Fix That Leak!

December 18, 2009

Slow drips of water can add up quickly and can cause extensive damage to your home before it is even noticed.  The EPA estimates that more than 1 trillion gallons of water leak from homes nationwide every year.  That’s over 3,000 gallons for every person in the U.S. every year! 

Fix leaks as soon as you find them.  Leaks left unchecked won’t go away on their own. Leaks generally get worse over time and the best course of action is to fix a leak when it’s first noticed.  If the leak is hot water, you’re not only paying for wasted water but also for wasted energy.

How do you know you have a water leak?

  • If you see an increase in your monthly water bill that is an indication of a water leak.  You may need to compare past water bills to see a change.

  • If you suspect a water leak follow the below steps to check or confirm where the leak is.  If you are not sure how to proceed contact a plumber.

How can you check for a water leak?

  • First, locate the water meter.  It should be near the street under a metal, plastic or concrete lid.  This meter is an indicator of water use.  When water is not being used, nothing on the meter should be moving.  (Water meters have numbers or spinning dials to record usage).  Most meters also have a small “leak detector” arrow, which senses the lower volumes of water common with leaks.

  • Next, turn off every water-using item inside and outside the home.  This means turning off showers, sinks, washing machines and any appliance that uses water.  If you have a sprinkler irrigation system, make sure to turn it off as well.

  • Now check the meter.  Watch the meter for a minute or longer.  If the leak detector dial or arrow is moving, that is an indication you have a leak.  In some cases, it may move back and forth very slightly, as water pressure from the street fluctuates.  If it moves, even as a slow rate, you have a leak.  You may also want to check the main meter at a set time, and then come back an hour later, after you know no water has been used.

  • If you can’t locate the leak use the shut-off valve in your home to turn off the water. 

  • Confirm the location of the leak.  If the main shut-off is closed and the meter has stopped, the leak is not between the meter and your home.  If the meter still runs with the main water shut off, your leak is between the meter and your home.   Contact a plumber to fix underground outdoor leaks or any water leaks that occur along a pipe.  This is a difficult fix and should not be attempted by anyone who is not a professional.

What types of leaks you should look for?

  • Faucets.  A leaking faucet is usually the result of a bad rubber washer.  The washer on a sink is typically located under the handle.  A washer is relatively easy to replace, if you have the right tools.  It does require shutting off the water under the faucet and removing the handle.  If you don’t feel comfortable doing the repair yourself, contact a plumber.

  • Toilets.  These are by far the most common type of leak.  There is an easy test to determine if your toilet leaks.  Put several drops of food coloring in the toilet tank and wait 15 minutes.  If the colored water appears in the bowl, you have a leak.  In most cases, you will need to replace the toilet flapper (the rubber thing at the bottom of the tank that keeps water in the tank) and/or the filling mechanism.  If you don’t feel comfortable doing the repair yourself, contact a plumber.

  • Outdoor leaks.  This most commonly occurs where the garden hose connects to the spigot.  If it leaks while you run your hose, try tightening the connection between the hose and the spigot.  If this does not work, replace the rubber washer inside the hose connection.


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Last Updated: July 02, 2024