Got a leaking pipe? Don’t panic – this guide has all the answers you need because a leaking pipe can quickly turn into a plumbing nightmare. From spotting the signs to getting it fixed, we’ll cover everything to help you stop the leak and protect your home.

Did you know? A leak of just 20 litres per hour wastes almost 500 litres of water in a single day. That leak could fill over 10 standard bathtubs every day. In a month, that wasted water could cost you the same as an extra load of laundry every single day.

Troubleshooting Checklist

Step 1 – Locate the Leak

There are many different types of water leaks that can affect different rooms of your home, here are some of the common places you will find leaking pipes:

  • Under Sinks: Check the supply lines, drain pipes, and where the faucet connects to the sink.
  • Around Appliances: Look behind the washing machine, dishwasher, and refrigerator (especially if it has an icemaker).
  • Toilets: Examine the base, tank, and the supply line connection.
  • Exposed Pipes: Inspect any visible pipes in the basement, crawlspace, or attic.
  • Walls & Ceilings: Look for damp patches, water stains, or signs of mould.

Step 2 – Shut Off the Water Supply

  • Isolating the Leak: If there’s a valve near the leak, turn it off.
  • Main Shut-Off: Unsure? Turn off your home’s main water valve. This is usually located where the water line enters your house. Read our other useful guide if your pipe is still leaking after turning your water off.

Step 3 – Temporary Fixes (for minor leaks only)

  • Duct Tape: Wrap tightly around the leak. This can hold for a short time.
  • Pipe Clamp: These are available at hardware stores like Bunnings and offer a more secure temporary solution.

Expert Tip: Mitch Hook, a licensed plumber from North East Plumbing says “Duct tape or a pipe clamp can help in a pinch, but don’t think your problem is solved. These fixes are meant to buy you time to get a plumber, not act as a permanent solution.

Understanding the Problem

It’s important to understand leaking pipes aren’t just a nuisance; they can cause significant damage if ignored. Here’s what you need to know:

Signs of Leaking Pipes (Beyond the Obvious)

  • Musty Odours: A lingering damp smell in cupboards, basements, or near pipes.
  • Warped Flooring: Buckling or uneven floors can indicate water seeping underneath.
  • Sounds of Dripping or Running Water: Even when fixtures are off, if you hear water, there’s likely a leak.
  • Low Water Pressure: Water escaping elsewhere can reduce pressure at your taps or faucets.
  • Increased Water Bills: If you’ve done everything you can to reduce your water usage but your water bill continues to increase, this could be a sign of a leaking pipe.

Causes of Leaks

  • Corrosion: Over time, pipes wear down, especially copper and galvanized steel.
  • Age: All pipes have a lifespan; older plumbing systems are more prone to leaks.
  • Freezing Temperatures: Water expands as it freezes, potentially bursting pipes.
  • High Water Pressure: Excessive pressure puts a constant strain on your pipes.
  • Improper Installation: Poorly fitted joints or incorrect materials increase leak risk.

Potential Damage

  • Water Damage: Soaked walls, ceilings, and floors leading to stains and even leaks to floors below.
  • Mould and Mildew: Dampness creates the ideal environment for growth, causing health issues.
  • Structural Damage: Long-term leaks can rot wood or weaken foundations, requiring expensive repairs.
  • Higher Water Bills: Even a small leak wastes surprising amounts of water.
Water damage to a wall caused by a leaking pipe in a home

Types of Water Pipes Used in Australian Homes

Understanding the different types of water pipes found in your home can help you spot potential problems and make informed decisions when repairs or renovations arise. Here’s a breakdown of the most common types:

  • Copper Pipes: Durable and corrosion-resistant, copper is often used for water supply lines. It’s long-lasting and handles both hot and cold water well.
  • PVC Pipes (Polyvinyl Chloride): Affordable and versatile, PVC is common for drainage and waste lines. It doesn’t rust or corrode but is less suitable for transporting hot water.
  • PEX Pipes (Cross-linked Polyethylene): A flexible, easy-to-install option becoming increasingly popular for both hot and cold water supply lines. PEX is known for its resistance to freezing and corrosion.
  • Galvanized Steel Pipes: Once widely used, these pipes have a protective zinc coating to prevent rust. However, they can still corrode over time and are less common in new builds.
  • ABS Pipes (Acrylonitrile Butadiene Styrene): A rigid black plastic found in older homes for drain, waste, and vent systems.

Mitch Hook provides the following advice, “The type of pipe you have matters! Older homes might have galvanized steel pipes that are more prone to corrosion, while newer homes might use copper or PEX. This influences the best way to fix a leak.

A copper water pipe installed in a home

A copper water pipe

Finding the Right Solution

DIY vs. Professional

While some minor leaks might seem manageable for a quick DIY fix, it’s generally best to call a professional plumber. Here’s a quick guide:

  • DIY: Consider a DIY approach for very minor leaks, like a loose faucet handle, using tools readily available and clear instructions online.
  • Call a Plumber: In most cases, especially for leaks behind walls, under slabs, or with hidden origins, it’s crucial to call a professional. They have the expertise, tools, and experience to diagnose and fix the leak efficiently, minimising damage and future issues.

Types of Repairs

The type of repair depends on the leak’s location and severity. Common fixes include:

  • Pipe Tightening: Plumbers can tighten loose connections or replace worn-out washers.
  • Pipe Repair/Replacement: For damaged sections, they’ll either repair or replace the pipe altogether.
  • Leak Detection: Advanced water leak detection tools help pinpoint hidden leaks without unnecessary demolition.

Choosing a Plumber

Finding the right plumber ensures a quality job and peace of mind. Here’s what to consider:

  • License and Insurance: Verify they hold a valid plumber’s license and liability insurance. Within New South Wales, you can use the online Verify.License tool from Service NSW.
  • Experience: Ask about their experience with similar leaks, especially if it’s a complex issue.
  • Upfront Pricing: Get a clear quote outlining the work involved and the final cost before they begin.
  • Guarantees: Look for plumbers who offer a warranty on their work. Here at North East Plumbing, we take pride in our lifetime labour guarantee, giving you peace of mind knowing we stand behind our repairs.

Prevention & Cost

Preventing Future Leaks

Proactive steps can save you money and hassle in the long run:

  • Regular Inspections: Check exposed pipes and under sinks for drips or signs of wear and tear.
  • Insulate Pipes: Protect pipes in cold areas like basements or attics to prevent freezing.
  • Monitor Water Pressure: A pressure regulator can help prevent excessive strain on your pipes.
  • Schedule Professional Maintenance: Having a plumber inspect your system annually can catch small problems before they become serious.

What is a water pressure regulator?

Think of it like a traffic cop for the water flowing into your home. The water from the city supply line can come in way too strong, and this can damage your pipes and appliances. A water pressure regulator is a special valve that acts like a speed limit, reducing the water pressure to a safe and manageable level for your home’s plumbing system.

Estimated Cost of Repairs

The cost of fixing a leaking pipe varies depending on several factors:

  • Leak Severity: Minor leaks are less expensive to fix than major ones.
  • Location: Easily accessible leaks cost less, as they require less labour. Leaks behind walls or under floors incur higher costs.
  • Materials: Replacing pipes can be costly based on the type of material used.
  • Plumber Rates: Costs vary based on a plumber’s experience, hourly rate, and location.

While tempting to prioritize the cheapest option, it’s wiser to invest in a quality repair from a reputable plumber to avoid recurring problems.