Water showing up under your floors is usually a sign of a leak, but finding the source can be a challenge. Narrowing down where the leak is coming from is an essential step to having your pipes or appliances repaired, and while it may at first seem like a daunting task, there are several things you can do to help you find the problem.
Narrow Down the Source
With so many pipes running through your house, it helps to broadly narrow down the potential source of the problem before you start a more meticulous search. One of the best ways to do this is to establish whether the water is coming from a supply pipe or a drain pipe.
To do this, first shut off the supply of water to your house, then check your water meter. With all water to your house shut off, the meter shouldn't be moving; if it's still moving, that means there's a leak in your supply pipes somewhere. These leaks can be slow, so leave it for at least an hour and keep checking the meter. Even if it doesn't end up being a supply pipe, it's helpful to know that the problem is almost assuredly something to do with your drains; this can help you further narrow down the source of the leak by letting you see what type of water use seems to make the problem worse.
Depending on the location of the leak, it may also be challenging to fix once it is located, so call a professional for help repairing these pipes. Though the effects of this damage may not be immediately obvious, letting a leak go unfixed can result in more severe water damage and potential health risks.
Follow the Water
Leaks can be deceptively challenging to locate, as water can move far from the source of the leak before it becomes visible. This means that signs of water damage could be a result of a leak on a floor above or in a completely different room. There are a few things you can do to help make this easier.
First, if you don't know where your home's pipes run through the walls, use a wall scanner to help locate them and see where they run. Water follows the path of least resistance, which in many cases will be the pipes it has leaked from, so try tracking a leak through the pipes to narrow down where it could be coming from.
Second, use a moisture meter on your floor, walls, and ceiling. This can detect moisture without requiring you to dismantle anything, so you can use this to see if there is any moisture behind your walls or where it may be moving under the floor. While water damage within your walls will still likely mean your wall will need to be taken apart to repair, this does mean you don't have to tear out much more wall to find damaged or worn pipes.
Finally, take into account the slope of your house, however slight. For example, water from a tub leak can travel undetected into a different room as it follows a downward slope, even if the slope is barely noticeable. Consider where gravity is causing the water to come from.
Check for Clogs
In some instances, what may at first seem like a leak can actually be the result of a clog. This will typically happen with deep clogs, which aren't as noticeable and which can affect multiple drains at once. If you've noticed your toilet bubbling when you shower, or that water seems to be coming out from underneath your tub or toilet after you use water in another area, your drain pipes could be clogged.
There are two main reasons these are hard to detect. First, a deep clog means more space in the pipes before the clog that can hold water; if you do something simple, like wash your hands, you don't use enough water to back up. Second, water will back up in drains that sometimes aren't being used at the time, such as bathtubs or toilets, which are closer to the ground.
A clog doesn't necessarily rule out the possibility of a leak; if water starts flowing out from under your tub, for example, the seal around your tub will also need to be repaired by a plumber. It does, however, mean that your pipes themselves may still be in good shape and that the fix is simpler than it appears to be.
To get further help with plumbing repairs, contact a plumber in your area.