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How To Find A Water Leak In Your House

You have noticed an increase in your water bill. Has your utility suggested that you may have a water leak. While many water leaks are very noticeable - wet floors, some water leaks are very hard to detect and may not be at all noticeable unless you become a detective and look very hard.

dripping water faucet
Figure 1 - Dripping Water Faucet

The most common residential water leaks are due to dripping faucets and running toilets.

Other water leaks can be caused by damaged or split pipes and fittings. If you have a basement in your home, it is most likely that the water entry is below ground. A damaged pipe entering your home can leak thousands of gallons of water and if you have an adequate drainage system, it will remove all of the water without leaving a trace.

Finding & Detecting A Water Leak:

As a homeowner you pay for any water that passes through the water meter. If there is a break in the line prior to the water meter it will have no effect on your water consumption and hence your water bill.

  1. Turn-off all of the water devices in your home. Ensure that everyone in the home knows that you are testing for water leaks and during that time does not attempt to use any water.
  • The cold water valves that allow water to enter toilets, usually located to the bottom left of the toilet water tank.
  • All the water valves to sink faucets. Usually located below the sink. If you do not have separate valves for shutting off the water at your sinks. Turn-off the valve handles - dry the bowl of the sink with a towel - place a piece of newspaper or a paper towel in the bowl. Follow the same procedure for any bathtubs and/or showers.
  • The water valves to washing machines.
  • The water valve to dishwashers.
  • Water valves on water softeners.
  • Water valves to refrigerator ice cube makers.
  • Water valves on the hot water tank.
  1. If your water meter has a "low flow indicator" (a small red triangle located on the face of the meter, as shown in Figure 2 and 3), you can instantly determine if you have a water leak. If the low flow indicator is turning while every water consumption device has been turned off - you have a water leak in your piping or possibly the hot water tank!

Water meters will look a little different depending on the manufacturer, the basics of all water meters are shown in figures 2 & 3.

Water meter face with low flow indicator.
Figure 2 - Water meter face with low flow indicator.
Water meter in housing
Figure 3 - Water meter in housing

If your water meter does not not have a low flow indicator, write down the "consumption to date" number. In the case of the water meter in Figure 2, that would be 036,920.0

Wait about an hour and return to the meter and see if the consumption to date number has changed. If there is any change to that number, you have a water leak in your piping.

If you have a water leak in your piping and it is not noticeable you will have to call in a plumber to do ultrasonic testing to determine the location of the water leak.

If there is no water leak indicated at this point in the discovery process proceed to item 3.

  1. Turn-on each of the valves that you have turned off, one at a time and check the low flow indicator at each stage or if you do not have a low flow indicator check the water consumption to date number.
  2. If at any point, after turning on a valve, the low flow indicator starts to move or the water consumption number changes after an hour it is that plumbing fixture, connected to that valve that is leaking.

In areas where there are no valves, but you have placed newspaper or toweling below the faucet spout, if it is wet or shows signs of water droplets, it is this plumbing fixture that is leaking.

Toilet and faucet water leaks are usually easy to repair.

In the case of a faucet it is usually no more than replacing a washer and in the case of a toilet, the inner valves are sold as assemblies and are easy to replace.

Every homeowner should have a selection of water faucet washers as part of his home repair fittings.