How to Recognize a Water Leak in Your Home or Building

You may think that a water leak in your home or building is something you’d notice right away – a burst pipe or an overflowing toilet is quite obvious, after all, and you can’t possibly miss it. Yet, there are some types of leaks that are much more difficult to detect – such as water leaks behind walls or under floor boards. When the signs of water damage are hidden, homeowners may not notice the problem until the leak has already caused a considerable amount of damage.

To prevent serious damage and costly repairs, you need to be able to detect a water leak in the house as soon as it happens. But how can you tell there’s a leak? How do you recognize the problem before it’s too late?

In fact, finding a water leak – even a hidden one – is not as difficult as it may seem. You just need to be familiar with the most common signs of a water problem and know how to check for water leaks in a house.

What Are the Warning Signs of a Water Leak?

Clogged sinkThe telltale signs of a water leak include:

  • Musty odors – When absorbed into building materials like sheetrock or drywall, moisture creates a strong musty smell;
  • Mold – Mold requires moisture and organic “food” to grow. Since organic materials such as wood, paper, leather, fabric and paint are available in abundance in the home, mold starts growing as soon as there is a source of moisture (like a water leak);
  • Discoloration and wet stains – Discolored areas, water spots, and yellow, brown, or copper stains on ceilings and walls signify a hidden water leak;
  • Warping walls – When the sheetrock behind a wall absorbs water, it swells and causes the wall to warp. Cracking or peeling paint is also a clear indication of a water leak;
  • Buckling or sagging wood floors – Water seeping into the subflooring can cause wood to get detached from the substrate and curve upwards (buckling) or rot and start feeling spongy underfoot (sagging);
  • Sound of running water – Bubbling noises from the toilet or sink, whistling from the pipes, dripping sounds from the drains, and any other unexplained water sounds may indicate a water leak;
  • Unusually high water bills – Your water bill should remain within the same range month to month – if your water use habits haven’t changed, but the bill is rising consistently, this may be a sign of a water leak in your home;
  • Low water pressure – When the water supply to your home is normal but you experience low water pressure, this may mean that there is a problem in the water main or the pipes in your house;
  • Accumulated water – Wet carpets and areas of standing or pooling water are the most obvious sign of a water problem in the home.

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Good to know: Larger leaks can be detected by the water meter. Here is how to test for water leaks in house using your water meter:

  1. Make sure the water in your home is turned off (showers, faucets, water-using appliances, whole house humidifiers, etc.);
  2. Record the reading of the water meter and wait for an hour. Make sure no one in the home uses water during this time;
  3. Check the meter reading – if the device has recorded water use during the test, it is an indication of a water leak in your home.

When you know what to look for, you will be able to quickly recognize a water problem in your building. In order to fix it in time, however, and prevent water damage to your property, you need to know how to find a water leak as well.


How to Detect a Water Leak in Your Home or Building

There are several different ways to test for water leaks in the house and locate the source of the problem:

  • Listen for the sound of running or dripping water to find faucet leaks, toilet leaks, sink leaks, drain leaks, or other similar problems;
  • Move appliances away from their position to look for wet areas or other signs of damage that may designate a leaking appliance or a damaged supply line;
  • Open cabinet doors beneath sinks and look for moisture at joints and corrosion on the supply line fittings and valves. Be sure to examine the bottoms of the cabinets for water stains, dampness, and mold as well;
  • Check the areas around sinks, showers, tubs, and toilets for signs of water damage – deteriorating caulk, loose tiles, damaged flooring, persistent mold, water stains, etc. (Water seeping out around the base of the toilet or the base of a faucet is the most obvious sign of a leak, of course.);
  • Inspect exposed pipes for corrosion or moisture;
  • Examine the flooring, walls, and ceilings in your home for discoloration, wet spots, mold growth, and buckled or peeling material.

Water travels downward, so the location of wet stains, mold patches, and other signs of water damage may not be the exact location of the leak. Still, you will get a good idea of the general area of the source of moisture.

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Good to know: Water leak sensors make it very easy to detect and locate a water leak in the house. These sensors sound an alarm when they detect the presence of water, alerting you to the problem and helping you pinpoint the location of the leak. Consider installing water leak sensors under sinks and near toilets, washing machines, dishwashers, hot water heaters, furnaces, humidifiers, and anything else connected to the water system. If you have a commercial building, be sure to have the sensors installed in server closets, record rooms, and other sensitive areas to protect your most valuable assets.


What to Do When You Find a Water Leak?

Finding a water leak in your house or building should prompt you to take quick and efficient measures to minimize the damage, fix the problem, and restore the good condition of your property:

  1. Turn off the water in the building;
  2. Move valuables to a safe, dry area of the building;
  3. Document the damage (take pictures and videos of damaged items and building materials);
  4. Call your insurance company to notify them of the problem and discuss your course of action;
  5. Call a licensed plumber to fix the issue that caused the leak;
  6. Call experienced water damage restoration professionals to assist you with the cleanup and remediation processes.

Professional Water Damage Restoration

If you’re dealing with water damage after a water leak in your home or commercial building in the north Chicago suburbs, you can count on ServiceMaster DAK to fully restore your property – our trained, experienced technicians will assess the extent of the damage and determine the type of water that caused it. Then, we will extract all standing water from your building and install state-of-the-art drying equipment (air movers and dehumidifiers) in the affected area to ensure that everything dries as quickly and efficiently as possible. When all excess moisture has been removed, our water damage restoration experts will perform any necessary repair works and remediation processes to ensure the excellent condition of your property. We’re available 24/7 at 847-564-0204 to respond to emergency situations and provide quality water damage restoration services to homeowners and business owners in Northbrook, Buffalo Grove, and the surrounding north Chicago suburbs.

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