For aesthetic reasons, modern buildings conceal the vast majority of the plumbing pipes within the walls. Unfortunately, this can make detecting leaks extremely difficult, especially if the leaks are small. As a property manager, you need to be able to quickly detect and stop hidden water pipe leakage in order to avoid costly water damage and high water bills.

Signs You Have a Hidden Plumbing Leak

Small leaks behind walls may not leave many signs. However, if you pay attention to your building’s water bills and remind your maintenance team to be on the lookout for the signs of a plumbing leak, you should be able to detect the problem and call a qualified plumbing technician before any serious damage has occurred.

Your pipes are old or nearing the end of their expected useful lives.

the biggest indicator that you have undetected plumbing leaks is the age of your plumbing system. Most plumbing pipes are designed to last between 20 and 60 years. If your pipes are older than 20 years, it’s time to get a plumbing inspection to detect leaks before they become full pipe blowouts.

The wallpaper or paint is peeling or blistering.

Since pipes are located behind the walls, wet drywall and peeling or blistering paint can be a sign that you have water leaks. In this scenario, water drips or sprays out of the hidden pipe onto the backside of the drywall. Over time, that drywall becomes wet, and the paint or wallpaper can no longer stick to the surface. If you were to pull off a bit of paint or wallpaper, you’d likely see yellow water spots or mold under the surface.

You see black mold or black spots on walls or ceilings.

Sometimes, the mold will grow through the paint or ceiling tiles. In this instance, you’ll see black spots on your ceiling tiles and walls that you may initially mistake for dirt. However, a closer look should tell you it’s mold. This is definitely an indication that you have a leaking pipe.

You see water spots in areas that should be dry.

If you see water spots outside of an area that contains water-using appliances, like bathrooms, kitchens and pool or hot tub rooms, you may have a leak. When this happens, the water leak is so severe that it’s creating puddles on the floor. This can happen if a water heater or boiler has a blowout or if a pipe in the ceiling has a leak.

You smell a musty or wet smell in a particular area of the building.

Just because no one goes into the room doesn’t mean the pipes behind the walls can’t develop leaks. If you walk into a semi-used or unused room and smell a musty odor, there could be a leak in the area, and it’s best to have it checked out by a plumbing contractor, like our plumbers and pipe liners at NuFlow.

Your water bill has suddenly increased to spite no identifiable rise in daily water usage.

If you haven’t recently turned on your sprinklers, filled a pool or had another type of heavy water usage, and you notice an increase in your Chicago building’s water usage, you may have a leak. You can determine if your water usage has increased by looking at your water bills over the last one to two years. If they’ve increased dramatically, it’s time to have your plumbing system inspected and tested for leaks.

Tracing Water Pipe Leakage

As soon as you or your maintenance team realizes you have a water leak, you should take steps to turn off the water in that area to prevent further water damage and call a professional. However, if you wish to confirm the leak before calling a plumber, there are things you can do.

  • Make sure that every water fixture, faucet and water-using appliance is off. Locate your building’s water meter and write down the numbers and/or note the position of the needle. Leave the water fixtures, faucets and appliances off for a period of time, eight hours if possible. After the elapsed time, note if the needle has moved or if the numbers have risen. If either of these things has occurred, you may have a water leak.
  • If you, your property management team or maintenance personnel have noticed any water spots or moisture along a wall, touch it to confirm the presence of water. All inside walls should be dry, and the drywall should not dent or crumble upon being touched.
  • Press on the area of the wall where you suspect the water leak is located. If it feels spongy or non-existent, there’s a strong likelihood that there is a leak behind the wall.

Plumbing Inspections to Detect Water Pipe Leakage

Calling a professional plumber and scheduling a plumbing inspection and water leak repair service is the best way to locate and stop water leaks. Plumbing inspections can include a water pressure test and/or a camera inspection. If you’d like to have a plumber come out and test your plumbing system for leaks, just give us a call. We can also refer you to Althoff for a plumbing replacement quote.

A pressure test involves turning off the water to the building. Then, an air host is connected to the plumbing system and turn on. This allows pressurized air to fill the pipes to a specific PSI. If the pipes fail to hold the desired pressure, there is a leak in the system.

A camera inspection also involves turning off the water. For this test, a small camera on flexible tubing is threaded through the water pipes. The camera then displays the images on an LCD screen and records the inspection. If high levels of corrosion are detected or there are obvious breaks or flaws in the pipes, it can indicate the presence of a water leak.

What to Do if You Find Leaks Behind Your Walls

If a plumbing inspection results in the finding of leaks in your plumbing system, you typically have two choices. You can replace the pipes that are leaking or the entire system, or you can refurbish your pipes with epoxy pipelining.

Understanding When Plumbing Replacements Are Needed

Since plumbing replacements are pricey and damage drywall, it’s important to know when to replace your pipes and when to line them. Potable water pipes that need to be replaced have extremely thin walls and numerous pinhole leaks, which means they’ve lost the majority or all of their structural integrity. The epoxy pipe lining process seals small pinhole leaks and prevents further pipe damage but does not necessarily structurally reinforce the pipe.

When it comes to drain pipes and vent stacks, you usually don’t need to replace them. This is because the lining process for drain pipes involves the insertion of a pipe within a pipe that restores the structural integrity.

Repairing Water Pipe Leakage with NuFlow

If you do not have any visible damage on your floors, ceiling or walls, you may be a good candidate for trenchless pipe restoration, which involves repairing your pipes without tearing out large sections of drywall. Starting the process of restoring your plumbing pipes begins with a camera inspection that tells us the condition and age of your pipes.

If your pipes can be repaired with our epoxy pipe lining technology, they are thoroughly cleaned and dried in order to prepare them for the installation of a pipe liner or an epoxy coating. Pipeliners are used on drain lines in order to seal leaks and restore the durability of the pipe. Epoxy coatings are used on water supply pipes to seal pinhole leaks and stop further corrosion.

There’s also a cost-saving third option that involves replacing the worst pipes and lining the remaining pipes in order to fully rehabilitate and restore your plumbing system. For this latter pipe restoration process, we often use the plumbers from Althoff.

To learn more about trenchlessly repairing water pipe leakage and to schedule a building pipe assessment, call us at 815-790-9000.