Leaking Water Pipes

woman cleaning Cleaning up dangerous fungus from a wet wall after water pipe leakmold near an exposed pipe

A leaking pipe in your wall could spell disaster for your home.

You have all sorts of pipes running through walls, ranging from water pipes, sewer pipes, and even gas connections.

In this article, we’ll talk about how to find out where those leaks are coming from, repair options, and the cost to repair the damage.

How to find a leaking water pipe in your wall

Use these methods to track down where a water leak may be coming from:

  • Mold or mildew on walls – Mold looks like a cluster of black or brown dots on your wall. Sometimes mold grows on the inside, hiding from you until it bleeds through. Water saturation on your walls is the perfect condition for mold growth.

  • Sponginess – Touch your walls and feel if your drywall is soft or moldable. That be a sign water is leaking into your wall.

  • Dripping sounds – Of course, if a pipe is leaking, you may be able to hear faint drops of water dripping inside your walls.

  • Discoloration – Look for areas that look washed out or have a lighter color than usual.

  • Peeling paint or wallpaper – Check to see if your drywall is falling apart or is soaked with water.
  • Wet areas or puddles – If your appliances aren’t leaking, the water could be coming from behind your walls.
  • Musty smells – A water leak may smell “earthy” like an old basement.

*If you notice a strange spike in your water bill but can’t seem to find any of the signs above, it may be a little more challenging to find the leak. Here are more secure ways of detecting the location and source of a leak.

  • Check your water meter – Your home has a water meter that tracks the flow rate (how many gallons per minute are flowing through the meter) and how many gallons your family uses. Record the numbers you see, waiting at least 3 hours without using any water. Compare the numbers at the end, and if it has moved, you have a leak in your plumbing.
  • Use a moisture meter – Plumbers usually carry one of these with them, but you can rent or buy one from a hardware store. Point the device at your walls until you find the spot that gives the highest reading. That’s the point closest to the leak.
  • An infrared camera – An infrared camera cannot “see” moisture or water in your walls, but it detects coldness. When a water pipe is leaking, the camera will pick up the drop in temperature. Hot water pipes pop up as a heat source.
Thermal infrared camera
Worried woman mopping up water from a burst pipe with sponge
  • Cutting into drywall – The last resort. If there are visibly damaged areas on a wall or ceiling, cutting could be used to take a look around and see if you can find it. Keep in mind that signs of water damage don’t always mean that the leak is coming from that exact area. It could be just where the water has poured down to. Call the professionals before you take this drastic step.

How to find a leaking sewer pipe in your wall

rat in drain pipe

Leaking sewer pipes can be found using the same methods above, except your sewer lines aren’t connected to your water meter, so that won’t help you. There are a few critical differences between a leaking sewer pipe and a leaking water pipe.

Sewer odor:
If you can smell sewage in your walls or home, that’s a sign a sewer pipe is leaking, exposing your home to disgusting fumes. If you find the wall where the smell is almost unbearable, that might be where the line is leaking.
Mold growth from humidity:
Just like a leaking water pipe, mold growth is a clear sign of moisture behind your walls. In this case, with a leaking sewer pipe, the increased humidity from the leak causes mold to grow just at the right temperatures.
Infestation:
Rodents and insects love to crawl and creep inside your sewer pipes when there is an opening. If you see signs of rats or other pests, think before you call the exterminator. The problem might be a nest somewhere, but it could be they are coming from your sewer lines. If that’s the case, call sewer line professionals.
Vapor test:
A vapor test can be performed where a non-toxic vapor is pumped through your sewer system from the vent openings on your roof. If there is a crack in the sewer pipes behind the wall, the vapor will fill the empty space behind the drywall and will make its way out of electrical outlets or other openings. Since a sewer system should be air-tight, any visible vapor inside your home would indicate a crack.

How to find a leaking gas pipe in your wall

Gas lines usually run to an appliance, furnace, or fireplace. A leaking gas pipe is very dangerous to your health and safety. Look for these distinct signs.

You should also know where your gas shut-off valves are and how to operate them in case of an emergency.
gas shut off valve
The valve could be located near your gas meter, before your first gas appliance, close to your furnace, or water heater.
Sulfur Odor:
Natural gas is mixed with a very strong-smelling sulfur compound, like rotten eggs. That is a vital sign that there is a leak nearby.
Sounds:
Propane gas is odorless and difficult to detect if it leaks. Listen for “hissing” sounds behind your walls. Call a professional if you cannot find the source. Gas leaks are severe and need to be handled as soon as possible.

Causes of leaking pipes in walls

Pipes may break for all sorts of reasons, including but not limited to:

  • Backups – If you are flushing more than just human waste or toilet paper, your pipes begin to clog up. They are possibly building up near a joint, ruining the seal and allowing water to leak.

  • Rust – When exposed to water and oxygen, cast iron pipes can rust or deteriorate over time without proper cleaning.

  • Corrosion – Copper pipes are supposed to be “corrosion-resistant,” but that does not mean they are “corrosion-proof.” Copper pipes are susceptible to formicary corrosion, appearing as a black patch where the metal has weakened. This leads to pinhole leaks, and those are difficult to detect at first but will be a significant problem later.

  • Freeze – Water and sewer lines can be exposed to extreme temperatures. Pipes could freeze and burst, leaving you with a huge mess to clean up.

How to repair a leaking pipe

There are two solutions when it comes to fixing a leaking pipe: minor repairs and total replacement.

  • Minor repairs – These can involve cutting into your drywall, finding the source of the leak, and then replacing the damaged sections. Or the plumber might put a simple patch over the leak and call it a day, but only if the leak is isolated.

  • Total replacement – Plumbers might decide that your entire system needs to be replaced, especially if your pipes are old or have the possibility for future leaks.

Plumber tightening a pipe

We break down the cost of potential repairs below. If leakage has been going on for a long time, and there is so much water damage, you may need to call restoration experts as well.

They can help extract water from your home, dry your walls, clean any affected personal items, and help with any insurance claims. They may be able to stop the leak, but plumbers are the ones who can help install new plumbing systems.

Cost to repair a leaking pipe in your wall

Based on what sort of pipes need repair, the prices are broken down below.

  • Water pipes – Leaking water pipes cost an average of $150 to $350 to repair. Finding the leak may cost an additional $100. This does not include repairing your drywall after it’s fixed. Drywall repair costs an additional $250 to $750, depending on the hole’s size and location. If a pipe froze and burst, you might be looking at paying $1,000 to $4,000 in water damage and cleanup. Total replacement for water pipes could run anywhere from $350 to $2,000, and that doesn’t include the plumber’s hourly fee.
  • Sewer pipes – If you have a leak in your sewer line, most plumbers won’t recommend small repairs. They tend to be rush jobs and don’t solve the real problem. In that case, plumbers suggest trenchless sewer repair or conventional sewer repair. Trenchless sewer repair, on average, runs $60 to $250 per linear foot. The price depends on various factors, such as the pipe condition, ease of navigation, the amount of cleaning needed before the lining, the amount of piping, and the accessibility of the pipe. Conventional sewer repair, on average, costs $50 to $450 per linear foot. The price to install brand new pipes throughout your home or yard could run to $15,000 because of all the extensive work, such as trenching and excavation.
  • Gas pipes – Gas line repair can cost $250 to $750. To run a new gas line, it’ll cost an average of $535. However, it can range anywhere from $120 to $1,350. Most homeowners spend between $259 and $815.

If you have issues with your water and sewer lines, call New Flow Plumbing today! We’ll get you started with a CCTV sewer camera inspection to determine where your problems come from. Then, we give you a free repair estimate, followed by available repair options. Whatever the issue, New Flow Plumbing will have your plumbing lines running again.

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