Finding a leak in your home can be a homeowner’s nightmare. But fear not! Many leaks are surprisingly simple to identify and fix without needing a plumber. This guide equips you with the know-how to pinpoint and tackle common household leaks, saving you both time and money. Empower yourself to become your home’s plumbing champion with these DIY leak detection techniques.

Common Leak Locations: Where to Begin Your Hunt

Leaks can spring up in various places, but some areas are more prone than others. Begin your detective work by focusing on these common types of water leaks:

  • Taps / Faucets: Dripping faucets are a telltale sign of worn-out washers or O-rings.
  • Toilets: A running toilet often indicates a faulty flapper or fill valve.
  • Under sinks: Check for leaks around pipes, drains, and the garbage disposal.
  • Water heater: Look for signs of corrosion or moisture buildup around the base.
  • Washing machine hoses: Inspect hoses for cracks, bulges, or leaks near the connections.

Step-by-Step Leak Detection: Unmasking the Culprits

With a keen eye and the right tools, you can pinpoint leaks and prevent further water damage. Here’s a detailed guide for each common leak location.

Tools you may need

  • Flashlight
  • Screwdrivers
  • Wrench
  • Pliers
  • Food colouring
  • Paper towels
  • Plumber’s tape

Taps / Faucets

  1. Dry the area around the tap thoroughly with paper towels. This ensures any new drips are easily identifiable.
  2. Observe the tap handle and spout for any dripping while the tap is turned off. Note the location and frequency of the drips.
  3. Turn on the tap and check for leaks around the base of the handle, spout, and connections. Look for any spraying or pooling water.

If dripping persists when the faucet is off, the problem likely lies within the handle mechanism. This may require disassembly to access and replace worn-out washers or O-rings. Consult your tap’s manual or online resources for specific instructions.


  1. Listen carefully for the sound of running water. This indicates water continuously flowing into the bowl even when not flushed.
  2. Remove the toilet tank lid and observe the water level. It should be slightly below the overflow tube.
  3. Add a few drops of food colouring to the tank water. Wait 15-20 minutes without flushing. If the colour appears in the bowl, you have a leak, likely from a faulty flapper.
  4. Inspect the flapper for signs of wear, cracks, or mineral buildup. Ensure it creates a tight seal over the flush valve opening.
  5. Check the fill valve operation. The water level should shut off automatically when it reaches the appropriate level. If it continues running, the fill valve may need adjustment or replacement.

Under Sinks

  1. Visually inspect all exposed pipes and connections under the sink. Look for any signs of moisture, water stains, or dripping.
  2. Run both hot and cold water to check for leaks around the drainpipe, P-trap, and supply lines. Pay attention to areas where pipes connect to faucets, valves, and appliances.
  3. If you have a garbage disposal, run it and observe for leaks around the unit and discharge pipe. Check connections and seals for any signs of wear or damage.

Water Heater

  1. Place a dry paper towel at the base of the water heater. Check it periodically for signs of dampness or water accumulation.
  2. Inspect the temperature and pressure relief valve (TPR valve). Look for any drips or evidence of recent discharge.
  3. Visually examine the inlet and outlet pipes connected to the water heater. Look for signs of corrosion, rust, or leaks at the connections.
  4. If you suspect a leak within the water heater tank itself, it’s crucial to consult a professional plumber as repairs can be complex and require specialised knowledge.

Washing Machine Hoses

  1. Turn off the water supply valves to the washing machine tap. This prevents pressure buildup during inspection.
  2. Carefully inspect both the hot and cold water hoses for any visible cracks, bulges, or leaks. Pay close attention to the connection points at the washing machine and water supply valves.
  3. Gently squeeze the hoses to feel for any weak spots or hidden damage. If you find any issues, replace the hoses immediately.
  4. As a preventative measure, replace washing machine hoses every 3-5 years, even if they appear to be in good condition.

Mains Water Leak

  1. Locate your water meter. This is typically found near the street in a covered box.
  2. Record the current meter reading. Note down the exact numbers displayed on the meter.
  3. Shut off all water usage in your home. This includes turning off faucets, appliances, and irrigation systems.
  4. Wait 30-40 minutes and check the meter again. If the numbers have increased despite no water usage, it’s highly likely you have a leak in your main water line.

Remember, safety is paramount. If you encounter a leak you’re unsure about or suspect a gas leak, turn off the main water supply and contact a qualified leak detection plumber immediately.

Water mains in Sydney

Isolation Testing: Narrowing Down the Search

In some cases, pinpointing a leak’s exact location can be tricky. This is where isolation testing becomes valuable. It involves systematically isolating sections of your plumbing system to determine which area the leak originates from.

How To Perform a DIY Isolation Test

  1. Identify potential leak sources: Based on your initial observations, consider which areas or fixtures might be causing the leak.
  2. Isolate sections: If your plumbing system has shut-off valves for specific areas (e.g., bathrooms, kitchen, garden), use them to isolate those sections.
  3. Observe the water meter: Once isolated, monitor the water meter for any movement. If the meter stops running, the leak likely exists within the isolated section.
  4. Repeat as needed: Continue isolating and testing different sections until you narrow down the leak’s location.

Example: If you suspect a leak in your garden, isolate the irrigation system by shutting off its dedicated valve. This separates it from the rest of your home’s plumbing. If the water meter stops running after isolation, you’ve confirmed the leak lies within the irrigation system.

Benefits of Isolation Testing

  1. Precise leak location: Helps pinpoint the specific area of the leak, saving time and effort during repairs.
  2. Reduced water waste: By isolating the leak, you minimise water loss while troubleshooting.
  3. Minimised disruption: Allows you to maintain water usage in unaffected areas of your home.

Note: If your plumbing system lacks individual shut-off valves, or you’re unsure about performing isolation testing, consult a professional plumber from North East Plumbing for assistance.

Water Conservation: Every Drop Counts

While fixing leaks is essential, adopting water-saving habits further reduces water waste and lowers your utility bills.

  • Install low-flow fixtures: Upgrade to water-efficient showerheads, faucets, and toilets.
  • Fix dripping taps promptly: Even small leaks can waste significant amounts of water over time.
  • Take shorter showers: Reducing shower time by a few minutes can make a big difference.
  • Only run full loads: Run your washing machine and dishwasher only when fully loaded.
  • Use a broom instead of a hose: Sweep driveways and sidewalks instead of hosing them down.

By combining proactive leak detection with mindful water usage, you’ll conserve this precious resource and contribute to a more sustainable future.