Some small water leaks, like a dripping faucet or running toilet, may not seem like a big deal at first. Unfortunately, what may appear to be a “minor” leak can quickly become a major disaster when left unrepaired. If there’s a leak in any part of your plumbing system, it’s important to handle it quickly to minimize damage and prevent costly repair bills.
Catching leaks early is the best way to protect your home from expensive water damage. Many common household leaks are easy to locate and repair. Repairing or replacing worn toilet flappers, dripping faucets, and leaking showerheads saves water and prevents costly water damage. There are several easy steps homeowners can take to locate and repair water leaks.
Six Ways to Stop Small Leaks From Becoming Major Problems
1. Monitor Your Water Bill
Monthly water bills should be fairly predictable, so if you receive one that’s unusually high, you should check for leaks. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that a family of four should use no more than 12,000 gallons per month. Even one leaky faucet with a steady drip can waste as much as 10,000 gallons of water per year so it’s important to monitor your monthly water bill to detect potential problems.
2. Repair Leaky Faucets
One leaking faucet can waste up to 20 gallons of water per day so it’s important to repair them quickly. There are several types of faucets and reasons they may start to leak. Some repairs may be a simple DIY fix while others may require the services of a professional plumber. Routinely inspect both indoor and outdoor faucets for leaks and have them repaired quickly.
3. Check Your Toilets
Toilets use a lot of water and they are frequently a source of leaks. The toilet’s flapper can become brittle over time, allowing water to trickle from the tank into the bowl. Put a few drops of food coloring in the tank of every toilet in your home. If a toilet tank is leaking, the color will appear in the bowl within about five minutes. If you find color in the bowl, replacing the flapper is an inexpensive fix.
4. Inspect Water Supply Lines and Valves
Every toilet and sink in your home has supply lines that connect to the home’s main water supply. Every toilet has one supply line and every sink has two - one for hot and one for cold water. Older water supply lines and valves frequently develop leaks. Periodically check under sinks and toilets for any signs of moisture. Sometimes tightening the nut on the valve may be all that is needed to stop a leak. If your home has old or outdated water supply lines and valves, consider replacing them with new braided steel lines for added protection.
5. Maintain Your Hot Water Heater
Water heaters, especially tank styles, tend to develop leaks as they age. Regularly inspect the area around your water heater for signs of moisture. Water should not drip out of a water heater nor should there be any standing water underneath it. Regular maintenance goes a long way to preventing problems but at some point, even the best water heater will need to be replaced. When it’s time for a replacement, consider a tankless water heater. They require less maintenance, are more energy-efficient, and are not prone to leaks.
6. Change Your Washing Machine Hoses
Old washing machine hoses frequently leak or even worse can suddenly burst and cause extensive flooding. With many homeowners choosing to install laundry rooms on second floors, preventing washing machine leaks is even more important. Many experts recommend replacing washing machine hoses every three to five years to prevent water damage from leaking or broken hoses. There are even hoses that have an auto-shutoff mechanism at one end for added safety.
Small Water Leaks Can Cause Major Problems
Wasted Water and Higher Utility Bills
Household leaks are so common that the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) estimates that around one trillion gallons of water are wasted each year in the United States. Even a slow leak can cost homeowners a lot of money. The EPA estimates that pipe leaks waste about 10,000 gallons of water per person per year.
Mold and Mildew
One of the biggest consequences of water leaks for your family’s health is the growth of molds, mildew, and fungi. If you can see or smell mold or mildew, it needs to be addressed immediately. Even small amounts of mold can have serious health consequences for sensitive individuals. Mold also has the potential to cause serious structural damage as it breaks down organic building materials including drywall, wood, insulation, and carpet.
Pests including mice, carpenter ants, cockroaches, and termites, are attracted to water and moisture. If you notice an increase in rodent or insect activity inside or around your home, this is often an indication of a water leak. Termites and carpenter ants thrive in moist environments and can be difficult to locate without the services of a professional exterminator. Routinely check basements, utility rooms, and garages for signs of rodents and insect activity as well as water leaks.
Locate Hidden Leaks
Many leaks are obvious but the most dangerous type of plumbing leak is the one you aren’t aware of. Leaks caused by small cracks or “pinholes'' in your home’s hidden network of pipes might not become noticeable until a pipe suddenly bursts. If you notice any of the following, it's time to contact a professional to assess the situation and make the proper repairs:
- Water stains on ceilings
- Sagging ceilings
- Visible mold growth
- Musty or damp odors
- General feeling of dampness
Leak Detection and Repair
Thanks to technology, some of the costliest impacts can be avoided with the help of a leak detector that alerts you to a problem early. Some builders now install water leak detectors in new homes as part of a smart home technology package. Homeowners can also buy leak detectors at most hardware or home supply stores. Installing leak detectors in places where leaks are likely to happen, such as utility rooms, basements, and underneath sinks and toilets, can help prevent serious water damage.
No matter how well you maintain your home’s plumbing system, at some point, you’ll likely need the services of a professional plumber. If you have any type of leak, large or small, call a professional to handle the problem quickly. With today’s modern plumbing technology, locating and repairing leaks no longer automatically means tearing down walls and ripping up floorboards. Using specialized equipment and non-invasive solutions, many water leaks can be located and repaired with minimal impact on your home.
Call the Trusted Plumbing Professionals in Los Gatos
For all of your plumbing needs in the Los Gatos area, call Simply Green Plumbing, Sewer & Rooter at (408) 716-1686, or contact us online to schedule an appointment. Our Los Gatos technicians have over 30 years of plumbing experience and they are ready to help you with all of your plumbing problems no matter how big or small.
We understand that plumbing problems can happen anytime and need to be handled quickly. That’s why Simply Green Plumbing, Sewer & Rooter offers emergency plumbing services at no extra cost.