently costing you by multiplying the amount of change on the meter (in the two or four hours interval you allowed) over a period of a month. This number is in cubic feet of water. Usually, the water department bills per units of 100 cubic feet. Look at your bill and determine the value of a unit and you will be able to see where your money is being wasted. Even if the cost is slight, leaks are progressive!

Where To Inspect For Leaks

  • If your toilet is leaking, you might be wasting three times more water than you use during the same period! It’s a drain on the environment as well as your wallet. Do you hear the toilet running constantly periodically when not in use? A leak is likely. Drop some food coloring in the tank water and wait 15 minutes without using the toilet. If the color has migrated to the toilet water, you’ve got a leak. The fix is normally to replace worn parts in the tank kit. Even if you replace the whole kit, it is an affordable fix.
  • Wet spots under the water supply lines in the cabinets under your sinks. Check the condition of the items you have under the sink too. They may have trapped or absorbed dripping water.
  • Mold and mildew. Damp or wet spots can also cause the smell of mold and mildew. This is particularly true if the leak is trapped inside walls or partitions or in dark spaces with little air circulation. You may have a clogged drain that has caused water to leak into the walls.
  • Foundation cracks. The ground around your house can shift over time. This can put a strain on wastepipes near your foundation that can cause them to crack at the joints. When waste water pours out it can carry away supporting soil and weaken the structure.
  • Splash leaks around your shower stall or bath. If this area of your bathroom is allowing water to escape during a shower, it can eventually lead to rotting under the flooring – an expensive fix.
  • Water stains or blistering paint on the ceiling below a bathroom. This often indicates a leak in the shower drain, or clogged drain, but might also signify a leak in the water supply line or even in the floor tile in the shower. Another culprit could be the shower head pipe within the shower wall.
  • Water seeping out at the base of the toilet. This can also contribute to ceiling stains in the room below. Water leaking from the base of the toilet requires immediate attention.

Find It and Fix It Right. We Can Help!

If you suspect you have a leak, your best option is to call our technicians from Ben Franklin Plumbing in Cedar Rapids to help. Our qualified technicians can rapidly find the source and identify the cause behind it. Many leaks are age-related, and our professional plumbers can assist you to resolve the problem area, so leaks are resolved, and your home is once again safe and sound.