Leaks are one of the most common plumbing problems that develop over time, and if ignored, can cause expensive water damage.

There are two categories of plumbing leaks:

  • Water supply (pressurized leaks)
  • Drain line or (non-pressurized leaks)

To minimize your future exposure to expensive repairs, we are going to talk about how to locate where your leak is, and what may have caused it, to reduce the chance of it happening again.

Most people notice pressurized leaks before they notice drain-line or non-pressurized leaks, due to the greater volume of water with pressurized line leaks. For instance, a burst pipe in the wall, or a burst washing machine supply hose, is going to dump gallons of water per hour – versus a leaking trap underneath a sink – which may only drip. However, the under-sink leak – if left undetected over time – can create a large expense in mold and restoration cost.

Both categories of leaks need to be addressed quickly to prevent further water and mold damage.

Inspection should be done four times a year on:

  • Underneath cabinet sinks.
  • Inside bathtub waste.
  • Overflow access panels.
  • Water heater hose connections.
  • As well as water supply connection supply lines to all fixtures.

Emergency shutoff valves:

Should be tested once a year, to verify they will work when you need them, especially the main valve to the house. If they are already old, and haven’t been turned off in years, you may find a few valves do not work anymore. This is something that should be noted and resolved on the next service visit, or sooner. The valve may be releasing a small amount of water. You will need to:

  • Take a pliers, and gently turn the packing nut below the handle.
  • Tighten clockwise, to stop the water.
  • Any time you are replacing valves, always try to install a ball valve. They are easy to turn, and do not get frozen, and rarely fail versus the washer type valves that freeze shut..
  • Ball valves do not have a packing nut so there is no concern of leakage when testing the integrity of the valve.

Kitchen Sink Leaks:

Underneath the kitchen sink there are many opportunities to develop a leak. If you see moisture below the kitchen sink, use this simple test:

  • Cover the bottom of the kitchen sink cabinet with dry paper towels. and
  • Then run water for a couple of minutes.
  • You may see water drip on the surface of the paper towel.
  • Look above the mark on the paper towel and feel with your finger until you find the wet spot.

Sometimes you will find a leak from a garbage disposal that has rusted out with age, a rubber garbage disposal hose leak, or a tubular drain pipe has become loose over time and is leaking. If your faucet is old, you may find that a mounting nut is wet where the faucet has corroded over time and accumulated rust along the mounting nuts. This is an indication of a slow leak and time for a faucet replacement.

If you have a kitchen faucet with a built in pull out spray hose:

  • Check the connector to see if it is leaking.
  • Pull out the wand from the faucet and use the sprayer in the sink.
  • Check to make sure the  head is firmly attached to the hose.

This is a common leak area for a pull out faucet. After you have run some water through the wand, dry the entire length of the hose, and use the sprayer again. Now, wipe down the hose and check the paper towel for moisture.

Is the faucet pullout hose leaking?

Washing Machine Hoses:

  • That are older than five years should be replaced immediately to avoid a burst line.
  • According to Homeowners Insurance claims statistics, burst washing machine hoses are the No. 1 cause of water damage claims in the United States.

A very important factor in minimizing wear-and-tear and premature failure in the pressurized side of your plumbing system is, controlling excess pressure from damaging your water supply side system. This means monitoring the supply system pressure by taking pressure readings at your hose-bib.

To do this:

  1. Attach a pressure gauge to the outside hose faucet outlet, where you usually connect your garden hose. (You can buy a pressure gauge at the local hardware store or plumbing supply. Buy the one that has the red limit hand that shows the peak pressure and stays there until you manually reset it.)
  2. Test the pressure by leaving it on the hose-bib with the valve turned slightly on overnight. The reading should be around 55 to 60 psi.
  3. If it is higher than 70 psi, then the excessive pressure is shortening the lifespan of many plumbing components in your home and will cause premature failure.
  4. Refer to Water Pressure Problems.
  5. The items affected from high pressure include: the ballcock fill valves inside of your toilet tanks, the washing machine solenoid valves, dishwasher solenoid valves, water heater, all of your faucets including the shower valve cartridges inside your tub, and shower, and all of the flexible water supply connectors and emergency shutoff valves.

These are all expensive repairs and you want to get as much service life as possible from them before you replace them. The Uniform Plumbing Code requires a PRV (pressure reducing valve) be installed if the water pressure exceeds 80 psi at the time the home is built, or for any inspection of a plumbing task that involves a water test resulting in high pressure. You should perform an overnight pressure test and if it exceeds normal operating pressure, a PRV should be replaced  and the new pressure set to 55 to 60 PSI.

Installing a thermal expansion tank is a must when installing a PRV. The installation of the PRV without a thermal expansion tank alone will have adverse effects if you produce hot water in the home. When you install a PRV, and there is water heated within this now closed plumbing system, the water pressure will usually get higher than before when the water heater heats because the water can not chase back out into the City main. The PRV works like a check valve, not allowing the water to push back into the City main when the water heater is heating.

Here are some of the symptoms and repairs that should tip you off to a possible high or unregulated water pressure scenario in your water supply system:

Running Toilet:

  • Remove the tank lid and carefully place it on a soft surface on the ground away from where someone can kick it or trip over it.
  • Listen to the water fill up inside the tank.
  • If the pressure seems too loud when it is filling,  you may have high pressure.
  • Has the fill valve been replaced more than once over the last 10 years?

Faucet Drip:

  • If your tub or shower is dripping in the off-position, the water pressure should be checked right away.
  • Most cartridges are not designed to handle higher pressures and will prematurely leak when high pressure exists.
  • If you change out a shower/tub cartridge and don’t get the pressure back within normal limits, right away, you will probably shorten the lifespan of the new cartridge and will experience premature failure again.
  • If you hear a slamming sound when turning off the faucet, or when other valves turn off, it is likely you have high pressure/loose pipes. If the faucet spout rises hard when you turn the water on, go to Water Pressure Problems. These are usually indicators of high pressure problems.

If your water heater is leaking water out of the Temperature and Pressure Relief valve drain pipe. Notice: I said water ‘leaking’, not steam-blasting. If steam is blasting out, then someone should shut off the gas valve to the water heater immediately and call a service professional. Otherwise, if you see water leaking from the end of the water heater temperature and pressure relief valve drainpipe, then, it means either the T&P valve is defective and should be replaced. Or, that you may have water pressure exceeding 150 PSI at some point. Even if you have a PRV, it may be defective. Or your thermal expansion tank is defective. Or there may not be one installed?

We only recommend hiring a plumber to provide the installation of a PRV and an expansion tank to protect your pressure.

Sometimes you have a leaking pipe behind a wall. Usually the drywall is mushy and damp.. The leak can be anything from a pinhole leak in a supply line, to a damaged drain line.

Mold:

It can grow quickly in areas where there is uncontrolled moisture. Within as short as 48 hours mold can begin to grow on surfaces such as: drywall, wood, paper, and other porous materials. Mold is also capable of growing on: concrete, glass, carpeting, and metal surfaces.

Depending on the food source, (protein,) and the amount of moisture, mold can grow at a rapid pace and quickly create large scale disasters for property owners.

Black mold will cause severe, sometimes even fatal respiratory issues. One of the best ways to identify the need to call in a property restoration firm is to measure the area of mold contamination:

  • As a general rule of thumb, if the contaminated area is larger than 5-10 square feet you will need to utilize an expert mold remediation firm.

Cleaning and removing mold growth from a property requires specialized equipment. Due to the immediate health risks that mold can create by entering the lungs, it is imperative that workers utilize breathing masks for protection.

Different types of mold can be more hazardous to deal with and require specialized cleaning. Small areas of growth in a home or business can be cleaned with a strong detergent based cleaner. Simply utilizing bleach will not ensure that the mold spores have been properly cleaned and removed, as the bleach will simply discolor the mold spores. Small or undetected water leaks are often the largest contributor to mold growth.

One of the best ways to prevent mold growth is:

  • Trust your sense of smell, as mold and mildew will leave a musty odor.
  • Routine visual inspection of plumbing and foundations is also a good step towards preventing mold growth.
  • To effectively clean and remove mold growth, the moisture source must be identified and repaired before the mold is removed.