4 Reasons Why Your Pipes Could Be Leaking (and What to Do About It)
Smark Leak Sensor Kit, Hedge App, Home Maintenance, Home Tips
Published: October 21, 2020
"Drip... drip... drip..."
Nobody likes leaking pipes. At best, they waste water. At worst, they have the potential to result in serious home damage that could cost thousands of dollars in repairs.
The key to finding a long-term fix for leaking pipes involves understanding the source of the issue. That being said, we've compiled four common causes of household water leaks.
So take a few minutes to brush up on your home plumbing knowledge. Doing so might help you take the necessary steps to stop a future leak in its watery tracks — before it becomes a major issue.
Pipe corrosion is a common cause of leaks, with the J-trap — or U-shaped pipe under a sink — at greatest risk of deterioration. Unfortunately, there are a variety of factors that can work alone or in tandem to cause corrosion, including the below:
The pipe material: Some older homes have pipes made of materials that make them more susceptible to rust and corrosion, like copper or galvanized steel. PVC is the most stable pipe material option, but even it can deteriorate if exposed to harsh chemicals.
Chemical drain cleaners: The harsh, acidic chemicals in drain cleaners can also wreak havoc on pipes.
Hard water and/or very hot water: Hard, mineral-rich water is harder on pipes than soft water. Very hot water can also exacerbate corrosion.
An aging home: Corrosion could simply be a factor of your home's age; as the years go by, its pipes might naturally deteriorate due to everyday wear and tear.
In addition to pipe leaks, you might experience other warning signs of corrosion, such as pipe discoloration, pipe clogging, a strange taste or smell in the water flowing through the pipes, and/or water marks on your drywall.
Corroded, leaking pipes should be dealt with quickly — not only because they can lead to costly repairs, but also because they can cause health issues to those who drink the water.
High Water Pressure
Water pressure that's too high doesn't just inflate your water bill; similar to corrosion, it can strain your pipes, eventually causing leaks.
There are multiple factors that influence the water pressure in your home, including its elevation and the number of homes connected to the same water main. Most pipes can only handle up to a specific threshold — around 80 psi (pounds per square inch) — and any higher could cause pipe damage.
To test if your water pressure is too high, you can buy an inexpensive water pressure gauge at your local hardware or home improvement store. These are easy to install — just hook up the gauge to an outside water spigot and turn on the water to get an instant reading.
Rapid Temperature Change
Extreme shifts in temperature can cause your pipes to expand and contract as the water running through them freezes and thaws. This quick expansion and contraction can strain pipes until they crack and leak — or even burst.
Homes that experience shifts in temperature from mild to freezing are especially susceptible to this phenomenon. To protect your pipes from freezing and bursting, make sure to shut off the water lines leading to outside faucets prior to the first cold snap. You can also add extra insulation to pipes in colder, unfinished areas of the house. Another tip — make sure to keep your home temperature at a minimum of 55 degrees.
Your house shifts and settles over time, and that movement — no matter how imperceptible — can affect your home's infrastructure, including its plumbing system.
The connections between your pipes are often the weakest spot in the pipeline — the point most susceptible to foundational shifts. When your home moves, these pipe connections might become damaged, causing separations or ruptures that lead to leaks.
Your Pipes are Leaking... Now What?
Maybe you noticed that dreaded "drip... drip..." yourself. Or maybe — if you're already a Hedge user — your Leak Sensor detected water accumulation or a shift in humidity or temperature outside your specific range and alerted you via your Hedge App. Either way, you need to act — and fast.
If the leak is just a drip, a bucket might suffice until you can fix the problem. However, if the leak is more of a "flow" and has potential to cause serious damage, shut off the water appliance that's leaking; if that's not possible, locate and shut off your main water valve. And if water is flowing near electrical outlets, turn off the electricity to keep yourself safe.
Then, call a professional. Regardless of why your pipes are leaking, they might need expert attention to fix long-term. Plumbing issues don't fix themselves — they only get worse with time. Handling them earlier rather than later can save time and disruption to your everyday life.
Leaking pipes can certainly be troublesome — but they don't have to be catastrophic. If you understand a few common causes of leaky pipes and know what to do when you come across one, you'll be able to act quickly to protect your home and everything in it — now, and in the long run.