Leak Detection: How Do I Know if I Have a Water Leak?

Are you worried you have a water leak in your home? Your concern is valid. Research shows that water damage-related home insurance claims cost more than $11,000 on average in the US.

American home leaks waste over a trillion gallons of water yearly. This is equivalent to 11 million households’ annual water use. Some water leaks are apparent. Others? Not always.

That’s where leak detection helps. There are a few types of leak detection methods. One being static leak detection such as a smart home leak detector. It features a smart water sensor device, sense cables, and Wi-Fi capability. Smart water leak detectors can help you spot various leaks, including small leaks, while you are away from your home giving you peace of mind. The second would be active leak detection. There is when you have a trained professional come to your property and use special equipment to look, listen and test your rooms for water loss. Let’s explore how to tell if you have a water leak and how a detector can help.

Sites For Water Leaks, Including Small Leaks

Some homes’ water leaks are instantly visible. There is water visible and it can be seen coming from its source. Some leaks are more challenging, they are smaller and more subtle. A hard-to-detect leak may pop up beneath a home’s slab (concrete foundation). Let’s look at some of the most significant indicators that your home’s piping is leaking water.

Signs of a Leak

Leak Detection

You may ask, “What are common places to get leaks in my home, and how do I know if I have a leak?” A few visible signs of a leak include the following:

  • Cracks in the home’s foundation
  • Visible mildew and mold near tubs and showers
  • Damp drywall
  • Sagging ceiling
  • Stains or discoloration on walls, the ceiling, and floors

What are the more subtle indicators of a leak? They include:

  • Sound of running water when no one is using water
  • Higher water bill
  • Musty odor

A damp smell indicates that mildew or mold has developed in your home due to leaking water. Higher-than-normal water bills may stem from hidden water leaks beneath your slab as mentioned earlier.

Indoor Water Leaks

Remember that pipes aren’t the only places where water can leak in your home. The following may generate problems, too:

  • Your bathtub
  • Your Toilet
  • Under sinks and inside cabinets
  • Washing Machine
  • Hose bibbs
  • Your water heater

A shower or tub leak might happen if you accidentally remove the waterproof caulking or if the caulking becomes thin over time. This may cause water to go between your floor tiles, leading to expensive floor damage. Let’s say you notice water damage around your washing machine or dishwasher. Double-check to see if the leaking is from the machine, drain, or connections.

Your water heater may also produce small leaks as it gets older. That’s because older tanks may corrode (wear away) over time. Water pooling around the water heater’s base is a sign the heater needs replacing.

Outdoor Water Leaks

Remember that a slow leak could also develop in your yard. Many yards have irrigation and drip lines leading to gardens and sprinkler heads. They also have sewer lines going to the street or septic lines connected to septic tanks and fields.

An outdoor leak may be more challenging to pinpoint initially but simpler to find. Search for damp spots in your grass or dirt if your yard hasn’t received rain recently. Look specifically for a foul smell or damp area near your septic or sewer line. Call a plumber immediately if you notice either of these signs of a leak.

They’ll identify your line’s location and dig to get to the line. The plumber will then diagnose the problem and replace or repair the line depending on the leak’s severity (more on working with a plumber later).

Determining a Water Leak’s Origin

You’ve determined your roof isn’t causing your ceiling leak. Now what? You’re ready to diagnose your leak’s location within your house. Your house contains pipes in the ceiling, behind walls, and underneath the floor. Knowing where a pipe is leaking can be tricky, especially if you don’t have a comprehensive map of your home’s pipes.

Identifying your leak’s origin is challenging even with a piping map since water may flow in several directions. We mentioned earlier that gravity pulls water down. If water from a leaking pipe encounters obstacles like studs or insulation, it may move left or right instead. Tearing out your wet drywall may not be enough to uncover a pipe leak’s origin. Damage on an interior wall downstairs could stem from a leak in a bathroom pipe upstairs.

Testing for a Water Leak

What if you don’t see a wet ceiling or wall but you’ve noticed a water bill spike or a strange smell in your home? You’ll need to perform additional diagnostic steps. Double-check to ensure no one in your household uses the water for the next half hour. This test may be easiest to perform when everyone is at work or school. Your yard’s fountain or irrigation system shouldn’t use water, either.

Look at your water meter after you’ve confirmed that nobody is using the water. Water meters typically have leak indicators that look like small wheels or triangles. These indicators help homeowners determine if small quantities of water are moving through their homes’ pipes.

Can Plumbers Help With a Leak?

You may ask, “Can a plumber help me find a leak? When should I call a plumber about a leak?” Contact a plumber if you’ve confirmed that a pipe is leaking. A reputable plumber will have enough prior knowledge and intuition to help you detect your leak. They’ll also know how to access various lines for rapid leak repair.

Remember that a water leak won’t fix itself. Don’t ignore it, hoping it will go away. Procrastinating will only make the problem worse. An unresolved water leak may lead to more expensive water damage. This includes mold growth and structural deterioration. Minimize your plumbing repair costs by asking a plumber to address the issue immediately.

Water Leak Costs

How much damage can a small leak cause? Even a tiny leak could lead to thousands of dollars in damage if not caught soon enough. Pipe leaks often stem from grease or food debris buildup. These kinds of leaks may cost a few hundred dollars each to repair.

A water line leak may cost up to $1,500 to fix. Repairing a leak in a waste line might cost $500 to nearly $5,000. A burst pipe may cost $3,000 to $4,000 for pipe repair and damage cleanup.

What about a leak in your home’s main water line? This is the line that carries water to your home from your public utility or well. The line may cost more than a couple thousand dollars to fix if you have to do the following:

  • Drain your plumbing systems’ water
  • Repair the line
  • Perform excavation (dirt removal)

This cost includes adding a new valve to control when water flows to your home from your water meter. Repairing your landscaping after replacing or repairing the water line is another cost to factor in since this may cost you a few hundred or thousand dollars extra.

Accessing Your Line Leak

Let’s say your pipe has sprung a leak in a simple-to-access area. An exposed pipe may be leaking in your basement or crawl space. Fixing this leak may cost you a couple of hundred dollars. What if your leaking pipe is hard to access? Expect a higher repair bill. Pipes in the walls behind kitchen cabinets may cost a few hundred dollars each to fix. Faulty ceiling pipes may cost more than a couple thousand dollars to fix. These prices don’t include drywall repair costs.

Additional Plumbing Costs

A plumber may charge you up to a hundred dollars to diagnose leaky pipes. Contact a plumber even if you’re confident you’ve detected the problem. Some leaks appear in areas you can’t see easily. Your plumber may find a leak in a place you missed. Are you ready to fix your leak? Your plumber might charge you between $45 and $200 per hour.

Adding New Plumbing

Your plumber may advise you to replace your entire plumbing system. This could cost a couple thousand dollars to $15,000 depending on your home’s size. Reinstall your home’s plumbing system if the pipes constantly need repair or if you plan to do a significant renovation. Replacing the soil around your home may also be necessary if corrosion caused your pipe leaks. Your soil may have corroded your home’s pipes due to being acidic or containing high moisture levels.

Use Technology To Detect a Water Leak

Installing a leak detector device may help prevent long-term water leaks from pipes and appliances, saving you thousands of dollars in water damage repair costs. These technologically advanced systems come with sensors (more on this next) and trigger alarms if they identify moisture.

Some detectors monitor acoustic (sound) changes, too. That’s because every leak creates a soundwave. The detectors can help homeowners determine their leaks’ severity based on the frequencies they produce.

Many detectors immediately shut off a home’s water supply (more on this next) if they detect irregular water pressure or moisture. This will keep you from returning home from work or vacation to find a wet mess.

Your water detector may help you pinpoint various water leak causes, including the following:

  • High water pressure
  • Corrosion
  • Damaged pipe joints
  • Loose pipe connections
  • Clogged lines
  • Broken pipe seals

Your leak detector may also reveal a leak resulting from an extreme temperature change or a tree root. These problems are easier to uncover early with a leak detection system. The sooner you know about them, the less expensive they’ll be to fix.

Shutting Off Your Water Source

What if your leak detector doesn’t automatically shut off your water supply? Let’s examine how to turn off your home’s main water source if a bad leak occurs or a pipe bursts. Look for the main water shut-off valve near your home’s main water pipe. This brass circular valve may be in your utility room, basement, or kitchen. Turn the valve clockwise all the way using a wrench. This immediately shuts off your water. Contact your local utility company to turn off your water if you can’t locate the valve.

Leak Detector Smart Water Sensor

Your leak detection system comes with basic water sensors you must place in locations where leaks commonly happen, and water may pool. These locations include the area underneath your water heater and near a faucet. Other areas where sensors can go include toilets, pipes, sump pumps (devices that remove extra water from homes), and washing machines. There are a couple of other types of sensors you can take advantage of, such as a plug-in sensor or a freeze sensor. Plug-in sensing devices detect water like basic sensors but have a wider coverage area. Use them to monitor larger areas. This is an invaluable addition to any detection system since a water leak doesn’t happen in a single location.

A freeze sensor will detect and alert you to temperatures below 33 degrees Fahrenheit. This is important since freezing temperatures may cause your plumbing pipes and fixtures to freeze. Freezing pipes may expand and burst, leading to an expensive, watery mess.

Leak Detector Sense Cables

Sensing cables are another vital leak detection system component. A flexible rubber cable can detect water around a room’s perimeter or beneath your floor. A high-quality cable provides a rapid response time and minimizes false alarms stemming from objects, debris, and dust. Choose a detection system with cable extenders to expand your leak detection coverage area. These cable extenders and the plug-in sensors mentioned above will help you protect your home more effectively.

Leak Detector Wi-Fi

Top-tier water leak detectors come with Wi-Fi capability. Your device’s sensors can send water detection alerts to your smartphone if your home’s Wi-Fi connection is stable.

Other Features of Smart Water Leak Detectors

Well-designed smart leak detectors include several other essential components and features. Let’s go over the top features to search for in your home’s system.

Long Battery Life

Many smart detection systems plug into outlets and feature backup batteries. These batteries keep the systems powered when the electricity goes out, which is when leaks usually happen. Systems with batteries are a smart investment since some batteries may last for a decade. You won’t have to replace them frequently.

Simple Installation

Water leak detectors are often simple to install. It shouldn’t take more than one hour to set yours up. Hire a plumber to install an advanced system with auto shut-off capabilities.


The best leak detectors feature lights that flash or blink when they detect leaks. Your system’s bulbs may also light up if the device loses connection or the battery is low. These lights can help you locate the system in a dark area, too. These areas range from your water heater closet to the area beneath your sink. Choose a system with light-emitting diode (LED) lights. LED lights are long-lasting and energy efficient.

Additional Valuable Leak Detector Features

Some smart detection systems link sensors with speakers that can give homeowners voice alerts about water leaks. Others monitor humidity to detect mold growth stemming from a water leak. Pick a leak detection system whose alarm sound is 80 decibels or more. This will help ensure you don’t miss a leak if you overlook a smartphone alert.

Leak Detector Offers Peace of Mind

Water leak detectors offer many cost, safety, and health benefits. Let’s review how a leak detector can give you peace of mind.

Health Benefits

Detecting a water leak early on can help prevent standing water. This can help keep pest infestations (e.g., termite problems) and mold growth at bay.

Repair Cost Benefits

Small leaks can be repaired inexpensively and more quickly than undetected leaks, which usually lead to expensive emergency repairs as mentioned earlier. A detection system may help you discover leaks instantly, eliminating the need to call a plumber for an emergency diagnosis after hours.

Diagnosis Cost Benefits

There’s no need to tear down a wall or dig up a floor to find a hidden water leak. A leak detection system causes minimal property disruption since it’s a non-invasive way to pinpoint leaks. This will save you on repair costs and preserve your home’s aesthetics.

Home Protection Benefits

Yet another reason to invest in a leak detector is that it will safeguard your house. Detectors can keep the following parts of your home from being damaged:

  • Memorabilia
  • Electronics
  • Carpets
  • Furnishings

You may not notice leaks until you see water damage on your belongings if you don’t have a leak detector. This damage may cause you to lose priceless items, like old photo albums, and ruin your home’s structural integrity in severe cases.

Safety Benefits

A plumbing leak can quickly cause your basement to flood. The water may rise to where your wall outlets and electrical appliances are, carrying currents over lengthy distances. You or your loved one may be electrocuted if you rush to save your belongings from damage. Flooding might also lead to a fire if your electrical wiring or light fixtures become soaked.

Insurance Premium Benefits

A flood or leak in your home may increase your homeowner’s insurance premiums. This is why many insurance companies provide discounts for homeowners who install leak detection systems in their homes. Take this proactive step to save money on your premiums.

Utility Bill Benefits

A water leak detector will let you know your water is leaking before the leak raises your utility bill. This means you can avoid paying unusually high bills resulting from water leaks.

Convenient Remote Monitoring

What happens if a water leak occurs when you’re not at home? A leak detector enables remote monitoring so you can quickly and easily check your home’s water level no matter where you are. You can respond more quickly to a water emergency with a reliable detector.

Smart Home Water Leak Detection

A smart home leak detection system can help you identify various water leaks, including small leaks. Look for a leak detector with features like Wi-Fi capability, a smart water sensor, and sense cables. Well-designed smart water leak detectors can give you peace of mind by enabling you to catch leaks before they become more expensive and destructive problems.

At Stuart’s Plumbing Service, we offer high-quality leak detection services using cutting-edge technology. We also provide plumbing repair and re-piping services. Book an appointment so we can meet your plumbing needs today!

We trace a leak to its source.