Contents (Click To Jump)
- 1 What Is a Leaky Pipe?
- 2 What Do You Need To Know About Leaky Pipes?
- 3 What Are The Different Types of Leaky Pipes?
- 4 When Should You Hire A Professional To Fix a Plumbing Leak?
- 5 How Much Does Fixing a Leaky Pipe Cost?
- 6 What Should You Look For In A Leak Repair Specialist?
What Is a Leaky Pipe?
All residences with running water have piping running behind the walls to bring water from the public water supply or a well to the fixtures throughout your home.
These water pipes are called domestic plumbing lines, and they’re responsible for bringing water to showerheads, bathroom and kitchen sink faucets, toilets, ice makers, and any other points in or outside your home that can dispense water.
The term “leaky pipe” simply refers to when one of these lengths of pipe becomes compromised and leaks water behind your wall.
Leaks in these pipes typically occur if the water pressure becomes too much for the copper or PEX to resist, causing a pinhole leak or a fully burst pipe. A leak can also develop if the lines freeze or if a connection comes loose for any reason.
Your fixtures all drain water through the walls and eventually route it to your main waste line, also called the sewer line. Any of the PVC piping used to drain water from your fixtures can also burst or come loose, resulting in a leaky pipe.
Lastly, some homes use a separate system of copper piping – called heating lines – as a means of heating the interior of the house. Typically, these pipes run behind the walls for short periods and then exit the wall to run through a baseboard. If you have this type of heat in your home, the term “leaky pipe” could also refer to a leak in this system.
What Do You Need To Know About Leaky Pipes?
Every homeowner should know how to identify a plumbing leak, how to respond to a major leak to minimize property damage, and the dangers of leaving a leak unrepaired. We’ll discuss each of these topics in-depth below.
How to Identify a Plumbing Leak
Many property owners believe plumbing leaks will be abundantly obvious, but minor leaks may exhibit minimal symptoms in your living space but create significant damage behind the walls.
One of the most apparent signs of a plumbing leak is wet spots or damages on your walls, ceilings, or floors. Depending on the location of the leak, damage may even appear on your ceilings. Any visible water, stains, peeling or bubbling paint, or other water damage is a reasonable indication that you have a leaky pipe.
If your leak is significant, you may notice increases in your utility bills or movement on your meter when all of the fixtures and appliances in your home are shut off.
Mold thrives in dark, wet conditions, so visible mold or mildew anywhere in your home can indicate a plumbing leak. You might also notice musty odors in your living space without visible mold, which typically suggests that the mold is growing behind your walls or in another area you can’t access.
Finally, some homeowners who have leaky pipes behind their walls hear running or trickling water or dripping when their fixtures aren’t calling for water and their appliances that use water – like dishwashers and refrigerators – are off. You may also notice a leaky faucet or water in the cabinet beneath your sink.
What to Do Right Away If You Identify a Leak
If you identify a leak anywhere in your home, even if it’s a relatively small or seemingly insignificant one, you need to stop the flow of water to that point in your plumbing immediately. How you do this will depend on your style of home and the type of water supply you have.
If your home is hooked up to a public water supply, you’ll want to find your water meter right away. If you have a crawlspace or basement, the meter will likely enter your home through the foundation wall and will be accessible in that space. If your home is built slab-on-grade, the meter will probably be in a utility closet, or it could be located outside in a pit.
The piping just next to the water meter will have a shut-off valve called the water main, which is designed to stop water flow into your plumbing system. Once you shut the valve, water will stop entering your home and will eventually stop leaking out of the damaged pipe.
If you get your water from a private well, you’re unlikely to have a meter. Instead, you’ll have a main line located somewhere in your home where the pipe from the water well enters. Shut this water main to stop additional water from entering your plumbing and leaking into your living space.
Once you’ve confirmed that the leak has stopped, call a professional immediately to correct the plumbing problem before you turn the water main back into the on position.
Why Do Plumbing Leaks Need to Be Repaired Right Away?
Plumbing leaks require immediate attention because they can cause significant damage to your home. Whether the leak is slow or fast, water entering the space behind your walls or under your flooring can cause several serious problems.
One of the most common resulting issues is water damage. The construction material throughout your home is absorbent and deteriorates when exposed to water.
Wood expands when it gets wet and can rot over time, leaving you with the potential for structural damage. Drywall quickly gets waterlogged and can crumble or break more easily. Insulation loses its insulative properties when it gets wet, leaving your home more exposed to the elements.
Most homeowners understand that water and electricity don’t mix, but some don’t think about the possibility of a leaky pipe dripping onto or near wiring or an electrical outlet. If water from your leaky pipe meets any part of your electrical system, it can short your breaker and potentially cause damage to appliances and electronics.
More importantly, water and electricity mixing behind your walls can lead to fires, increasing the risk of property damage, total property loss, injury, and even death.
Additionally, plumbing leaks left unchecked will continuously leak water into your home. That means that your plumbing will be calling for water, even if you aren’t using an appliance or fixture.
Over time, a leaky pipe can cost you hundreds or even thousands of dollars in wasted water on your utility bills.
What Are The Different Types of Leaky Pipes?
There are a few different kinds of leaky pipes, each of which poses various risks to your home and your family.
Domestic Line Leak
Your domestic water lines are the plumbing pipes that bring water from your water source to your fixtures and appliances. These pipes are under constant pressure and will be supplied with an unlimited amount of water. As such, leaking domestic lines are among the most dangerous and tend to cause the most extensive damage.
These lines can burst if they freeze when your heat goes down in cold weather, but they more often break from constant exposure to water and water pressure. Pinhole leaks appear if corrosion weakens the copper pipes, making them too weak to contain water under pressure.
Waste Line Leak
Your waste lines are generally PVC pipes that run from the drains on your sinks and showers. Toilets have waste lines as well, but given how hazardous human waste can be, these lines are made of very durable iron or steel and very rarely leak, as they aren’t under pressure.
Most PVC pipes don’t leak either, so you’re most likely to find leaks at the pipe connections. Improper PVC joining or loose fittings can both lead to leaking waste lines from sinks, showers, and appliances.
Heating Line Leak
The final type of plumbing leak appears on your heating lines, which run through baseboards if your home uses them. These lines are closed off and have a finite amount of water in them, so the leaking from these won’t be continuous.
However, they can still cause significant property damage, especially if the leaks interact with electrical components in your home.
When Should You Hire A Professional To Fix a Plumbing Leak?
Some minor plumbing projects are easy enough for handy homeowners or DIYers to tackle. Generally, leaks in waste lines from sinks and faucets are the only ones recommended for a DIY solution.
These leaks can often be corrected by tightening the connections on your drain lines or replacing the rubber gaskets that help keep screw-on connections watertight.
For more information on fixing simple drain line leaks, check out the video below:
You may also be able to fix a leaking drain by replacing the paper and rubber gaskets or replacing the entire drain. Supply lines that bring water from the piping to toilets and sinks can easily be replaced without much experience. With the right tools, most homeowners can handle these types of leaks.
We strongly recommend you contact a plumber for leaks in your domestic and heating plumbing lines, as well as any leaks related to the drain line from your toilet. Domestic line leaks can be very severe and lead to significant property damage.
These lines are under pressure, so anyone without experience can easily make the issue worse or make plumbing repairs that lead to more severe leaking down the road.
Your heating system is very fragile, and any mistakes you make while trying to correct a leaking baseboard pipe or a pipe leading to or from your water heater can lead to your equipment running dry and potentially burning out. Having a plumber repair the leak could cost a few hundred dollars, and you may cause thousands of dollars in damage and lose hot water if you attempt it yourself and make a mistake.
Finally, leaks in the waste line leading away from your toilet can be very hazardous, as they can cause human waste to enter your living space. This is not only extremely unpleasant but also is a biohazard that puts you and your family at risk. Repairs on these lines should always be done by a professional to avoid contamination and future leaks.
How Much Does Fixing a Leaky Pipe Cost?
The total cost to fix a leaking pipe varies quite a bit depending on where the leak is located, how easy it is to access, and how severe it is. The national average cost to repair a plumbing leak is around $300.
A small leak caused by a clogged drain or damage to your PVC piping in your sink waste line or shower waste line will often be around $150, on average. These repairs generally include drain cleaning and may require the replacement of minor materials. If the clog is severe, your cost may increase up to about $300.
If your leak is located behind a wall or in the ceiling, part of the pipe repair process will be accessing the plumbing. The labor costs involved in this process will drive up your total.
An exposed pipe in your crawlspace or basement may cost just $150 to repair, while the average price to repair a pipe in the wall behind kitchen cabinets can be as high as $500.
Similarly, if your water main is leaking or a shut-off valve needs to be replaced on the main supply line in your home, you can expect your plumbing costs to reach up to about $700. This cost includes the time and effort involved in draining your plumbing of water entirely before the repair begins.
It’s important to note that the above pricing don’t include repairing your wall or other construction material that was damaged from the leak or during the repair.
Even professional plumbers don’t provide these services, so expect to hire another professional for these jobs.
What Should You Look For In A Leak Repair Specialist?
The number one thing to look for in a leak repair specialist is experience. Plumbers aren’t all equal, and it’s best to get a master plumber with many years of training and experience behind them.
This will help ensure you get a reliable repair that won’t need further service in just a few weeks. Additionally, experienced local plumbers will typically understand building codes in your area and can ensure your home is repaired accordingly.
We strongly recommend choosing a plumbing company that can provide a comprehensive estimate upfront. Every plumbing service has the potential to become more challenging than initially anticipated, but a reliable plumber will always do everything they can to foresee additional problems and build them into the estimate if needed. Simple plumbing jobs are often cheapest at a flat rate, while more complicated work may need to be done at an hourly rate.
It’s also best to choose a leak repair specialist who offers a satisfaction guarantee. Hiring a plumber means hiring someone to help protect your family and your greatest asset. A plumber who promises you’ll be satisfied is usually one you can trust.