Discovering a water leak in your home can be a stressful experience. Water damage can lead to costly repairs and potential health hazards like mould. However, don’t panic! With the right information and a calm approach, you can effectively address the issue. This guide will equip you with the knowledge to identify, assess, and potentially even repair water leaks yourself. We will also cover situations where calling a professional plumber is the best course of action.

In this guide:

Safety First, Then Stop the Flow

Before addressing the leak, ensure your safety. Water and electricity are a dangerous combination. If the leak is near any electrical components, switch off the power at the fuse box. Once you’ve addressed electrical hazards, locate your main water shut-off valve. This valve is usually located near your water meter or where the main water line enters your home. Turning this valve clockwise will stop the flow of water and minimise potential damage.

Playing Detective: Pinpointing the Water Leak’s Origin

Turning off the water has mitigated immediate danger, so now it’s time to embark on a detective mission to locate the source of the leak. Water leaks can spring up in various areas of your home, each requiring a slightly different approach to detection. Let’s explore some common leak locations and how to identify them:

  • Faucets / Taps: Dripping taps are often the culprit behind annoying leaks. Check under sinks and examine faucet connections for any visible signs of dripping water.
  • Toilets: A running toilet can waste a significant amount of water and may explain why your cistern isn’t filling up. Listen for the sound of constantly running water or a hissing noise, which can indicate a leak in the tank or bowl.
  • Pipes: Leaks in pipes can be trickier to find as they are often concealed within walls or under floors. Look for damp patches on walls, ceilings, or floors. You may also notice a musty smell or hear the sound of dripping water. A moisture meter can be a valuable tool in pinpointing the leak’s location.
  • Water Heater: Examine the area around your water heater for any signs of pooling water or dampness. Check the pressure relief valve and drain valve for leaks as well.

Before You Begin: If you’ve decided to tackle a minor leak yourself, gather the necessary tools and materials. Common tools include wrenches, pliers, screwdrivers, pipe tape, and replacement parts specific to the leak location.

How To Repair a Water Leak

1. Locating the Leak’s Source

  • Visible Leaks: Begin by inspecting exposed pipes under sinks, around toilets, and near appliances like washing machines and dishwashers. Look for dripping water, water stains, or puddles.
  • Hidden Leaks: If the leak isn’t readily visible, check for signs of water damage such as damp patches on walls, ceilings, or floors. A musty odour can also indicate hidden moisture. Use a moisture meter for more precise leak detection.

Mitchell Hook, a water leak detection expert at North East Plumbing shares this expert tip: “Here’s a simple trick I often share with my customers: place a piece of toilet paper at the back of your dry toilet bowl. If the paper becomes damp after a while, even without flushing, it’s a telltale sign of a silent leak in your cistern. This sneaky leak can waste litres of water daily, so catching it early is key!”

2. Shutting Off the Water Supply

Locate your main water shut-off valve, usually found near the water meter or where the main water line enters your home. Turn the valve clockwise to stop the water flow and prevent further damage.

Leave a tap at the lowest point of your home open to allow any remaining water in the pipes to drain out, minimising mess during repairs.

3. Assessing the Damage and Repair Options

  • Minor Leaks: Small or slow leak from pipe joints or connections may be manageable with DIY solutions such as pipe clamps, epoxy putty, or even the replacement of worn-out washers.
  • Major Leaks: Burst pipes, extensive water damage, or leaks in inaccessible areas require the expertise of a licensed plumber. They possess the skills and water leak detection tools to handle complex repairs effectively.
  • Press Fittings as an Alternative: When soldering is risky or inconvenient, consider using press fittings as a reliable and efficient repair method. These fittings require a specialised tool for installation but offer the advantage of working on wet pipes and eliminating the need for an open flame.

4. Applying a Temporary Fix

  • Epoxy Putty: For small leaks on metal or plastic pipes, epoxy putty can provide a temporary seal. Ensure the surface is clean and dry before application. Remember, this is a temporary fix, and a plumber should still assess the damage.
  • O-rings: For leaky taps, replacing worn-out washers or O-rings is often the solution.
  • Flapper valves: A running toilet might require adjusting the float mechanism or replacing the flapper valve.
  • Pipe Clamps and Rubber: Larger leaks or holes in pipes might be temporarily controlled with a rubber patch and hose clamps. Apply the patch over the leak and secure it tightly with clamps. Again, this is not a permanent solution and professional repair is necessary.
  • Professional Plumbing Services: For significant leaks, burst pipes, or complex repairs, a qualified plumber will assess the situation, provide solutions, and execute repairs to industry standards.

Expert Tip: If you ever need to cut tubing in a restricted space, try a close-quarters tubing cutter, specifically a three-piece set by Milwaukee, for making clean cuts in tight spaces where a standard pipe cutter might not fit.

Calling in the Experts: When to Seek Professional Help

While DIY repairs can be empowering and cost-effective, some situations demand the expertise of a licensed plumber. If you encounter any of the following, don’t hesitate to call a professional:

  • Major leaks: Burst pipes, significant water damage, or leaks you can’t locate require immediate professional attention to prevent further damage and potential structural issues.
  • Slab leaks: Leaks within the concrete foundation of your home are complex. Common scenarios can be a hot water leak under a slab. These situations require specialised equipment for detection and repair.
  • Sewer line leaks: Issues with your sewer line can cause sewage backups and pose health hazards. A plumber can diagnose and address the problem effectively.
  • Lack of confidence: If you’re unsure about tackling a repair or feel it’s beyond your skill level, it’s always best to err on the side of caution and seek professional help.

Repairing water leaks doesn’t have to be a daunting task. By understanding the basic principles of leak detection, assessment, and repair options, you can confidently address minor issues or make informed decisions about seeking professional help. Remember, safety should always be your top priority. With the right knowledge and a proactive approach, you can keep your home dry, prevent costly damage, and ensure the efficient use of our precious water resources.