A higher than normal water bill might be your first indication of a leaking pipe. Or you might hear the sound of running water even when all your fixtures are turned off. When you suspect a leak, check the fixtures first to make sure all the faucets are tightly closed. Then go to the water meter, if you have one. If the dial is moving, you're losing water somewhere in the system.
Locating the Leak
Try these tips to locate a leak.
- The sound of running water helps. If you hear it, follow it to its source. You can buy a listening device that amplifies sounds when it's held up to a pipe.
- If water is staining the ceiling or dripping down, the leak is probably directly above.
- Occasionally, water may travel along a joist and then stain or drip at a point some distance from the leak.
- If water stains a wall, it means there's a leak in a section of pipe.
- Any wall stain is likely to be below the actual location of the leak and you'll probably need to remove part of the wall to find it.
- Without the sound of running water and without drips or stains as evidence, leaks are more difficult to find. Using a flashlight, check all the pipes in the basement or in the crawl space.
Fixing the Leak
If the leak is major, turn off the water immediately, either at the fixture shutoff valve or the main shutoff valve. You'll probably have to replace the leaky section of pipe. If your experience working with pipes is limited, you'll probably want to call in a plumber to do the job. If the leak is small, the ultimate solution is to replace the pipe, but there are temporary solutions until you have time for the replacement job. These methods work for small leaks only.
- Clamps should stop most leaks for several months if they're used with a solid rubber blanket. It's a good idea to buy a sheet of rubber, as well as some clamps sized to fit your pipes at a hardware store and keep them on hand just for this purpose.
- A sleeve clamp that exactly fits the pipe diameter works best. Wrap a rubber blanket over the leak, then screw the clamp down over the blanket.
- An adjustable hose clamp used with a rubber blanket stops a pinhole leak.
- If nothing else is at hand, use a C-clamp, a small block of wood and a rubber blanket.
- In a pinch, try applying epoxy putty around a joint where a clamp won't work. The pipe must be dry for the putty to adhere. Turn off the water supply to the leak and leave the water off until the putty hardens completely on the pipe.
- If you don't have a clamp or putty, you can still stop a small leak temporarily by plugging it with a pencil point.