7 Signs of a Water Leak to Catch Before it’s Too Late

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When you think of water leaks, you might imagine catastrophic flooding. However, the reality is that many leaks are hidden, and go undetected for months – possibly even years – while having negative effects including damage to your home and increased water bills.

In this guide, we’ve shared 7 signs that you have a hidden water leak in your home.

📌 Key Takeaways:

The 7 signs of plumbing leaks are:

  1. Reduced water pressure
  2. Unusually high water bills
  3. Damp spots
  4. Stains
  5. Dripping sound
  6. Musty/earthy smell
  7. Pipe rust and corrosion

🔎 7 Signs You Have A Water Leak In Your Home

Here are the 7 signs that all point toward a leaking pipe somewhere in your home:

1) Reduced Water Pressure

The first sign of a leak in your home is reduced water pressure at a specific fixture or appliance that can’t be explained by other factors.

If a section of your pipe is leaking, less water will make it to the final destination. That will reduce the water output, resulting in lower water pressure.

Note: A leaking pipe isn’t the only cause of low pressure at a specific fixture. Sediment accumulation or scale buildup in the pipe will also reduce water flow. However, this is likely to be an issue across your entire plumbing system, rather than just in one section.

Low water pressure and flow reate

2) Unusually High Water Bills

Unusual water bills are another sign of a water leak inside your home.

You might not think it, but even small leaks can increase your water bill substantially. If your water bill goes up but your water usage has remained the same, you might have water leaking somewhere in your plumbing system.

Expect occasional fluctuations in your water bill, since there will be some months where you’ll use more water than others. But if your bill has a random spike or gradually gets higher and higher and you can’t put your finger on why, a leak in your plumbing is likely to blame.

3) Damp Spots

Wet spots on your wall, floor, or ceiling are a sign that one of your water supply pipes is leaking.

If the leak is particularly bad, you might notice dripping from a wet patch. A leak that has gone a while undetected might have caused more serious structural damage, such as a sagging ceiling.

Note: Again, leaks aren’t the only cause of wet spots in your home. Mold growth, mildew, and other damp problems may also cause damp on your walls and ceilings. However, if the wet patch is isolated to one area or seems unusual, check nearby pipes to make sure that a leak isn’t to blame.

4) Stains

Wet patches aren’t the only visible sign of leaking water pipes. You might also notice yellow or brown stains near your water line, which are caused by water leaks that have dried up on your wall or ceiling.

While water spots aren’t super obvious to begin with, they’ll become much more noticeable if they leave stains.

The only way to get rid of these stains is to fix the leak – then address the damage with whatever solution is best.

Water leak stains on a ceiling

5) Dripping Sound

A dripping sound that you can’t pinpoint is one of the most obvious signs of a leak.

Depending on the severity of the leak, you might hear the occasional splash, a steady drip, or even the sound of running water.

Of course, not all water leaks will make a sound, so don’t wait until you hear a sound before you hunt out the cause of the problem!

6) Musty Smell

A musty smell is the sign of a leak that has been ongoing for a while.

Leaks lead to the accumulation of water in your home, which, in turn, can encourage mold and mildew.

If your home doesn’t usually have bad damp issues and you gradually begin to notice a musty, dank smell in one of the rooms in your home, a water leak may be to blame.

7) Pipe Rust & Corrosion

Corroded and rusty pipes suggest that there is damage to your plumbing that may (if it hasn’t already) eventually cause a water leak.

If you live in an older property and your plumbing hasn’t been updated in recent years, you may have galvanized steel pipes and drains. These are prone to rust accumulation, which may eventually result in a leak.

Some of the signs of corrosion are staining, discoloration, and flaking. A rusty or corroded pipe may degrade to the point of forming small holes, so if your plumbing has seen better days, contact a plumber to ask for an inspection.

Rust on water pipe

🚰 How To Detect A Water Leak

There are three steps to detecting a water leak in your home:

Check Your Water Meter

First, check your water meter to get a sense of your water usage and determine whether this has increased in recent months.

An effective way to ascertain whether or not you have a leak is to do the water meter test:

  1. Take a reading of your water meter and write it down.
  2. Don’t use your water in any fixture or appliance for a few hours.
  3. Take a meter reading again.

If the reading is higher despite the fact that you used no water, there’s likely a leak somewhere in your home.

You can also check your recent water bill and compare it to your usual water bills. If you’re seeing an upward trend in your water usage that you can’t pinpoint to any other reason, you might have a water leak.

Look, Listen, And Smell

Using the list in this guide, see if you can see, hear, or smell signs of a water leak.

You might notice damp spots or water stains, smell damp or mustiness, or hear a dripping or running water sign.

These signs aren’t always present, but if they are, there’s a very good chance that there’s a leak somewhere in your water supply.

Plumber checking for water leaks

Assess Possible Leak Locations

A small leak from a water pipe might be undetectable unless you get really close. And water leaks aren’t always in obvious locations, like exposed pipes, so we recommend getting on your hands and knees and checking even the obscure places when hunting out a leak.

Good places to check for leaks are behind cupboards, and appliances, around and under all the fixtures in your bathroom and kitchen, and anywhere that you’ve seen signs of a leak, such as a damp patch or mildew.

Here, we’ve mainly focused on pipe leaks. But other fixtures and appliances could also be contributing to your increased water bills. Leaking washing machine hoses, dripping faucets, and leaking toilets are other problems you should watch out for.

Note: It’s possible that you won’t be able to find the source of the water leak, especially if you have an underground water leak. Underground water leaks may cause a pressure drop and increase your monthly spend on water, but they might not present any of the signs of an above-ground leak.

📑 Final Word: When To Call An Expert

Water leaks aren’t always easy to detect. While a significant leak might be obvious, a smaller leak could remain undetected for months.

If you’re convinced that there’s a leak in your home but you can’t find the source, it might be time to call a plumber.

A plumbing expert will be able to use their knowledge to help you determine where your leak is coming from. The earlier you can detect and fix a leak, the better. A leak that’s left for months on end may cause damage to your home that leads to costly repairs.

  • Brian Campbell
    President & CEO, CWS, CWR

    Brian Campbell, a WQA Certified Water Specialist (CWS) and Certified Water Treatment Representative (CWR) with 5+ years of experience, helps homeowners navigate the world of water treatment. After honing his skills at Hach Company, he founded his business to empower homeowners with the knowledge and tools to achieve safe, healthy water. Brian's tested countless devices, from simple pitchers to complex systems, helping his readers find the perfect fit for their unique needs.

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