Sometimes, plumbing leaks are obvious. That annoying, continued drip, drip, drip from your faucet. You wake up one morning, go to get the laundry from the washer and end up in ankle-deep water. Or, you find water dripping from an upstairs room or neighbor.
Plumbing leaks can be obvious. They can also play hide-and-go-seek like a pro.
“A hidden plumbing leak can not only lead to a higher water bill, but it can result in potentially hazardous conditions, like a loss of structural integrity or even black mold,” says Steve Lewis, president and CEO of Plumbing by Jake.
There are a few ways to tell that you might have a plumbing leak. Look for these signs.
Ceiling Spots and Stains
Apartment dwellers and people with upstairs bathrooms might notice this sign first. The ceiling might sag, as well. The stain may appear dark, brown, or copper colored. The stain may be further away than directly below the bathroom as well.
Musty or Moldy Odors
Sheetrock, wood, and drywall all begin producing a musty odor when they get wet. If you have such an odor that persists, then you might have to play “follow the smell” to locate the leak.
Water can get beneath tiles found in bathrooms and make them loose. Finding the source should be relatively easy: look behind the access panel for the faucet and look for dampness or stains. Checking the caulking and grout for gaps can help too.
Bugs love water. An influx of roaches, silverfish, or earwigs might indicate that you have a leak, especially if you haven’t had any problems before. Wet wood from cabinets and drywall attract them, and they’ll make themselves at home.
Rust Particles or Other Sediment
If you notice that your water has sediment in it, it could be indicative of a leak. Finding rust in your water can also indicate that your pipes are aging and while you might not have a leak yet, a leak can develop if they are not replaced.
Testing for a Leak That is Not Obvious
If you’re sure that you have a leak, but none of the above telltale signs are present, there’s a simple way to test. Begin by shutting off all water in your home. This includes water running to outdoor areas like water hoses, and indoors to your refrigerator, washer, and dishwasher. Once that is completed, go outside and check your water meter and write down the number. Keep everything turned off for at least three hours and go back and check the water meter again. If it has changed, you probably have a leak.
Many leaks are fixed by tightening washers or adding caulk or grout. However, some leaks require the knowledge of an experienced plumber to root out and repair. If you notice any of the signs listed here and are unsure of how to proceed, contact a licensed plumber in your area for a diagnosis.