Household Leaks
lab equipment
Leaks can happen at any time, although there are certain causes that are more likely than others. Properly caring for your pipes is the best way to prevent leaks, however if you do get one there are a number of steps you can take to both find it and fix it quickly. Click on the links below to learn more.
The easiest way to determine if you have a leak is to shut off all water-using appliances, faucets and outside watering tools (do not shut off the main water line to your home), and then check to see if the flow indicator on your water meter has completely stopped moving. If you’re sure no water is being used inside or outside the home, and the indicator continues to move, you've probably got a leak somewhere. In rare instances your water meter may be faulty, but it’s unlikely.

At that point, you will need to determine where the leak is coming from.

To test whether a toilet has a leak, you can purchase toilet tank leak detector tablets, but it's simpler just to place a few drops of food coloring in the holding tank. Wait 5 minutes (don’t flush the toilet), and if any coloring appears in the toilet bowl, you've got a leak.

Check all of your faucets to see if they are dripping – be sure to check under the sink as well!

If it’s not your faucet or toilet, the next most likely culprit is your irrigation system. Look at your lawn. If you find wet spots or pools of water around your spray heads, you've probably found your irrigation system leak. Also, brown spots and boggy spots can help pinpoint problems. If you have a layout of your irrigation system, start by tracking the lines to recognize trouble spots.
There are three basic parts to a water meter:
  1. The dial, which rotates when water passes through the meter as it records either cubic feet or gallons of water used. With meters that read in cubic feet, one full rotation of the dial equals 1 cubic foot of water or 7.48 gallons. For those meters that read by the gallon, it works the same but is measuring in gallons.
  2. The odometer, which records the total amount of water usage. The digit from the furthest right number represents the smallest number of units (cubic feet or gallons). The second digit to the right is 10 cubic feet (or 10 gallons), and the third to the right represents the 100s of cubic feet or gallons, and so on.
  3. The flow indicator, or little triangle. If you’re sure no water is being used inside or outside the home, and the indicator continues to move, you've probably got a leak somewhere.
Toilets You will need to purchase a kit, normally less than $20, to fix a leaky toilet. First, check the toilet’s tank mechanism to figure out which kit you will need from the hardware store. You will want to know the brand or take a photo of the internal workings to match up the right kit to your toilet’s style. These simple kits typically contain all the working parts normally required to fix a leaky toilet. Once you have the kit in hand, turn the shutoff valve near the base of the toilet to the “off” position and flush the toilet a couple of times to empty the tank and bowl. Then follow the kit instructions, replacing all the parts included in the kit.

Faucets Leaky faucets or water dripping under your sink can be more costly than one might think. Ignore the problem, and it can become extremely costly. The good news: it’s normally an easy fix.
  • Turn the shutoff valve under the sink area to the “off” position before using any tools.
  • Next, remove the decorative parts off handle knobs (a screwdriver should do the trick).
  • Underneath each knob there should be screws holding the handle to the stem; remove these, and then remove the stem — the latter should pop right off, but some of them twist off.
  • Check all of the removed parts for damage.
  • Inspect the O-ring and washers inside the valve seat; remove and replace any that are worn or damaged.
  • When replacing plumbing parts, be sure to get exactly the correct sized replacement or it won't work. (Hint: take the worn-out part with you to the hardware store.)
  • Put the faucet back together and turn the water back on.
If you still have a leak, turn the water valve off again until it can be fixed. You may well have damage caused by corrosion, loose parts or broken fixtures. In any case, it's time to consult a licensed plumber.
Knowing how and where to shut off your home’s main water supply is very important. Whether there’s a water emergency, a leak in your home, or you just want to solve a simple plumbing problem, you may need to completely turn off your home’s water supply.

Find the spot where water enters the home, and you will find the shutoff valve nearby. Turn the valve clockwise (to the right). Keep in mind that even though you've now shut the main-line supply, there's still water in the water pipes within your home, so it's important to drain all the faucets until the water stops running. Be sure to instruct all capable members of the household about water shutoff procedures.