How to Find a Water Leak and What Kelmann Can Do to Help

ceiling water damageMany homeowners are unaware of just how destructive water damage can be. Not only does pooling water damage your home’s structural integrity, but it can also produce harmful mold and airborne toxins if left unattended. Unfortunately, there are many sources of potential water damage throughout the average home. Air conditioners leak water as do water heaters and hidden pipes. Toilet tanks, broken seals, and spigots in and out of the house all run the risk of leaking water over time. However, not all water leaks are so obvious—in fact, many are more subtle and harder to identify. Learning how to find a water leak can save you money and provide you peace of mind.

According to HomeAdvisor, the average cost of a water damage restoration job clocks in at around $3,000. However, many of these jobs can range up to nearly $5,000. And, if left unchecked, the costs can skyrocket. Water damage is not a singular problem: the kinds of damage your house can incur builds if left unchecked. You may be wondering: if water damage can be this devastating, should I hire an expert to spot a hidden water leak? The answer is maybe. That said, there are a number of steps you can take before seeking professional help. Listed below are some of the easiest ways to identify a water leak before it gets out of hand.   

Check Your Water Meter

If you only suspect that there may be a water leak in your house, you should first check your water meter. In order to run this test, simply turn off all the water sources in your house. The obvious appliances to check are your dishwasher and clothes washing machine. That said, your refrigerator may continue to produce water for ice, and your toilet may be running, so be sure to cut off these water sources. Additionally, make sure that your outdoor hoses and irrigation systems are shut off. Once you are sure that all water sources are shut off, find your water meter, and measure what your device is registering. Depending on your home and location, your water meter will either be outside or in your basement.

When you read your water meter, it is important to note whether or not the needle is moving. Usually, a water meter comes equipped with a large red hand (like on a clock). Each revolution equals 100 liters pushed through your pipes. If you have turned off every water source in your house, this should not be moving (or at least not moving quickly). It may take some time for the sweep hand to come to a full stop. Fortunately, a separate hand that looks more like a cog or a triangle measures smaller leaks. These cogs measure roughly half a liter per minute. If this gear is moving at all, this might be the first sign that you have a leak.    

Monitor Your Utility Bills

If you’ve identified that there might be a leak by checking your water meter, it’s time to check your bills. Water usage in the Midwest tends to vary due to drastic changes in the weather. No one waters their lawn in the winter! When evaluating your water bill, be sure to look back over several months to see if there is a pattern. Month-to-month changes, especially within a season, don’t tend to be major. However, if you notice that your water bill is increasing over time, a hidden water leak might be the culprit. If you check your meter and bills and you suspect that there is a leak, the next step is to attempt to find signs.    

Find a Leak with Food Coloring

One of the first places you should start looking for leaks is your toilet. This is because 45% of all indoor water use comes from toilets and 20% of all toilets leak. If you suspect that your toilet is the source of your problem, there is an easy way to prove your suspicion. Simply add a few drops of food coloring to your toilet’s tank—preferably a bright color. Once you have added the food coloring, step away, and let the coloring saturate fully. After about 30 minutes, you will be able to tell whether or not your toilet is leaking by looking into the bowl. If the bowl has any trace of the food coloring, your toilet is running and leaking.

Thankfully, fixing a toilet is fairly straightforward, and a leaky toilet tank can be fixed in various ways. Over time, toilet parts deteriorate, and many of them are easy to find and replace. A faulty flapper or flush bar might be responsible for letting traces of water slip through. Additionally, the seals within the toilet tank can also let small amounts of water into the bowl over time. Identifying your specific toilet’s tank problems could be an entire article in and of itself. That said, this foolproof solution will provide you with enough information to identify the source of a leak.   

Look For Mold Signs and Sagging Areas in Your Walls and Ceiling

Aside from fault appliances with tanks, pipes hidden in walls might be the source of your leak. If you have a burst pipe, the problem will be easy and immediately identifiable (at that point, buckle up and turn off your water main!). However, leaky pipes are much more subtle, and their signs begin to show over longer stretches of time. Two of the main signs associated with a slowly leaking pipe are mold growths and sagging areas within your walls and ceiling.

Mold, in some cases, is easy to spot, and there are two methods for finding it. First, before you even see mold, you can often smell it. Many varieties of mold exist, and each kind smells a bit different. That said, mold tends to be musty and earthy—it can smell like old socks or wet towels. If you notice these kinds of smells in a room, there is a good chance that mold is growing and spreading. Additionally, if you notice that you’re feeling more stuffy or perhaps are experiencing flu-like symptoms, mold may be responsible. Mold from a leaky pipe or faucet can lead to serious bodily harm. So, once you’ve identified the mold through smell, it’s time to look for it.

If you notice that a portion of your wall or ceiling is sagging just a bit, water damage may be the source. Over time, water causes many materials to bend and deteriorate. Wall studs and drywall are extremely susceptible to water damage. If left untreated, the wood in your house could break apart and set you back hundreds if not thousands of dollars. Any bowed surfaces in your house should be identified and addressed immediately. Water is especially good at spreading through these surfaces, so staying ahead of them is incredibly important.        

Check For Signs of Underground Water Leaks

If you’ve checked your appliances and you’ve combed through your house, yet you still haven’t found a leak, the source could potentially lie outside your home. If you notice that a specific spot in your yard is damp when others are dry, one of your underground irrigation pipes may be leaking. However, there are several additional signs that might indicate an underground leak. Some of these include the following signs: 

  • Lower than average water pressure in your sinks 
  • Sections of your yard that are growing faster than other regions
  • Cracked or sunken portion of concrete walkways
  • Isolated pooling water in sections of your yard or walkways 
  • Rust or dirt within your water supply

There are many giveaways when it comes to underground water leaks. These types of leaks can be especially difficult to deal with and can cause major harm to your property. Now that you have a fuller understanding of how to spot a hidden leak, it’s time to learn more about how these types of leaks cause damage to your home.

How Do Water Leaks Damage My Home?

It’s difficult to keep a constant eye on the signs of leaks in your home. For this reason, most people don’t discover leaks until they have been a problem for a bit of time. Unfortunately, leaks are cumulative, and the damage they cause builds over time. Building materials can absorb more water than you might think. And, eventually, the water spreads deeper and deeper until it eventually finds itself in your foundation. If water gets into your foundation, the severity of your problems will increase.

Today’s homes are all about keeping the inside sealed from the outside. They are also constructed with energy efficiency in mind. We have bulked up on the insulation, sealed leaks and gaps, and worked to keep as much conditioned air as possible inside the building. This efficiency, however, sometimes overlooks the fact that buildings need air circulation. Poor airflow becomes a real problem when there is water trapped somewhere. Consequences may include:

  • Mold and mildew, and an unhealthy environment for the occupants
  • Permanent damage to wood, carpet, wallpaper, paint, and furnishings
  • Drywall & insulation that needs to be removed and replaced
  • Contaminated ductwork and other systems

The lack of ventilation coupled with the fact that many leaks are hidden behind walls and under floorboards leads to many opportunities for water to damage your home and allow mold to grow and fester. The scope of this article has only mentioned the actual bones of your home. As noted in the bullet points, insulation can trap water and air within it (these are the ideal conditions for mold growth). If left untreated, you may have to replace an entire wall or section of your ceiling. So, if you notice any of the signs mentioned above, it might be time to call in an expert.  

Kelmann Offers Water Damage Restoration Services

Even if water damage leaves no visible tracks, it is not something you want to live with. Crawl spaces, basements, air conditioning systems, attics, and windows are vulnerable if the situation isn’t professionally resolved. The longer the situation is allowed to fester, the more expensive the ultimate clean-up becomes. Luckily, Kelmann is a leader in water damage restoration, and we are equipped to help you remediate your water damaged property. When you reach out to have us deal with your water damage, we follow three stages.

First, a technician will extract the water from your home. As we do this, we will remove any and all important items from your home. We catalog these items so a Kelmann expert can restore your valuables to their original state. After we extract the water, we begin the process of sanitizing and decontaminating your property with industrial cleaning and air purifying equipment. Depending on the scale of the project, this can take three to five days.

Once we extract the water and contain the issue, we will monitor your property and perform essential tasks. First, we will continue to dry and dehumidify your home to prevent the growth and spread of mold. These state-of-the-art devices ensure that all traces of water have been fully removed from the premises. Once we are confident that all the water has been removed, we will return your restored items and remove all equipment from your house.

Finally, if you are looking for a restoration of the damaged sections of your home, we can move onto the final stage of the project. Here at Kelmann, we partner with insurance companies, which expedites the restoration process. Once we have the green light from you and the insurers, we will determine the scope and time frame for a complete restoration of the affected areas.       

What Should I Do If I Have a Water Emergency?

If you find yourself in an emergency situation, Kelmann offers 24-hour emergency services. Call us at any hour; we will have you covered and will provide you with the best service possible. Our first responders will attend to your specific needs and ensure your problems are addressed. Kelman has helped countless families in Southeastern Wisconsin since 1973, and we are confident that we can restore any water damage your home has incurred. To learn more about our experts and services, contact us today to speak with our friendly staff. Kelmann will be here for you when you need us most.      

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Hazel Owens
1 year ago

It was interesting to read that the building materials of the house can absorb leaks for a long time before showing symptoms. My husband found out we had a leak in our basement we hadn’t noticed. We are going to look for a damage repair company that can help us clean the basement.

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