Suspecting that you have a leaking pipe is one thing. Detecting the whereabouts of that leaking pipe is quite another – and yet it is an action that can save you a lot of money and stress further down the line.
Water damage is responsible for one in four building and contents in the United Kingdom according to data from the Association of British Insurers. That costs around £1.8 million pounds every day. The sooner that a household detects and fixes a leak, the better it is for everyone.
So, how do you go about doing that? We have put together this guide to the signs that you might be suffering from a leaking pipe and how to detect where the problem is located.
Damp patches and cracked walls
One sign that you might have an issue with leaking pipework in your home is when damp patches or cracks appear in walls, ceilings and floors.
There is good news and bad news which comes with damp patches. The good is that because the leak area is so obvious, you have a very good idea of where the damaged pipe is. The detective work when it comes to detection is done for you.
The bad news is that water damage to structurally important parts of your home can weaken it over time. If you see suspicious patches, you should investigate their cause and address the issue as soon as possible.
Mould and mildew forming
Mould and mildew form when there is oxygen present, a temperature between 5°C and 40°C, a food source or surface for the organism to feed off and most importantly – moisture.
If you have got mould, then you have a moisture problem. Which is why mould and mildew forming can be an indicator of a leaking pipe inside the walls of your home.
Because the pipework in question is behind a wall, you may need to bring in a plumbing professional to take a look. You should also take steps to remove the mould. It can eat away at wood and drywall, threatening the structural integrity of a building.
Mould’s threat to human health can be even more devastating. As it spreads, its spores release allergens into the air which cause serious health complications. This guide explains how to get rid of mould.
High water bills
The most obvious sign that a property is suffering from a leaking pipe often comes with a sharp increase in water bills. If your usage jumps significantly from one bill to the next and there is no obvious reason for it doing so, then you may have a leak problem.
You can keep close tabs on your water use by signing up for an online account with your water provider. Most water companies will offer a monthly statement and summary through this platform, allowing you to see any rise in billing and usage as and when it occurs.
Low water pressure
If you are suffering from low water pressure, then this can be caused by water escaping your pipework systems at some point during its journey between mains and appliance.
Detecting if low water pressure is caused by a leaking pipe is quite straightforward. Turn all your fixtures off and then back on again. If the pressure is higher than it was, then you probably have a leak.
Using your water metre to identify a leaking pipe
When your suspicions of a leaking pipe are aroused by high water bills or low water pressure, then there may not be any visible evidence inside the property pointing to a problem.
The leaking pipe could be located underground or outside. If this is the case, then you can use your water metre to try and identify its location.
First, turn off the property’s stop tap so that no water from the mains is entering the building. Then run a tap until no water comes out. Once you have done this, check your water metre.
If the dial is still moving, then the leak is outside your home. It the dial does not move, then the leak is inside, either on a pipe or through a faulty appliance which is fed by the water supply.
You can check your appliances for loose fittings. Over time, washing machines, dish washers and other devices become loose and this can cause leaks. Alternatively, your shower, boiler or taps may be responsible.
Speak to your neighbours
It is good to talk and sometimes, a chat with your neighbours can help with detecting where a leaking pipe is located.
If households around you are also suffering with problems to their supply, then it could be a fault with the public water main.
Your water company is responsible for water lines beyond your property’s boundary and so you should contact them to inform them of the problem.
Detecting a water leak outside of the home
If you have established that the leak is on your property but that it is an external pipe, then there are steps you can take to try and identify its location.
In a garden, muddy patches of grass or areas which look healthier than other parts of the lawn might be caused by water leaking from a pipe underground.
When it comes to concrete, detecting a leaking pipe underneath a patio, path or driveway is much more challenging. There may be signs of mould or mildew but more likely is that the concrete will be cracked or uneven where leaking water has caused damage by pushing upwards.
What to do once you have detected a leaking pipe
Once you have detected and identified a leaking pipe, you should take steps to fix it. While most people will instantly reach for the phonebook and the number of a local plumber, it may be possible to fix the leak yourself using a pipe repair kit.
A kit allows anyone to permanently fix a leaking pipe inside of 30 minutes with no formal training required. Simply follow the instructions provided for a repair which costs a fraction of what a plumber would charge.
Of course, some repairs may be too complex for a regular pipe repair kit user to carry out. If the leaking pipe in question is behind a wall, underground or in another inaccessible place, then you may be better served calling for the help of a professional.