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Plumbing Leaks

Plumbing leaks are one of the most destructive issues that any home can face. Learning to spot them can help you to avoid huge amounts of damage. Here are the problem signs.

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Plumbing leaks can be very subtle or incredibly dramatic, depending on the cause, nature, and location of the damage. However, whether you are dealing with a light trickle or a full-on plumbing flood, the water damage that is the inevitable result of a leak in your plumbing system can be costly and time-consuming to repair. While most people understand that a plumbing flood is incredibly damaging, most do not understand that a small, steady leak is far more dangerous in the grand scheme of things.

Consistent, low-level dampness and humidity tend to be more damaging because they are often at work for a long time before a homeowner realizes that there is even a problem. Learning to spot red flags and problem signs of plumbing damage is absolutely essential for any property owner.

Common Plumbing Problem Signs to Watch For

Leaks can do a huge amount of damage in a remarkably short amount of time, especially if the pipe in question bursts entirely. A plumbing flood can occur for a number of reasons, but they are generally avoidable. As such, it is important for homeowners to know the signs of plumbing leaks so that they can catch the issue before it escalates.

Musty Odors

If you notice a persistent, musty smell in your basement or around your home as a whole, it is likely that you have issues with dampness or water damage somewhere in your home. These musty odors can be quite strong, but they can also be used to figure out exactly what has gone wrong in your home.

For example, if the musty smell is being created by mold, it may have a slightly powdery or sweet edge, while the smell associated with wood rot is far more pungent. If you have tried cleaning out the affected spaces and opening the windows to air them, but the smell remains, it is time to contact a professional to assess your home.

Standing Water

Pools of standing water in your home, no matter how small, are something that you should worry about if there is no obviously benign cause. They are also one of the strongest signs of a plumbing leak (beyond seeing the leak itself). Standing water can also help you to identify precisely where the damage or leak is concentrated.

For example, if you find that the standing water concentrates in one part of your basement, it is likely that the plumbing leaks responsible are located above that point. This makes finding the source of the water much easier.

Wet Walls

Unless you have water actively running down your walls, it is more likely than not that your wet walls are being caused by high levels of relative humidity in your home. This is a strong sign that you have plumbing leaks in the room or vicinity of the walls that are being affected and should prompt you to see help as soon as possible.

This is especially the case if the walls in question are made of drywall paneling. Drywall is made from compressed gypsum paste and is incredibly sensitive to saturation. If you do not address the dampness quickly and remove the source of water quickly, the drywall could crumble entirely.

Mold and Mildew Formations

If you see mold and mildew of any kind around your home, please contact a professional immediately. Mold and mildew are not only strong signs of dampness and humidity in your home; they are potentially harmful to the structure of your property and your health. Black mold, for example, could seriously exacerbate conditions like asthma and eczema. It can also cause dizziness, respiratory infections, and headaches.

Mold and mildew will concentrate where dampness is most present, at first, but can quickly spread through a whole home.

Fluctuating Water Pressure

Even small plumbing leaks will have a huge impact on your property’s water pressure, so if you notice a sudden dip in the pressure of your shower or faucets, you should investigate. This may seem ironic because most leaks that are caused by pressure will be the result of high water pressure, but leaks will impact how much water reaches your appliances and faucets.

Fluctuations in water pressure can also be indicative of plumbing leaks, so keep your eyes peeled for that.

Banging Pipes

High water pressure will cause pipes to jump and bang against the walls. In fact, this process of jumping and banging is what causes leaks in many cases because of the pressure and strain that it puts on the joints between pipes.

If high water pressure is causing your pipes to rattle and jump, it will be most obvious when you turn a tap on or off. This means that you can test for very high water pressure using your faucets. Of course, this is not a fail-safe test; you should call a professional for a second opinion.

When you see these signs, it is important that you move quickly and talk to someone who has experience in this field. If you do so, you will avoid serious secondary damage to your home. If you do not, you can end up dealing with more costly repairs to make.

What Damage can Plumbing Leaks Cause?

No matter what size they are, plumbing leaks can cause a lot of damage to your home. While full-sized plumbing floods are the most immediately destructive, low-level, long-term leaks are more likely to cause serious structural damage in the long run. The most likely outcomes of a persistent, untreated plumbing leak are:

Wood Rot

Wood rot is a common issue in homes that have serious and ongoing problems with dampness and humidity. Wood that is exposed to moisture consistently will become soft and form a breeding ground for mold, mildew, and many different kinds of pests. Over time, it will lose its structural integrity and start to crumble.

If this affects one of the support joists that keep your walls or ceilings in place, you will be in serious trouble.

Electrical Short-outs

If plumbing leaks allow water into electrical outlets or appliances, they will become dangerous to anyone using them. They could even short out and cause damage to your electrical system as a whole. This can be quite serious and could even damage your fuse box.

Ruined Soft Furnishings

Persistent dampness and humidity will ruin any textile or soft furnishing over time, either by causing it to rot or by allowing mold to form on it. This is particularly insidious when it affects things like sofas and upholstered chairs. This can cause the stuffing to rot and become incredibly unhygienic for everyone who comes into contact with it.

It will also render the furnishings or textiles damaged beyond repair at an alarming speed. This is not just expensive for you, but very unhealthy to live with.

Sagging Floors

When wood rot starts to affect your home, you will find that one of the first areas to show signs of advanced damage are floors around your home. This is largely because of the ways in which dampness affects exposed wooden beams and joists. As these wooden supports start to rot and buckle, the floors above may sag.

Signs of this include excessive springiness underfoot and gaps between the floor and walls on the upper floors of your home.

Ruined Drywall

Ruined drywall panels that are showing signs of buckling, crumbling, swelling, or staining are common in homes that have ongoing plumbing leaks or issues with dampness. If this problem becomes advanced, it may be necessary to replace the whole panel.

Drywall has many benefits, but it is incredibly weak to saturation. Ruined drywall will make your home’s environment far less healthy and could lead to serious skin inflammation and respiratory problems.

These are just some of the possible issues that can arise in a home with an active plumbing leak. In fact, in many cases, you will find that there is more than one form of damage co-occurring at the same time. This will make repairing the issue more complex.

Plumbing Leaks

FAQS

Leaks in your property’s plumbing system can be caused by a range of things, depending on the layout of your home and the state of your basement (or crawl space). The most common causes are corrosion and excessive pressure, however.

Corrosion and Rust

Your property’s plumbing system is one of the largest and most important in the structure. Acting rather like the veins of your home, it spreads through every part of your home and has a huge surface area. This and the fact that most pipes are made of metal make it uniquely vulnerable to environmental changes in your home. If the level of relative humidity in your home gets too high, for example, your pipes could suffer.

Rust and corrosion are most often issues in properties that have no insulation around their pipes. When these areas become humid, condensation is likely to form on pipes and lead to rust over time. This corrosion will weaken the pipes and lead to leaking. If the pressure is high enough, it may even burst the pipe. This can cause catastrophic damage to your home in a very short space of time.

Pressure

Pressure, as you might have noticed, is a huge factor in the health of your plumbing. The PSI of your water supply must be just right to provide your faucets and appliances with an appropriate amount of water. If it is too low, you will see ineffective cleaning from appliances like your washer and dishwasher, while pressure that is too high will cause your pipes to jump, rattle, bang, and even burst. The ideal PSI for domestic water supply is between 40 and 60.

There is another form of pressure that can cause damage, however. If you have pipes somewhere in your home that are not insulated, there is a real chance they could freeze in a sudden cold snap (especially if they are in a basement or crawl space). The pressure of the water’s expansion as it freezes can actually crack metal pipes.

What Else Can Cause Dampness?

Plumbing damage and damage to appliances connected to your home’s plumbing are not the only things that can cause dampness, flooding, and water damage in your basement. Other potential causes include:

Foundation Damage

Any kind of foundation damage is likely to allow groundwater to seep up into your home. The precise nature of the foundation damage may impact the amount of water you see and the location in which it is most likely to be presented, however. Subsidence, for example, is most likely to cause water to pool at one side of your basement. You are also likely to notice diagonal cracks in your walls if subsidence is at work.

If the issue is settlement in your foundation, however, you are far more likely to see pools of water in the middle of your floor or spread sporadically through your basement. These will generally be near cracks in the floor and should correspond with areas of damage in your foundation (which makes them strangely useful when you’re trying to organize repairs). In order to deal with this dampness, you will need to repair the foundational problems.

Seepage

Seepage is a very common cause of dampness and high relative humidity in homes around Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio, especially in homes where the basement walls and floor are made of poured concrete. Poured concrete has many benefits and is hugely strong, but it is also incredibly porous. That means it will absorb water over time. This is most common in homes that have heavily saturated ground soil.

Because seepage is not associated with any kind of damage in particular, it can be far harder to address than foundation damage or other forms of structural damage. If seepage is the cause of your property’s damp or humid atmosphere, basement waterproofing may be the only viable solution for your home. Ask a professional about the benefits of this process and what it might look like for your home.


Plumbing damage and damage to appliances connected to your home’s plumbing are not the only things that can cause dampness, flooding, and water damage in your basement. Other potential causes include:

Foundation Damage

Any kind of foundation damage is likely to allow groundwater to seep up into your home. The precise nature of the foundation damage may impact the amount of water you see and the location in which it is most likely to be presented, however. Subsidence, for example, is most likely to cause water to pool at one side of your basement. You are also likely to notice diagonal cracks in your walls if subsidence is at work.

If the issue is settlement in your foundation, however, you are far more likely to see pools of water in the middle of your floor or spread sporadically through your basement. These will generally be near cracks in the floor and should correspond with areas of damage in your foundation (which makes them strangely useful when you’re trying to organize repairs). In order to deal with this dampness, you will need to repair the foundational problems.

Seepage

Seepage is a very common cause of dampness and high relative humidity in homes around Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio, especially in homes where the basement walls and floor are made of poured concrete. Poured concrete has many benefits and is hugely strong, but it is also incredibly porous. That means it will absorb water over time. This is most common in homes that have heavily saturated ground soil.

Because seepage is not associated with any kind of damage in particular, it can be far harder to address than foundation damage or other forms of structural damage. If seepage is the cause of your property’s damp or humid atmosphere, basement waterproofing may be the only viable solution for your home. Ask a professional about the benefits of this process and what it might look like for your home.

Whether or not you can address a plumbing leak as an amateur really depends on the nature of the leak. If there is simply a cap nut or valve that needs tightening, you may be able to do this. However, if you are in any doubt as to the cause of the leak or the pipe itself is damaged, you should call a professional.

The Cost of DIY Can be High

If you try to fix your plumbing leaks alone, there are a lot of potential issues to run into. As well as being hard to fully diagnose and identify, plumbing leaks are notorious for causing secondary issues. This means that you will have a hard time formulating a proper and appropriate solution to the problem because you may not fully understand it.

Even if you are able to properly identify and diagnose all of the underlying causes and associated issues, you will still need to implement the repairs properly. This can be actively dangerous to you and your home if you undertake it incorrectly, especially when working on hot water pipes. As well as running the risk of a plumbing flood, you could face scalds and serious burns.

Professional Services Have Benefits

One of the main benefits of hiring a professional to take on your plumbing issues is the efficiency and safety that they can offer you during the process. Having the experience and skills to tackle a problem head-on means professionals are not likely to damage your home or cause injury to themselves while repairing your plumbing leaks.

They are also far more likely to spot warning signs of other issues in your home. One of the biggest dangers with plumbing leaks is the danger of secondary damage taking root and spreading. If your plumbing leak has been persistent, you may also be facing wood rot, mold formation, general dampness, and damage to your appliances. These are all things that a professional can anticipate. 

Plumbing Leaks: Your Next Steps

Obviously, the best outcome would be to prevent plumbing leaks from forming in the first place. You can do this by protecting your pipes as much as possible. Invest in insulation and make sure that the water pressure in your home stays within acceptable levels. This will prevent the pipes from jumping, banging, freezing, and corroding as a result of exposure. Waterproofing your basement will also help with this and prevent your basement from becoming damp, humid, or unhealthy.

Of course, there are times when damage is unavoidable. In these cases, there is nothing that you as a homeowner can really do. DIY plumbing repairs are notoriously dangerous and ineffective unless the person undertaking them has some form of professional training or experience. As well as running the risk of causing a full-scale plumbing flood, you could face third-degree burns or scalds if the pipe you are working on carries hot water.

Likewise, anyone helping you could easily be injured if they are using tools they don’t understand or working on an area that has other problems actively at work. If you believe your home has plumbing leaks in one or many places, there are a few things that you should do.

First and foremost, if the leak is substantial or a pipe has burst, you should turn off your main water supply. This is classed as a plumbing emergency and most professional services will attend very quickly when this happens. If the leak or leaks are small, however, or you cannot find them, turning off your water will prevent leaking, but it may not be the most effective way to deal with the situation.

Instead, you should call a professional foundation and basement specialist and ask them to undertake a full inspection of your home. They will be able to identify the source and cause of the plumbing leaks, as well as any secondary damage. By doing so, they will be able to formulate a tailored solution to the issues your home faces.

While you wait for a professional to rectify the issue, your main concern should be your health and well-being. Make sure that your living environment is as healthy as it can be. Close off any rooms that have large mold formations in them where possible. If the leaks are severe in one area, consider turning off the electricity to that room to prevent avoidable accidents and injury.

Call in the Experts for a Stellar Result

Whether they are big or small, leaks in your plumbing system are a problem that you should never ignore. As well as leading to many forms of secondary and tertiary damage, they can make your living environment unpleasant and unhealthy. Whatever your plumbing leak looks like, however bad the damage has become, the Ohio Basement Authority team is here to help. We have decades of collective experience in basement waterproofing and repair and have helped thousands of Cincinnati and Columbus, Ohio, homeowners to restore their homes to health since 2009.

If you have concerns about your property’s plumbing system, please do not hesitate to contact us by phone. Alternatively, you can book your free inspection online. Our team will help you to set a time and date that suit your schedule and needs. These appointments come with a free written estimate for all costs on the day of inspection and absolutely no obligation. You do not have to book repairs with us on the day, nor will we pressure you to make a choice in the following weeks. Our inspections are simply there to help you make an informed choice.

Our Basement Waterproofing Experts can help you

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