Home water leaks could be destructive, costly

Homeowners often don't think about the plumbing in their homes until something goes wrong, such as expensive damage or a higher-than-usual water bill.

Angie Hicks, with Angie's List, said a leak left untreated can lead to serious damage and costly repairs.

"Water can be your home's worst enemy," Hicks said. "For example, a leak behind a wall could require drywall repair. A small drywall repair job can cost as much as $400, not to mention if you end up with mold. For example, a mold remediation job can be anywhere from hundreds of dollars to thousands of dollars."

Justin Dorsey, who owns a plumbing company in Danville, said homeowners can sometimes spot a leak just by simply looking for one.

"One of the things we find is a lot of homeowners do not go into their crawl space or their attic, and we've actually had homeowners that have owned homes for generations and never been in the crawl space," Dorsey said. "But sometimes, just a routine inspection of someone going into the crawl space and following the plumbing pipe and checking those pipes often is one good way to find a leak."

Detecting some leaks can require a more creative approach.

To check for a toilet leak, place a few drops of food coloring in the toilet tank and wait 15 minutes.
If the food coloring has entered the toilet bowl without the toilet being flushed, there's a leak.

Dorsey said another way to check for a toilet leak is to lay toilet paper along the base of the toilet and flush the toilet.

"If it's leaking you'll begin to see the water wicking into the tissue paper," he said. "Or if it's dripping from the tank, it will drip down and hit the toilet paper and you'll see it. That's one way to tell if there's even the slightest leak."

Hicks said there are other signs to keep in mind when looking for leaks.

"Easy signs of leaks in your house could be the fact that you have stains on your walls, if you have wallpaper that's buckling, or even a wooden floor that's buckling, or if you just smell a musty smell you need to have that investigated," Hicks said.

Some additional sources for water loss include dripping faucets within the house and a garden hose mistakenly being left open for days.

It's always best to tackle plumbing leaks – even small ones – immediately, and it's important to know where a home's water shut-off valve is located in case of a leak.

When in doubt, homeowners can enlist the help of a plumber, but Hicks said it's important to be choosy.

"When hiring a plumber, a plumber typically needs to have a trade license -- a plumbing license. You need to be sure that you are not confusing that with a business license," Hicks said. "All companies typically need a business license to operate, but plumbing needs a plumbing-specific license."

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