How to Tell If Your Pipes Are Leaking

All homeowners can agree that pipe issues can be a major headache. Whether those pipes are frozenroot-clogged or leaking, addressing the mess just isn’t much fun.

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Not all pipe leaks are created equal, though, and small water leaks can go unnoticed or be hard to find. A small leak in any part of the home can cause major damage if left alone. 

There are a handful of leak detection tests that can help determine if leaks exist in your home, each of which should be performed routinely regardless of whether or not a leak is apparent. Diligent leak checks will inevitably save you water and money and prevent major damage to your home.

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Leak Detection Methods

The napkin test

Because the kitchen pipes are located out of sight, untested leaks can go unnoticed for extended periods and cause damage to the floor, sink base and frame. You can test for water leaks in the kitchen by wiping the connections beneath the sink with a dry napkin or paper towel. If the napkin becomes wet, you have a small leak. 

The same method can be used to test for bathroom leaks beneath the vanity. Of course, a bathroom leak will often reveal itself in the form of loose tiles near the tub, peeling or flaking paint near the shower, water stains on the ceiling and mold in or around the shower.

Shower pressure tests

Conduct regular shower pressure tests using a water pressure gauge. According to the Environmental Protection Agency, shower heads (depending on design) should produce water pressure at a minimum of 80, 45 or 20 pounds per square inch (psi). Again, that depends on what model you have in your home. The goal is for water to flow at between one-and-a-half to two gallons per minute to help conserve water. If the pressure is too high, you’re not in danger of a leak, but you should call a licensed contractor to install a water pressure regulator. If your water pressure dips low, you want to call a plumber to investigate the situation and possibility of leaks.

Fixing the leak

Of course, it’s not enough to simply identify the leak — there’s also the issue of stopping it. Leaks in kitchen and bathroom faucets can often be fixed by tightening the base or caulking the rim. Supply leaks can be addressed by tightening the packing nut and/or replacing the valve. If your shower frame is leaking, applying a small bead of caulk around the inside of the frame and in the gaps can solve it. In some cases, old caulk should simply be scraped and replaced.

Of course, each of these issues can also be addressed by calling your friendly neighborhood plumber. The key to preventing leaks from becoming a problem is identifying and fixing them early. For more tips and tricks for tackling plumbing problems, check out this guide to leaks, clogs and other plumbing issues

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