If your water bill is unusually high or if you have just turned on the water in your home after having it off for an extended time period, you may want to check for a water leak. Failing to find a plumbing leak can result in massive water damage that may even lead to structural issues in your home. Luckily, however, detecting a leak is easy.
1. Read the Water Meter
The first thing you should do to assess a leak is to check your water meter. Meters can be located along the side of the house, or they may be under a manhole cover in front or behind your house. Turn off all the water in your home and look at the water meter. If it is moving even a tiny bit, you have a leak.
If your water meter doesn't have an indicator that moves as you use water, write down the reading on the meter, wait an hour and see if it has changed – make sure no one uses water during that hour.
2. Check All of the Taps in the House
If you suspect a water leak, look at all of the taps inside and outside of the house. If any of them are dripping, shut off the water leading to that tap – there should be a valve under the sink. If a bathroom or shower fixture is leaking, you should be able to access the on-off valve for that tap through an access panel located behind the fixture.
Once you have that leak stemmed by turning off its water supply, check your meter again to see if it indicates the leak is gone.
3. Make Sure Toilets Aren't Running
If you haven't found a leaky tap, you need to check your toilets. To check your toilet, lift the lid of its tank. If water is just running through the tank, it is usually because the drain in the tank is not properly covered.
Readjust the stopper in the tank, and if the stopper doesn't fit, you should be able to use a universal rubber stopper to stem the flow of water until you get a more permanent solution. Alternatively, just turn off the valves leading to the toilet.
4. Check Your Hot Water Heater
Most hot water heaters have pressure release valves, and these can sometimes lead straight into a drain. To see if your valve is leaking, listen for a hissing sound near the base of your water heater. If you hear a sound, you can try to access the valve to see if you can temporarily fix it. In most cases, you will need to contact a plumber to help you.
5. Listen for Water in the Walls
If you haven't found the leak using the above tips, you need to quiet your house and walk around it. Listen for the sound of running water in the walls. If you have a burst pipe, this is the only way to detect it. Also, look for signs of water such as water beads on the ceiling or stains on the carpet.
If you still have not found the leak, contact a plumber (like those at The Plumbing Company) to help you find and fix the leak.