When a frozen pipe bursts or a drain backs up, you know something’s wrong right away. You quickly identify the source, pinpoint the problem and take care of repairs.
When a slow leak starts inside your home’s walls, it doesn’t attract attention, but it does leave solid clues. If you know how to detect water leakage in walls, you can minimize potentially serious damage.
Be on the lookout for these 10 signs of water leaks behind your drywall.
1. PERSISTENT MUSTY ODORS
As the water slowly drips from a leaky pipe inside the wall, flooring and sheetrock stay damp and develop an odor similar to wet cardboard. It generates a musty smell that can help you find hidden leaks.
2. MOLD IN UNUSUAL AREAS
Mold usually grows in wet areas like kitchens, baths, and laundry rooms. If you spot the stuff on walls or baseboards in other rooms of the house, it’s a good indicator of undetected water leaks.
3. STAINS THAT GROW
When mold thrives around a leaky pipe, it sometimes takes hold on the inside surface of the affected wall. A growing stain on otherwise clean sheetrock is often your sign of a hidden plumbing problem.
4. PEELING OR BUBBLING WALLPAPER / PAINT
This clue is easy to miss in rooms that don’t get much use. When you see wallpaper separating along seams or paint bubbling or flaking off the wall, blame sheetrock that stays wet because of an undetected leak.
5. SLOWLY WARPING SHEETROCK
Over time, sheetrock wicks up moisture from a slow leak, and that can cause the wall to develop bends and curves. Warped sheetrock is a sure sign of a slow water leak.
6. BUCKLED CEILINGS AND STAINED FLOORS
If ceilings or floors in bathrooms, kitchens or laundry areas develop structural problems, don’t rule out constant damp inside the walls. Wet sheetrock can affect adjacent framing, flooring and ceilings.
7. WET BLOTCHES
Wet spots are sure signs of water damage in walls, but they don’t always pinpoint the problem’s location. Water can travel down a pipe and cause wet blotches on the wall below the leak.
8. ODD DISCOLORATION
As a leak moves further down inside the wall, overlooked wet spots eventually dry. They leave behind splotches that appear lighter than surrounding drywall or wallpaper.
9. WET FLOORS
This sign is obvious on kitchen floors, but it’s not as noticeable in carpeted rooms. If an area of carpeting appears darker next to a wall, touch the fibers. If they’re damp, you probably have a wall leak.
10. DRIPPING SOUNDS
Water running down inside walls often makes a dripping sound. You’ll usually hear the plinking noise after turning off a faucet in the sink, tub, or shower. You may also notice audible clues after flushing the toilet.
TESTING YOUR SUSPICIONS
Figuring out how to detect water leakage in walls takes a little investigative work. If the clues add up and you want more evidence of a hidden leak, use your home’s water meter to test your suspicions by following these simple steps.
- Make sure all faucets and appliances in the house are turned off.
- Take a look at your home’s water meter, and note the usage numbers.
- Don’t run any water inside or out for at least three hours.
- Check the usage numbers on the meter again for any changes.
- An increase in the readout means you have a leak somewhere in the house.
TOOLS THAT HELP DETECT WATER LEAKS IN WALLS
Cutting into drywall to locate a leak doesn’t always give you access to the problem. Water could be dripping from a pipe several feet above the wet spot. Reduce the guesswork with these leak-detection tools.
- Moisture Meter – This device analyzes moisture content in all types of materials. Locate a leak by placing the meter directly against the wall. Move it around, checking four or five different points. The spot that gives you the highest reading is nearest to the hidden leak.
- Infrared Camera – An infrared camera detects moisture inside walls through an optical system that measures infrared energy and surface temperature. As you move the camera around a suspected area, a cooler temperature reading helps pinpoint the location of the leak inside the wall.
You can buy or rent both tools at most home improvement centers. Moisture meters and infrared cameras are just two examples of the advanced equipment used by restoration professionals to detect hidden wall leaks.
HOW TO STOP WATER LEAKAGE FROM THE WALL
Knowing what to do if your wall is leaking water saves cleanup time and reduces the chance of serious water damage.
Once you’ve located the approximate area of the leak, cut out enough drywall to reach the bad pipe. Stop the leak with a patch kit, mop up as much water as possible, and set up fans to dry the area.
Let a water damage pro take care of permanent repairs and drywall restoration. When you call in a company that specializes in this kind of work, you:
- Leave the entire job in the hands of certified technicians.
- Count on advanced repair, cleaning and restoration techniques
- Know mold removal and remediation are taken care of
- Don’t navigate insurance paperwork by yourself.
While it’s always best to let a restoration professional handle repairs and remediation, here are important steps you should also take to minimize damage.
- Fixing a wall leaking from rain water might start with cleaning out the gutters. When they’re clogged, heavy rain spills down your home’s exterior and can seep into the walls inside.
- Water leaks in walls when it rains can indicate problems on the roof. Make regular roof inspections part of your water leak prevention plans. Immediately replace bad shingles or flashing.
- Stop plumbing leaks inside walls by turning off the main water supply to your home. Open up faucets inside the house to drain as much water as possible from pipes before you begin repairs.