6 Ways to Detect a Hidden Plumbing Leak

A smaller leak in your home from the toilet or a dripping faucet may be simple to spot and easy to fix. Sadly, many plumbing leaks are far less obvious; they may be hidden behind a wall or under a floor, and this makes them harder to spot. According to the EPA, more than 1 trillion gallons of water are lost in domestic water leaks every year. Water leaks can waste a lot of water that you will pay money for and they can cause a great deal of damage. Finding a hidden water leak isn’t impossible if you know what to look out for. Here are six ways that you can detect a hidden plumbing leak in your home.

  1. Keep a Close Eye on Your Water Bills

The water bill that you receive contains a great deal of information that many people ignore. The first indication that you have a hidden leak somewhere may be obvious if your water bill is higher than normal. A water meter could be read on a monthly, bi-monthly or quarterly basis, depending on where you live. Some water companies may even issue a warning if they notice that you’re using more water than you normally would. A higher water usage could be explained by other factors, such as extra occupants during a visit or seasonal irrigation in your yard. This information is very useful, but only if it’s understood in a wider context. If you know what your regular average water consumption is, it will be easier to notice if it’s more than it should be.

  1. What is Normal Water Usage?

To put it into context, it may be useful to understand what the term normal water usage actually means. Now, these are not hard and fast rules, water usage can vary a great deal depending on a number of factors, and it’s easier to think in terms of general benchmarks.

The EPA has estimated that an average American household will consume approximately 3,000 gallons of water per person per month. When you’re looking out a possible hidden water leak, you’re looking for water usage at more than 8 CCF (748 gallons) per occupant over a three month period. In real terms that would be 1,995 gallons of water per person per month.

Any city will recommend checking for a water leak if you’re using more water than this. It should be mentioned that water usage is typically higher in summer compared to winter.

  1. Find and Check Your Water Meter

 The water meter is usually located in an underground box near the property line at the front or rear of your home. The box will be clearly marked as the water meter, and it should be accessible at any time. You don’t have to wait for the next water bill to arrive if you suspect that you have a hidden water leak somewhere in your home. It’s easy to take your own water meter readings and compare them over time to see how much water you’re using in your home. The water meter box is also where you will find the shutoff valve for the main water line to your home, and it’s a good idea to know where this is so it can be turned off in an emergency.

  1. Taking a Water Meter Reading

Once you’ve located your water meter, there are four steps to taking an accurate reading.

  • Take off the metal lid, locate the meter and flip up the cover if there is one.
  • Read the meter dial; the numbers will show the amount of water used in gallons or CFFs.
  • There may be a leak detection dial, it’s a small triangle shaped dial, and it may be red or blue.
  • Check the leak detection dial; it will spin when water is being used, and you may also notice the larger dial moving slowly.
  1. Interpreting a Water Meter Reading to Check for Leaks

If your water meter has a leak detector dial, you can quickly determine if you have a hidden water leak. If there isn’t a leak detector dial, this process may take a few hours. Before you begin, make sure that no one in the home is using water. Ideally, this process should be carried out when there is no one at home to alter the results of your water meter reading. Turn off all indoor taps, water using appliance and outdoor faucets before you begin. During the water meter reading avoid flushing any toilets. Follow these three simple steps to get an accurate water meter reading to find a leak.

  • Make sure no water is being used inside or outside the home.
  • Take the water meter reading, as shown above, watch the leak detector dial and if it’s still spinning now, there is a water leak.
  • If there is no leak detection dial, there could be a slow leak. Take a meter reading, leave the water meter, don’t use any water and return for another reading in a few hours. If the water meter hand has moved while you were away, there is a water leak in your home.
  1. Is it an Indoor or Outdoor Water Leak?

This can be established by using the water meter and shutoff valve by following these simple steps.

  • Turn off the indoor water using the main water shutoff valve that may be located by the water heater or in the garage.
  • Turn on a faucet to test if the indoor water is turned off and keep it open for a few seconds to empty the water out of the pipes. If the tap dries up after this period, the shutoff valve is working, and you can return to the water meter.
  • Now read the meter to check if the leak detection and sweep dial.
  • If neither dial has moved the leak is indoors in a fixture or appliance.
  • If the dials have moved the leak is outdoors. It could be located underground between the water meter and your home. Another possibility is an outdoor faucet that is leaking.

If you cannot find the source of your water leak contact a local certified plumber for expert help.

By Giovanni Longo President Flood Brothers Plumbing
Giovanni Longo is a 3rd generation master plumber who has been practicing his craft and trade in the greater Los Angeles area for well over a decade and a half. A plumbing and hydraulics-engineering innovator, Giovanni’s particular world-class expertise focuses on dealing with challenging sewer system designs as well as resolving complex commercial and residential draining issues. As a certified Flood Mitigation expert, he is also well versed in a wide variety of water damage and remediation solution.