How to Inspect Your Home for Leaks
To find more insidious, hidden leaks in your home, follow these steps:
1. Stop using water throughout the home.
This includes faucets, toilets, dishwashers, and washing machines, Preble says.
2. Check the water meter.
“Water meters have a small flow indicator on the dial that can help diagnose even small leaks,” Bennett explains. If it moves, there’s a leak. “Your meter can be used to measure the flow rate of the leak, which will help you determine whether you have an emergency that requires immediate attention, or a very slow leak that can wait until the next business day to consult a plumber,” Bennett adds.
3. Look for problems.
Go through your home, checking for leaking pipes, dripping faucets, and other visual signs. “The most common signs of active plumbing problems show themselves in a home’s drywall and ceiling through discoloration, bubbling, and peeling,” O’Rourke says. Mold growth, ceiling discolorations and stains, and deteriorated tile are other signs of a leak, Bennett adds.
Your next step is to determine the cause, according to O’Rourke: “Finding the root of the problem can involve a more thorough inspection of your home.”
4. Test for a leaking toilet flapper.
This is a common—and easily fixable—problem, Bennett says. To identify it, do a food coloring test on each toilet, following these steps:
- Place a few drops of food coloring in the toilet’s tank.
- Do not flush!
- Wait 25 minutes, then check to see if there’s color in the toilet bowl.
“If the color spreads into the toilet bowl, then there’s a leak,” Preble says. As a first response, clean any sediment or debris around the flapper. “If there's no sediment or the leak persists after cleaning, replace the flapper,” Preble says.
5. Next, go outside.
“In the yard, look for moist spots in the path of your water service line between the street and the home,” Bennett recommends. “This excess moisture sometimes results in unusual growth of lawn grass or weeds in the area near the leak.”
“When inspecting the outside of your home, you must rely more heavily on sight to discover leaks or water damage,” O’Rourke says.
6. If you have a pool, do a bucket test.
Perform this simple, low-tech test once a season to check for leaks in an in-ground pool, Bennet says.
- Turn off the pool’s automatic fill valve.
- Place a bucket on a step so the bucket rim is a few inches above the water line.
- Put a heavy weight inside the bucket. Add water until the water level inside the bucket is equal with the water level in the pool.
- Leave the bucket and pool undisturbed for several hot days. Compare the water level in the bucket to the water level in the pool. If the water level in the bucket is noticeably higher than the water level in the pool, you may be losing water to a leak.
If the test reveals a potential leak, Bennett recommends contacting a specialist at detecting pool leaks.