Finding Plumbing leaks can be very simple and very difficult, even with my many years of experience I still come across water leaks that take me hours to find then even longer to fix. Water will travel long distances from the place where it leaks out of the pipe, so you have to work back wards from where you see the leak to the place the water is leaking out of the pipe. I don’t like to open walls or ceilings unless there is a good probability I will find the leak there.
One day I had a call, water leaking from the ceiling in the basement, I arrive on the job, the home owner shows me where the water was leaking (it had stopped before I got there, this usually indicates something other than a pressure line leak) Before opening the ceiling I went upstairs to see what was above the leak, it was her son’s bedroom, there was no bathroom or kitchen laundry or other possible leak sources there, all the plumbing was on the other side of the home and I could see that the main water supply was by the bathroom, the home had warm air heat so there were no heat pipes to trace, there was no outside hose bib on that side of the home, as far as I could see there could not be any pipes in the ceiling at the point of the leak but yet the ceiling was wet.
So I thought I had no choice but to open the ceiling, once opened I found nothing, no pipes, nothing at all that could have caused this leak, at this point I decided to take measurements to find the exact location in her son’s room above the point of the wet spot, it turned out to be in the son’s closet I looked inside the closet and found busted water balloons, her son was saving them for the next water balloon fight and forgot about them and they just broke. This poor woman now had a hole in her ceiling and had to pay me for putting it there and all for broken water balloons, I was glad I was not there when her son got home from school that day.
Some tips and tricks for finding a leak, always look up just because you see water dripping from the bottom of a pipe fitting, does not mean that fitting is leaking, take some toilet tissue and hold it on the pipe above the fitting, if the paper gets wet, the leak is coming from above this spot, go up as far as you can with the paper, if it is still getting wet, the leak is coming from another floor or from in between the floor and ceiling. Epoxy and any other patch product will not work and will make it more difficult to make the repair later.
It is impossible to solder a pipe with water in the pipe, always find a way to drain the water out of the pipe, opening all faucets and sucking the water out of the pipe with a wet dry vacuum will help.
Toilet Leaks, many things can leak on a toilet, when someone says my toilet leaks, I need to check a number of things, is it leaking from the tank into the bowl? This can be caused by a bad flapper a bad fill valve, a cracked over flow tube or an improperly installed fill valve.
There is water on the floor at the base of the toilet. This can be a bad wax seal (you can have a bad wax seal and not see any sign of a leak) this can be a leak from between the toilet tank and the toilet bowl, this can be a leak from the water supply line to the toilet fill valve. It can becoming from the washer at the bottom of the toilet fill valve. (Drop in bleach tablets causes the rubber washers and flappers to warp). A leak in the overflow supply tube may be spraying water towards the top of the tank and the water is just running down the back of the tank, this can also run out from the flush handle.
If you have a leak in your ceiling just below a toilet, but you do not see any water on the floor around the toilet, the most likely cause is a bad wax seal, this can be fixed by simply resetting the toilet (take the toilet up remove all the old wax from the flange and bottom of toilet install new wax seal and replace toilet).
As I said this is the most likely but not the only possibility, this may not be a toilet leak at all, water will travel before its hows up, and the spot just below the toilet may be coming from the shower pan or the shower faucet or the bathroom vanity and just running to that spot. To find a leak like this you need to be systematic testing each fixture one at a time and keeping in mind it may take several minutes for a leak to show up after you have tested the fixture, opening the ceiling may be the best place to start because it will allow you to eliminate the toilet and the toilet drain pipe as a possible cause, also this will allow you to remove any wet insulation, that just hold water and drips for hours, this also allows you to see what direction the water is coming from.
If you have two bathrooms one on top of the other and have a leak in the ceiling below the lower bathroom, the water could be coming from the top bathroom without there being any signs whatsoever in the first floor bathroom, this can be real fun in apartment buildings with many floors.
Toilet leak from wax seal, this is a hidden problem that causes a big problem if not found, as I mentioned in the above paragraph a wax seal can be bad without there being any sign of a leak whatsoever. The problem with this is you are breathing sewer gases and the wood under the tile may be absorbing the water and the water is rotting the wood, I have (many times) tried to pull a toilet up and the floor below my feet caves in, the only thing keeping the toilet from falling through the floor is the floor joists and the drain pipe. The only reason the home owner never notices the floor is soft is they never place their feet between the tub and the toilet or the toilet and the vanity, in most homes this is a small area. Once the toilet is removed and the tile and rotted wood, you can see the extent of the water damage, I have seen floor joists almost rotted all the way through, and not a spot on the Sheetrock below. To check if you floor is soft around your toilet press down on the floor on either side of your toilet with one foot to see if the floor is soft, if it is call a us, if the tiles on the sides of the toilet are coming loose,this may also be a sigh of rotting wood. The floor may also be rotting because of water getting on the floor from showering and bathing, after showering check to see if you are getting water on the floor if it is wet and not puddling, the water is seeping into the floor, caulk or re-grout.
Showers and tub leaks can be difficult to trouble shoot because it can be many things. Have you ever had a leak that only leaks when one specific person takes a shower but never leaks when everyone else uses the same shower? This happen because something that person does causes water to splash on to an area of the tub walls or shower doors that no one else does. This is usually a grout or caulking problem, but can be other.
Shower pans, a leak from a shower pan is bad news and a very big job to fix, but you need to be very sure it is the pan before you go through the expense and mess of replacing a shower pan. If you think you have a shower pan leak, stop using the shower till it all dries up. Open the ceiling below the shower so that the trap and drain fitting are exposed, remove the strainer from the shower drain and plug the drain. DO NOT USE THE SHOWER FAUCET. Get a few buckets of water, being very careful not to pour the water on the walls or spill on the floor outside of the shower, fill the shower floor with about 1-1/2″ of water, then wait 24 hours. Check the drain pipe and the fitting above it for water leaks. If water comes from the plywood by the drain fitting but not from the drain fitting, your pan is leaking, if water comes from any other area around the shower, your pan is leaking. If no water leaks, the leak may be coming from poor grout in the walls or from the shower faucet but the pan is ok.
Tubs, A wet spot just below the bathtub can be coming from a number of places. The trap, the tub waste shoe, the tub waste pipes, the overflow washer (even if you only take showers in the tub), caulking or grout,the faucet cover plates, from behind the tub spout, the shower valve behind the wall and the pipe to and at the shower head. You will have to find a leak first then fix it by replacing or repairing it.
More than one thing leaking, it’s possible that you may have more than one thing causing a leak.
If you have any questions just give us a call or schedule to meat for a free estimate.
Schedule an estimate