Part 1 : Knowing When You're Leaking a Wall
1- Look for standing water puddles near the wall. This is the simplest way to tell you that you have a water leak in your walls. You can be certain that the water is flowing through the wall if you see a clearly soaked carpet or find that the floor is always damp in a certain region of your house.
- You're most likely to see wet flooring near the main appliances that use water (washing machine, dishwasher) or in the bathroom near the sink, toilet, or shower.
2- Look for a curtain of discoloration. If water leaks into the wall, some discoloration will eventually occur on the outer surface of the wall. Look for sections where the wall surface — whether wallpapered, drywall, or even wood — is slightly washed out or has a lighter color than the surrounding area.
- The type of discoloration is likely to be abnormal.
3- Inspect the walls for texture improvement. A bubble-like structure is likely to develop walls that have water leaks behind them. Paint or wallpaper twists and buckles, forming rips or bubble-like shapes as water distorts their usual texture.
- Water-logged drywall appears to be saging down. Small bubbles or drooping parts may also indicate the presence of water in the drywall.
- Walls with advanced leaks may also appear to be curving outwards. Drywall will eventually buckle under the weight of the water that saturates it.
4- Note any signs of moisture or mildew. If a leak in the wall has been going on for some time, the mold may grow in and out of your wall. In its early stages, the mold appears to be a dense cluster of black or brown dots. Even if you don't see the mold, it may still grow inside the walls that have been saturated with water by the leak.
- Mold can cause allergies and other potentially serious health problems. If you see the mold growing on the wall, remove the mold and repair the leak in the wall.
5- Pay attention to smells of musty. For situations where a leak behind a wall is not visible, you may be able to detect a leak by using your sense of smell. Since the water that passes through the walls has never had a chance to dry out, the walls can begin to give off a damp, musty smell.
- Musty-smelling walls are often accompanied by other signs of leakage (e.g. discoloration). However, this will not always be the case; sometimes the smell is the only sign of a deep leak in the wall.
- Thick drywall can effectively absorb water (almost like a sponge) and prevent any visual signs of leakage from occurring.
6- Listen to the dripping sounds. Even if the water leak does not cause visible damage, you may still be able to detect the leak. Pay attention for the first few seconds after you turn off the shower, flush the toilet, or turn off the sink. If you hear a slight dripping sound coming from a wall nearby, it could be triggered by a leaking pipe.
- Newer pipes made of plastic PVC pipe will amplify the sound of dripping, making it easier to hear. If you have an older house with iron pipes, you're going to have a harder time hearing a leak.
7- Keep an eye on your bill for air. If there is a large amount of water flowing into your walls, the amount you pay on your monthly water bill would increase. For example, the EPA suggests that a family of 4 typically uses no more than 12,000 gallons (45,000 liters) of water in cold months. If you use a lot more water and can't figure out why, it could be because of a leak.
- Of course, this isn't going to tell you where the leak is, but at least it can tell you whether or not you have a wall leak.
8- Confirm whether the leak is due to defective plumbing. Turn off all the faucets and water-using appliances in your home, and write down the water meter number. Wait a couple of hours. Check the water meter again: if the amount of water used has changed, you'll know the leak is coming from the indoor plumbing.
- If the reading of the water meter doesn't shift over the course of 3 hours, the leak doesn't come from your plumbing. It may come from a leak in your roof or walls, or through the basement walls.
9- Check to see clogged eaves and downspouts. If your water leak doesn't come from pipes, the eaves or downspouts may be clogged. Excessive rainwater (or snowmelt) with no downstream flow will eventually see through your roof and walls, resulting in leakage. If you notice that eaves or downspouts are blocked, remove the clogging material (pine needles, leaves, etc.) and restore the flow of water.
- Even if you don't find water leaks in your walls, test your eaves and downspouts every year to make sure they're not clogged.
10- Search for leaks in the walls of the base. Due to the right conditions, you can see water in your house through the foundation walls. Such leaks are often caused by faulty plumbing. The foundation walls break and leak when the water is saturated in the walls and gradually starts to drain inside the basement. Leaks in the foundation walls are usually fixed in one of two ways:
- Externally, by digging a trench around the foundation and sealing the entire underground part of the foundation with a sealant and a protective barrier.
- Internally, removing any damaged studs and drywall and patching the crack with epoxy.
Part 2 : Pinpointing the location of the leak
1- Test for moisture inside walls with a humidity meter. A moisture meter is a piece of equipment that, when placed directly against the wall, analyzes the moisture content of the wall. If you know that you have a leak within a wall but are not aware of the exact location, place the moisture meter at 5 or 6 different spots on the wall. The location that gives the highest moisture reading is closest to the leak.
- You may buy or lease a humidity meter in a big hardware store or home improvement shop. Such devices are often used by professional home inspectors to detect leaks or damp walls.
2- Find the cold, leaking part of the wall with an infrared camera. Infrared cameras can detect heat and indicate the temperature of the wall. A leaky, damp wall is going to have a lower temperature than the surrounding wall. Train an infrared camera on a leaking wall, and see which part of the wall is the coldest. This is going to be the part of the wall nearest to the leak.
- When using an infrared camera, hot objects are colored red or orange, while cool objects are colored blue or purple.
- You may be able to rent an infrared camera from a professional contractor, a home improvement company, or a photography store.
3- Cut into the drywall to locate the source of the leak. Use a utility knife to score a line about 10 inches (25 cm) long in your drywall at a spot where you can see visible signs of water leakage (mold, discolored drywall, etc.). Instead, using a drywall saw, cut the line you just scored. Slice a hole in the wall large enough to fit your head inside. Stick your head to the wall and look around until you see the source of your leak. Expand the hole so that, if needed, you can also insert a flashlight to see better inside the wall.
- Often, a wall patch that shows signs of leakage is not directly in front of a leaky pipe or fixture. Water could drip along the outside of the pipes in your walls and run a lot of feet down the inside of your walls before the signs of a leak are apparent.
- You can buy both a utility knife and a drywall saw from your local hardware store.
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