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How Do Plumbers Detect a Pipe Leak?

You come home and the worst has happened: you notice a puddle on the floor, or a stain on the wall, and hear the quiet, yet unmistakable drip drip dip of a leaky pipe. Your first instinct should be to shut off the water and call an emergency plumber. You may be wondering how the plumber will find and fix the leak. Will you have to deal with major construction and demolition just to find it?

Thankfully, no. Finding and fixing leaks is usually a very simple process for skilled professionals. While they may need to cut into your walls, foundation, or ceiling to fix larger leaks, you won’t even know it happened once the pipe is fixed. And they definitely don’t need all of that to find a hidden pipe leak.

In fact, you may even be able to find the leak yourself!

How to Find a Leak Yourself

Check your water meter to see if you’re using more water than normal. That is an obvious indication that something isn’t right.

If you do notice more water usage, you should check the cabinets under the kitchen, laundry, and bathroom sinks to make sure they’re dry. You’ll also want to look for puddles around the bases of tubs, toilets, showers, beneath the water heater, dishwasher, and washer/dryer.

You should also look out for wall discoloration (yellow or brown) or bubbling paint and wallpaper. These signs could indicate water leaking from behind the drywall and soaking through to the front side.

A musty smell. Over time, a persistent leak provides the perfect humid environment for mold to grow. In some cases, you may notice black splotches on the outside of the wall, but often, mold will grow where you can’t see it, so a musty smell is a red flag.

Look for green patches of grass or wet areas in your yard as well. This could indicate a slab leak or a leak in your supply line.

If you can’t find a leak, but notice your water meter is still giving abnormal readings, call a professional. Even if you suspect there is a leak, but don’t have any normal indication, call a plumber! Pipe leaks can cause lasting and catastrophic damage to your home and can negatively impact your health due to mold.

How Plumbers Find Pipe Leaks

A good plumber will check everything we mentioned above as well. If they can’t find the leak, they have some tools to help them. When you call a plumber to find the source of a hidden leak, they will begin by doing a walk through of your home to check for any signs or clues of a possible leak. This may include checking fixtures, under sinks, irrigation, and pool systems to rule out these sources. Your plumber will likely check the water meter as well to get an idea of how big the leak is as well.

The most effective tool to detect these types of pipe leaks is sound detection equipment. Using headphones and a microphone, a skilled plumber will be able to listen for the sound of running water underground as it travels through the pipes.

Additionally, they may also use pipe locator clamps on the visible portions of a pipe to transmit a radar signal over the pipes. This process is known as “charging the pipes.”

Heat scanners

In areas that are too noisy for using acoustic listening methods, plumbers use scanners that pick up temperature changes.

Video Equipment

Ever seen a plumber stick a camera down a drain? For the most precise leak detection, that’s exactly what they do. Plumbers use a miniaturized mounted camera to show them what kind of condition the pipe is in. Not only does this show where leaks are, but it also provides the plumber with extra information that will make it easier to repair the leak.


The best thing a plumber can bring to the table is their training. They’re specifically trained to find and fix a leak with minimal damage and intrusion. Licensed plumbers know enough about plumbing systems that they can rapidly narrow down the search area without requiring any special technology at all. And every plumber should be able to find it without making a single cut into your wall or ceiling. That’s why you should only call on plumbers with the right experience.

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