When it comes to your plumbing in your home, what's out of sight shouldn't always be out of mind. Minor problems that are ignored or overlooked can quickly transition into major problems, requiring much more time, effort, and expense to fix. However, in some situations even noticing that you have a water leak can be a matter of chance. Read on to learn more about how to detect hidden water leaks in your home, as well as what you can do to repair them and correct any damage that has already occurred.
What are some ways to detect a hidden plumbing leak?
Although most of your home's pipes are buried beneath floors or hidden inside walls, there are still a few telltale (and not so telltale) signs that a pipe is beginning to fail at containing its contents.
The first is your water bill. You may not pay much attention to your bill, as long as the total amount doesn't fluctuate too much. However, the cost of providing water may rise and fall depending on the season or the water table -- so a bill that is slightly higher than usual could still involve a substantial increase in water usage if the base water supply rate has gone down.
You may want to keep copies of one or two bills per year so that you can examine your family's water usage patterns and notice any significant increases in water usage without a change in habits. In some cases, your "leak" could simply be a malfunctioning toilet that won't stop running.
Another way to find hidden water leaks is to walk carefully around on your solid-surface floors, noting any change in temperature. In some cases, a hot water leak can reveal itself as an unusual warm or hot patch on the floor, while a cold water leak can feel freezing on your feet when they come into contact. If your floor is laminate or hardwood, you may also notice condensation on the exterior of the floor or a slight bubbling of the material.
Finally, you may want to just stop and listen. Turn off all electronic devices and other noisemaking equipment and listen carefully from several spots in your home to see if you hear any dripping or rushing noises. Some homeowners have been able to detect minor leaks in their walls or ceilings simply by eliminating all background noise.
If you're still not sure whether you have a leak, you can turn off the water supply valve to ensure that your home's water supply is shut off. Then go outside and examine your water meter. If the meter is still moving, indicating water usage, it's likely that you have a leak somewhere in your home.
What should you do if you suspect a hidden water leak?
Your first step depends on the extent of the leakage. If you're dealing with a very small leak, you may simply want to make an appointment for a plumber to come to your home. If you're dealing with a growing or long-term leak, your best bet to prevent further damage to your home may be to shut off the water supply and call an emergency plumber.
Today's plumbers have a number of electronic detection devices that can allow them to pinpoint the exact location of the leak -- allowing for quick repair while minimizing the amount of drywall or stone that must be removed in order to access the pipe. These tools are generally audio-based, and allow your plumber to literally be able to hear through concrete.
Once the plumber has pinpointed the leak's location and has a better idea of its severity, he or she can begin the repair process. This can generally be performed on-site by soldering a new pipe or simply welding or soldering a small crack shut. The plumber will then replace the portion of wall, ceiling, or floor that needed to be removed, giving it a seamless appearance.