Plumbing Detective: Solving the Mystery of Persistent Leaks Once

Plumbing Detective

Persistent Leakage

Water leaks in homes and commercial buildings can be more than just an annoyance. If left unattended, they can weaken the structure of buildings and create significant financial burdens in terms of property damage and higher utility bills. They can also lead to unhealthy mold growth, which exacerbates allergies and asthma.

Most leaks are easy to detect, with telltale clues, including dripping or moist areas; paint that has peeled, bubbled, or cracked, a musty or mildew odor, and efflorescence (a whitish powdery residue caused by leaching salt). These signs are readily apparent and should not be ignored. However, other types of leaks are not as obvious. Slow leaks, especially those that occur in wall cavities or behind drywall, do not draw attention. Yet, they may cause serious problems by resulting in dry rot, fungus, and structural damage.

In some cases, a slow leak can cause mold, which in turn may lead to further problems such as a weakened building structure or health concerns. In addition, damp walls can lead to a host of other issues such as increased humidity levels and a breeding ground for pests like silverfish, cockroaches, and termites.

The Plumbing Team can do maintaining and repairing of pipes for the numerous apartments, academic buildings, and research labs. When the team receives a call to respond to a wet area, they must act quickly and like detectives to find the source of the leak and make necessary repairs. This is especially challenging when a leak persists after repair work has been completed.

Here are some of the strategies that help them crack the case.

Visual Inspection

Visual inspection is one of the most basic and oldest methods of nondestructive testing. It is the process of assessing physical assets with an individual’s eyes, and often times, other senses like hearing can be used. In general, any inspection that uses the naked eye or other senses falls under this umbrella term, and is performed by an experienced professional to identify any anomalies.

This method is often used to identify damage, but it can also be done to check for other defects like corrosion, erosion or leaking joints. Optical aids like mirrors, illuminators, magnifiers or borescopes can be used to enhance the inspection process. Cameras can be used to record the results of a visual inspection for further analysis or documentation.

This is a nondestructive inspection technique that is very useful in predictive maintenance, and it has many benefits over more advanced inspection techniques. It is relatively easy to implement, requires no equipment and is cost effective. It is a good choice for most situations, but there are some limitations and issues that must be considered. Having a well-defined inspection strategy and reviewing it regularly is key to the success of this nondestructive inspection technique. It is important to understand that a large portion of a visual inspection is subjective, and it can be difficult to standardize it into an easily recognizable checklist.

Water Meter

The water meter is an important part of your home’s plumbing system, and it works like a car odometer to track your water usage. It also provides a good indicator of leaks within your house or yard. Before you check your meter, make sure that everything is turned off and no one is using water in your house (including showers, toilets, washing machines, ice makers).

Look at the face of your meter to find the high-flow hand and low-flow hand (if your meter has them). If either is moving, there is a leak somewhere in your plumbing. To confirm this, shut off all of your water faucets and water-using appliances, including outside hoses and sprinklers, and then look at the meter again. If the hand still appears to be moving, there is a leak between your meter and the shut-off valve in your home or yard.

On modern digital meters, the odometer wheel and sweep hand may not move. However, if the meter has a “LEAK INDICATOR” on it (usually a small dial), this will move with even the smallest amount of water flow. Record the position of this dial or use a piece of tape to mark its location and then wait about 30 minutes, making sure that no water is being used in your home (including flushing toilets). Finally, reread the meter, and if the number count has gone up, you have a leak.

For older analog meters, the long pointer on the dials moves every time a cubic foot of water passes through the meter. Each complete revolution of the pointer equals one gallon of water use. To read your meter, start with the top right-hand number and work your way down. Write down each digit, as each is a different measurement in cubic feet.

Monitor Water Bills

Using water has become moderately expensive but the wasting of it is even more costly. Leaks not only create the extra cost through water and energy consumption but also increase wear and tear on pipes and heating, ventilation, and air conditioning equipment. A trained qualified plumbing, heating, and cooling tech will use tools like digital manometers to read resistance to a measure ohm and the newest CO2 combustion analyzer to be able to detect leaks and identify them.

Dye Test

A dye test is an important tool to ensure that sewage, or black water, does not leak from your home into the storm drain. This contaminates creeks, ponds, lakes, and rivers which may carry the bacteria and chemicals to other areas and potentially cause disease in people and wildlife. A dye test also helps you determine if your house is connected to the sewer system, which allows for more accurate repairs if there are problems with the connection.

For homeowners, a dye test can help you find the source of a leaking septic tank or a household appliance drain such as a garbage disposal. Our staff will either add dye directly to the septic tank with a garden hose or flush it down an easily accessible drain inside the home. For verification of a sink, toilet, or appliance that requires access to the interior plumbing, our staff will put the dye directly into the drain and then run water for about 10 to 15 minutes.

The plumber will then check each sanitary and storm drain outlet at the location where they suspect unwanted leakage to see if the dye is absorbed. If the dye is absorbed, it indicates that the pipe has a problem and needs to be repaired or replaced. If the dye is not absorbed, it means that the pipe is intact and no repair is needed. If the dye is visible on the surface of the ground, it indicates that septic effluent is escaping from the septic system and entering the ground. This type of occurrence is not only unsanitary, but it can be a sign that the septic system is failing and a pump out and inspection would be recommended.