Leaks do silent damage to a home. Something as small as a loose trap or clogged drain can go undetected for months; leaking water into your cabinets, between your walls, or under your floors and causing extensive, costly damage. An external leak in an irrigation system can quietly waste more than 100 gallons of water each day.
Leaky pipes or openings usually leave warning signs of their presence so you can identify the type of damage and repair it early.
Water Stains: This type of radiant stain is a sure fire way to identify a current or old water leak. Where you find the stain indicates where the leak may have originated.
A water stain around windows or at the bottom of exterior doors show that water is getting in from the outside.
A stain in the seam between the ceiling and an exterior wall may indicate a roof leak or possible build up of ice. If you have plumbing lines in the attic, the problem may be there as well.
A water stain on the bottom of a cabinet could have originated from a leaky sink trap or pipe.
Buckling or stained floors may indicate a wood floor that has absorbed water from a leak. High risk areas include the kitchen floor around the dishwasher or the refrigerator (if it has an ice maker or filtered water), or in front of a poorly sealed window. The bathroom is another problem area. Watch for water rings around the toilet or in front of the tub or shower.
Structural Problems: Spongy beams or rafters may be a warning of structural problems as a result of water damage. Spotting these in time may save you thousands of dollars in repairs.
Take a Water Flow Test: If you've checked for signs of water damage, but still suspect you have a leak, take a water flow test. Shut off all sources of water to your house, inside and out, and locate your water meter. The red triangle or flow indicator at the top will tell you when water is passing through it. If the flow indicator or the sweep hand is moving, you may have a leak.
Use the process of elimination to determine where the leak is coming from. Shut of one toilet, go to the meter and see if the red triangle is moving. If it stopped moving, that toilet is the culprit. If not, turn the toilet back on and shut off another. Continue in this manner checking all high risk water sources including toilets, sprinkler system water softener, air conditioner, ice machine, etc. If you shut off the main water valve to your home and the meter is still moving, the leak may be between the shutoff valve and the water meter.
Toilet Test: Use food coloring to determine whether your toilet has a leak. Remove the tank lid and flush. After it refills, add several drops of dark food coloring. Wait at least 20 minutes and if any trace of color appears in the toilet bowl, you have a leak.
Water damage in drywall makes it soft or crumbling, discolored or swollen, and can appear on the wall or ceiling.
Many of these signs and symptoms of water damage are apparent after a good length of time, and in many cases extensive damage has already been done. A handy device to alert you of a leak in the early stages is a water-leak alarm. It has a plug-in main unit (with battery backup) and a sensor pad. Place the pad where a leak is most likely to happen (under the washer, in the crawl space, under a water heater, etc.). It will sound an alarm if it senses as little as a few drops of water.
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