Do it yourself: how to detect a water leak

  • 31 July 2018 | Tumelo Buthelezi

Most water leaks go on for a long time undetected and result in frustratedly high water accounts people often blame on inaccurate billing.

If you’ve been receiving bills reflecting significantly higher water consumption than what you’re actually using at the premises, see our tips below and reduce the burden on your pocket by educating yourself on how to detect leaks.

Inspect the house when it’s quiet

You might not hear the dripping from a damaged pipe, but the sight of a ridiculously high water bill will definitely get your attention. A sudden increase in your bill should be taken as a sign that something may be wrong with your home’s water-distribution system.

There could be a faulty tap or compromised pipes connected to the geyser, shower heads, toilet or other outlet. It may be possible to detect the source of the leak by quietly walking around the the house and listening for dripping. Increase your chances of hearing running water by turning off any appliances making a noise.

Check the water meter

One of the best ways to detect a hard-to-find leak is by using your water meter. Start off by turning off all water-using appliances in your home and making sure that no one on the property is using water.

Then, go and have a look at the meter. If the dial is still moving or the digits rotating after water use has been suspended, it could mean that you have a hidden leak.

If the needle doesn't move immediately, wait for 30 minutes or more before taking another meter reading just to be sure that you are not dealing with a slow underground leak that needs to be repaired.

If you have portions of your property that look wet and there’s a puddle that never seems to dry up, you should take that as an invitation to inspect the municipal water meter reading. Again, don’t run any water, and check your meter at intervals. If it shows continued use, you may have an underground leak.

Check taps and toilets

Taps and toilets can waste thousands of litres in complete silence. Put a stop to these water-account killers by taking advantage of the fact that they are often easy and inexpensive to repair.

To find out if there is a problem with your toilet, simply remove the top off the tank, listen carefully for any hissing sound and try to establish where it’s coming from. Another option is to add a few drops of food colouring to the tank. Wait a few minutes to see if the dye-colored water in the tank has been carried into the bowl without being flushed. If the water in the bowl has changed colour then take it as an indication that you definitely have a leak somewhere between the tank and the bowl.

Stop leaking taps before they become a burden by checking and fixing rubber washers if they have worn out. Washers can easily be replaced if you know how to remove the tap handle.

Take note of water stains on the ceiling

Sometimes a leak can be seen before it is heard. A spreading brownish stain on an inside wall or the ceiling could be evidence of water intruding through a damaged section on the roof or broken water supply in the ceiling. This could be a sign that water from an impaired pipe has begun to cause wood rot or even mold.

Check the pipes above the ceiling stain to find the source of your problem. If you can't identify the leak in that spot, chances are the water is running along the piping before dropping onto your ceiling and hiding the true origin of the problem.

Use these simple tips to locate any water leaks before you end up with a flooded house or backyard. Identifying and addressing a potential disaster in time can save you a lot of money, time and stress.