How to find a water leak - water detection - woman looking at water leak causing water damage in kitchen sink plumbing

How To Find A Water Leak In Your Home

A water leak can occur most anywhere in your home, making how to find a water leak via water detection an important skill set.

Most water lines are metered by your municipality for billing reasons. They need to track how much water you’ve used so they know how much to bill you. If your water line has a leak, your monthly water bill will be higher than expected.

They also need to track the amount of water used for environmental sustainability reasons; to make sure the city has the resources to fulfill its residents’ water supply needs. If they notice a spike in your usage, they might notify you. In Milford, Ohio, where we live, the city has called us one or twice to alert us to unusual water activity or a potential water leak issue.

So it’s important for homeowners to be vigilant in reviewing their bills. If your bill seems too high but you’ve had no unusual water needs (like filling your pool once a year), then it’s probably time to look for some do-it-yourself water leak detection.

How to Find a Water Leak in Hot Water Tanks

The valves for these tanks — usually connected to a floor drain — may be leaking without your knowledge. If the drain pipe cannot be removed, try listening for a hissing sound that indicates a leak. If the discharge pipe is leaking at the bottom, this could also indicate a bad valve.

how to find a water leak - water leak detection - water heater drain pipe
The water tank (or water heater) drain pipe is also called a discharge pipe. The valve is located at the top of the pipe. The pipe extends down to the floor and drains into a catch basin or a drain in the floor.

How to Find a Water Leak in Toilets

Here’s what to do to find a leak in your toilet:

  • Remove the lid from the toilet’s water tank.
  • Listen for any sounds of water draining or for hissing noises. Try to determine the exact location where you hear a hissing noise.
  • If you don’t hear any leaking noises, add a few drops of food coloring to the tank.
  • Wait about five minutes, then check to see if the toilet bowl water has changed color. If so, a leak in the flapper is your culprit.

It is possible to complete this repair with a kit, but some people may feel more comfortable calling a plumber.

Step 2 How To Replace Toilet Handle Remove Tank Lid
To begin, open the lid to your toilet’s water tank.

How to Find a Water Leak in Your Meter Line

Look at the meter line running to your house after your toilets are ruled out for leaks. After the toilets have been ruled out for leaks, look at the meter line running to the house. Locating the leak for the plumber will save plenty of money, so this is an important step. Here’s what you do:

  • Turn the shutoff valve to the off position.
  • Remove the lid on the meter, and watch the meter’s dial. In some cases, grass or dirt may be covering the meter head.
  • When it is located, watch to see if the meter is turning. A turning meter indicates a leak somewhere between the meter and the house.
  • Look for greener grass, muddier ares or soft spots in the yard that may indicate a leak to report to the plumber.
  • Alternately, if the meter is not moving, the leak is somewhere in the house.
Water meter in basement - water leak detection
This is a typical water meter located in a residential basement. Although difficult to see here, the pipe to the left, located below the meter shut-off valve (the green lever) is moist and showing indications of a leak.

How to Find a Water Leak Outside

Most often than not, a water leak located outside your home is from your water faucet (also referred to as a spigot or hose bib). It’s the faucet, usually located on an outside wall, that you attach your hose to. Go to each outdoor water faucet and follow these instructions:

  • Put a metal screwdriver on the metal part of each hose bib connected to the house.
  • Place the thumb knuckle over the top of the screwdriver.
  • Touch the area just in front of the ear to the thumb knuckle. This creates an effect similar to a stethoscope.
  • If you hear anything, remember what they sound like. When noise is louder in one spigot than the other, this means the leak is closer to the spigot where the noise is more audible.

PRO TIP: If no noises are noted on the hose bibs, try this same tip on any of your faucets inside the house. Just be careful to avoid scalding when doing this with the hot water heater.

Drain outdoor faucet pipe - winterize outdoor water faucets with frost-free faucet
Example of an outdoor water faucet (or spigot or hose bib).

Additional Sources of Water Leaks

Check all of the taps, irrigation systems, hoses and sprinklers on your property. Check the shower heads for any leaks. This is a step that many people overlook, and repairing a shower head is a simple DIY task. People who have a swimming pool or hot tub should check those for leaks as well.


Not all leaks can be identified by using the tips in this guide. Some leaks can be very hard to locate and will require the attention of a professional plumber. But you should never ignore leaks as they will only worsen when they are not addressed immediately.

Some water leaks start out small and are easy to find with a few simple steps. If you can detect a water leak early, you can save yourself lots of frustration and water damage costs which are notoriously expensive.

Even if you can’t do anything about a leak that you locate, just knowing where it is coming from will help your plumber tremendously — which will save you time and money.

Call 1-Tom-Plumber if You Need More Help

Don’t hesitate to contact us here or call us at 1-Tom-Plumber (1-866-758-6237). We will immediately handle any emergency plumbingdrain cleaning and drain clearing, and water damage problem, including excavation of underground water lines and sewer main lines.

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