As a homeowner, you want to make sure that your plumbing system is working efficiently and effectively. Unfortunately, leaks can occur, leading to water damage, increased utility bills, and potential health hazards. Plumbing leak detection is an essential process that can help you identify leaks before they escalate into more significant problems.
Here’s 10 things to do when you suspect a leak –
Don’t panic or go gung-ho smashing down walls or ceilings! Take a moment to think “what’s on the other side of this leak”. You’ll usually find the culprit staring you in the face. For example, I’m often called out for a stain on the ceiling. Before opening my tool bag, I ask, “what’s above?” the reply is usually “the bathroom” I start there, hoping to find the cause of the leak, not just the result.
Applying the logic above, narrow the search even further. Do a couple of trips up & down the stairs or either side of the wall to line up the exact cause. Don’t just think “bathroom”, think bath, toilet etc.
Speak to anyone else in the home or the neighbours next door or above if the leak is between two properties. I have found some of the most difficult leaks by just chit-chatting with people present. For example, while looking for a leak, I made small talk with the homeowner asking him “what have you been up to recently”. We then discovered his nephew had a bad habit of leaving the taps running with water flowing down the overflow constantly. Just a quick chat and a bit of thinking had solved the mystery without a single tool being used.
Think, why has this started now, what’s changed recently to cause this. This thought process may not solve the issue, but it will help you choose the next step. If you’ve had a burst pipe and the water board have been digging up the road, they too will agree its a coincidence for this to happen. They may even want to check themselves rather than being handed a bill later on.
Most new boilers since the early 2000’s are pressurised, meaning they are filled up with water to a certain pressure then this same water stays in the system. Check the pressure gauge on the front of the boiler, if this has dropped, this indicates a heating leak meaning you can start checking radiators and heating pipes.
If you’re lucky (or unlucky) enough to have a water meter, this can be a really easy way to find a leak. The hard bit is knowing where it is, but once you do, you can stop anyone from using water inside the property and check if the numbers continue to rise.
All leaks smell eventually, but the difference in smell can help find the cause. Heating leaks have a chemical smell, this is caused but the inhibitor put in the heating system to stop sludge building up. Hot & cold water leaks can start to smell damp. Waste water leaks smell foul which will help us look at toilets, sinks etc as these pipes are connected to the sewer system.
Removing items in the way of leaks also needs some logic applied. If you have plasterboard on one side and a tile on the other, plasterboard is cheaper to repair than a tile. Or if you can unscrew a bath panel before lifting a floorboard then go for the easiest and less costly first.
If you can access pipes in the general area, start from the highest point. Water will run downwards and make you think you’ve found the cause, but it can be something sneaky above trickling down the pipe and onto an innocent party.
You almost certainly need a plumber regardless of the efforts you’ve put in, but the legwork you’ve done could turn this job into a 5 minute fix instead of a 2-hour search. Us plumbers always have plenty of work so we’d rather be onto the next one if we can. Just by saying, “i’ve done a bit of investigation and i’ve found it only leaks when…” stops us from having to do a tour of the whole property”
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