How to Detect and Fix a Water Leak in a Wall

Many water leaks are easy to locate; there may be puddles of water or damp patches to investigate, and the problem may be fixed with a wrench. But, there are other leaks that occur in locations that cannot be observed, and they can cause a lot of damage. Water damage is expensive to fix, and it’s often accompanied by mold growth and rotting that can cause structural damage. In this article, we will show you ten ways to detect a hidden water leak and how to fix it.

1.  Read and Keep Utility Bills

Many people simply pay their utility bills without reading them, and this is a mistake. These bills are a visual record of water use, and this is a useful tool if you’re looking for hidden water leaks in your home. If the water consumption has risen rapidly, there is a good chance that there is a recently compromised water carrying pipe. If the water use rises slowly over time, this is probably an indication that one or more smaller water leaks are getting worse.

2.  Musty Odors

When water drips slowly from a leaky pipe in the wall, it can make the sheetrock and flooring constantly damp. This creates an odor that smells like wet cardboard, and this is very noticeable in the vicinity under and around the water leak. Drywall and other modern structural materials will soak up water and hold it like a sponge. So, this musty odor may be the only indication that there is a water leak hidden behind a wall.

3.  Spreading Wall Stains

The damp conditions created by a leaky pipe in a warm home are an ideal breeding ground for mold growth. In many cases, this mold growth occurs on the inside of the wall only, and it may not be visible on the outer wall for a long time. But, eventually, you may notice a stain that seems to grow and spread across the wall.

4.  Sheetrock Warping

Sheetrock will wick up moisture from slow water leaks, and this can go unnoticed for some time. But, under closer scrutiny, you may notice that the sheetrock is slowly warping out of shape. Eventually, the curves and bends in the wall will be hard to ignore, and these are sure fire indicators that there is a slow water leak in that area. If the wet walls curve or sage outwards, this usually indicates that the saturated drywall is buckling, and a collapse can occur.

5.  Stained Floors and Bucked Ceilings

The floors or ceilings in kitchens, bathrooms and laundry rooms are prone to structural problems if a hidden water leak is present. There could be constant damp problems in the walls that can damage the structural integrity. Areas of wet sheetrock can affect adjacent floors, ceilings, and wood framing that will be expensive to fix.

6.  Bubbling and Peeling Paint and Wall Coverings

If this phenomenon occurs in rooms that are not used much, they can be overlooked. But, if you notice paint bubbling or flaking off a wall, it’s a sure sign that something is wrong. Wallpaper may shift and separate at the seams, and in extreme cases, it may be wet to the touch. The underlying problem is wet sheetrock that is affecting the wall coverings because it will stay wet until it warps and collapses entirely.

7.  Strange Colors on Walls

A water leak can move. This may seem strange as many people believe that leaks are static, but this is not always the case. Water has a tendency to find its own way around and through any resistance that it encounters. So, it is possible to have wet spots that dry after the water leak has been directed to a different area. This results in discolored splotches that usually have a  lighter appearance than wallpaper and painted drywall in the immediate vicinity.

8.  Wet Floors

This is obvious on tiled floors and less easy to notice on carpets. A puddle of water near the wall may indicate the presence of a hidden water leak behind that wall. Lighter carpets that appear to be darker near a wall may be wet to the touch. If the wet flooring surface feels warm, the cause may be a hot water pipe leak.

9.  Wet Walls

If there is a clear wet spot on a wall, this is a sure sign that there is water damage. But, the source of the water leak may be in an entirely different location. Water can travel along surfaces and pipes a long distance from the wet spot on the wall. The only guarantee is that the water leak is almost always at a higher location because water drips down.

10.  Dripping Noises

When water drips down the inner surface of a wall, it may cause a dripping noise. This could sound like the noise that we tend to hear from a dripping faucet in the sink, shower, or tub when we lie in bed at night, and the home is quiet. This noise may be more noticeable after the toilet has been flushed if the leak is located behind a bathroom wall.

How to Fix the Problem

Your suspicions can be confirmed with a water meter, simply turn off all faucets and fixtures, take a reading, and don’t run any water for an hour. After an hour, take a second reading to determine the volume of water lost. The result is the volume of water that you are losing to hidden leaks every hour. A useful tool to detect wall leaks is a water damage moisture reader that analyzes the water content of materials.

Fixing a water leak behind the wall is a tricky proposition without well developed plumbing skills. A DIY ethos is admirable, but detecting a hidden water leak is very difficult without experience and specialized tools. Mitigating the effects of water damage is possible if early action is taken, and this is a good case for the hiring of a professional plumber.

If you suspect that you have hidden water leaks in your home, contact your local professional plumber today.