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How to Find Where a Leak Is Coming From

How to Find Where a Leak Is Coming From

We rarely stop and think about the water running through our homes. But when it goes wrong, it can be a nightmare.

Leaks can be both costly and incredibly damaging if not appropriately addressed, but with so much of our modern plumbing conveniently—or not in this case—hidden behind walls or under floors, actually finding the leak can be tricky.

It might be tempting to simply throw your hands in the air and call a professional straight away. Most likely, you will need professional help to repair the damage. Still, you can do much during the preliminary stages to prevent the damage from worsening. The first step is to find the source of the leak.

What Are the Signs of a Leak?

Unless you walk into a room and see water streaming out of a burst pipe, it can be tricky to know for sure whether you have a leak or not. But there are a few signs that you can keep in mind.

Increased Water Bills

Perhaps one of the most evident signs that you have a leak is when you open that monthly bill to find a significant increase in water usage.

While bills generally go up and down, a significant increase from one month to another with no apparent reason might point to a leak somewhere in your house.

Hearing Water Around the House

If you begin to hear the unmistakable sounds of moving water around your house or in places where you don’t usually hear it, this could also be a sign of a water leak somewhere. It might be a slow or fast dripping sound, but bubbling and even whistling noises are not uncommon.

But before you begin smashing through a wall to find a leak, do bear in mind that older properties generally come with a few quirks and odd sounds are often part and parcel of an old home’s charm. If you’ve lived on the property for several years, you’ll know the difference between usual creaks and hisses and something altogether different.

Pools and Puddles

Nobody likes returning home to find a slowly expanding swimming pool on the kitchen floor, and this is almost certainly a sign that there is something seriously wrong.

Even if you only find a small wet patch somewhere in your house, it could mean that you have a leak. As a general rule, any pool of water with no obvious explanation of how it got there should raise plenty of red flags.

Water Stains and Warping

Water stains, often on ceilings or walls, are clear signs that you have a leak somewhere.

Water pooling near a bathtub that seeps into the floor will create stains on the level below in the ceiling. You will often see a slightly yellow or brown stain in this case.

If you have a leak in the walls, you might see wallpaper buckling, walls warping, or the paint bubbling or flaking.

Damp or Mildew Odors

Strange smells can be another way of detecting a leak. Of course, you don’t smell the water itself but rather the mold that tends to accompany it further down the road.

If you can smell a strange musty scent, have a quick walk around your house to search for any obvious signs of mold.

In some situations, the mold infestation may be behind walls or floorboards, which is much harder to address.

Finding the Source of the Leak

Even if you can see signs of a leak in the house, finding the source can be tricky and often time-consuming. Use the steps below to address the problem as soon as possible.

1. Investigate

Before you start thinking about any significant renovation or calling a professional, it’s always a good idea to have a walk around your property and check for wet patches and visible signs of leakage.

You should focus on any area with a water source, so around the bathtub or shower, toilet, sinks, dishwasher, and washing machine. If you find excess water around any of the appliances, immediately turn off the water supply valve and consider calling an expert to come and take a look.

2. Check Faucets

Dripping Faucet

Faucets are always a prime location for a leak. Their constant use means that these appliances see plenty of breakages, even with high-quality goods.

Spend a few minutes going around your house and checking every faucet. Start by drying the standing water in the sink. Then, turn both faucets on full and look closely around the base. Look for any water dripping through, either from the pipes leading out from the sink or the sink.

Read more: How to fix a leak under kitchen sink

3. Use Dye to Locate Toilet Leaks

If your house has passed the initial inspection, the next step would be to take a much closer look at the toilets because, with 30% of a household’s water flowing through them, it’s the most likely place for a leak.

Inside the toilet tank is a small component known as the flapper. Over time, this piece can become worn and begin to allow water to trickle from the tank into the bowl. A broken flapper can be a massive drain on water if it continues for extended periods, but luckily, there is a simple way to test it.

Simply put a few drops of food coloring or dye in the tank. Within five minutes, you’ll either 1) begin to see dyed water entering the bowl, which means the flapper probably needs replacing, or 2) notice the bowl remains clear, which means the toilet isn’t the problem.

4. Call a Professional

If all else fails, and after checking everything yourself, you still can’t locate the leak, it’s probably time to call in a professional. It might be tempting to try and forget about it, but a leak can worsen over time if not addressed in the right way.

Just because you couldn’t find it doesn’t mean there isn’t a huge problem. Issues like water running or dripping the walls will not be as easy to detect yourself, and a professional can locate the source with minimal damage to your home.

Calling a professional might set you back a little financially. Still, having that peace of mind that your ceiling isn’t about to collapse because of a year-long leak is worth it.

Frequently Asked Questions

Is There a Tool To Detect Water Leaks?

Professionals use various tools to detect leaks. The most effective method is to use sonic detection equipment to detect sound anomalies, though this usually requires highly-skilled technicians.

If you want to get ahead of the problem, a water leak detector is a great option. You can install these devices on floors or walls where leaks are likely to occur and connect them to your phone, so if there is ever a leakage, you’ll know about it quickly.


Water leakage is not a pleasant experience. It’s easy to feel helpless when, after repeated efforts, you still can’t locate the problem. It can be a maddening experience when you know there is a leak, but the source remains elusive.

But that’s why we’re here. At All Dry USA, we specialize in water and fire damage repair and mold remediation. Whether you have a full-on emergency from burst pipes or the beginnings of a leak audible behind a wall, we’ll get to the source of the problem and fix it fast.

Ben Suiskind
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