How to Check for Water Leaks in Your Home (Including the Hidden Ones)

March 2024

Close up of buckets filling with water from a leaking ceiling as water pools on a living room floor.

We depend on water in so many ways throughout our homes. But where there's water, there's also a chance for leaks.

Water leaks are the number one cause of damage in homes, resulting in billions of dollars of damage each year. In fact, about 1 in 60 homes in the U.S. are expected to experience a claim related to water damage this year. 

The good news? Water leaks are usually preventable! Here are some common water leak problem areas you should keep an eye on, tips for spotting a hidden water leak, and what to do if you find a leak or water damage in your home.

Common water leak problem areas

Water Supply Lines

Often, water damage can be traced to the supply line. When you install a new appliance, always use new water supply lines and connections.

Refrigerators

If water is pooling around your refrigerator, the water line connection to the ice maker is a likely culprit. Either the connections need to be tightened, or the water line needs to be replaced. 

Dishwashers

A wet kitchen floor may also be caused by a leaky dishwasher. Remove the kick plate and look for signs of a leak. Then, check around the gaskets, too. You can also test the seal by shutting a piece of paper in the door; if it slides out easily, it's time to replace the seal.

Washing Machines

A faulty washing machine can cause major damage in a hurry—a broken hose can discharge up to five hundred gallons of water an hour! 

Inspect hoses regularly for blisters, worn tubing, stress cracks, and loose connections. Replace them every five years, or when you install a new washing machine. To keep your washing machine in good working condition, avoid overloading it, always use the recommended detergent, and only run the washer if someone is at home. 

Water Heaters

Water heaters should be flushed yearly to control sediment buildup that can clog water lines. Follow the manufacturer's instructions to drain and flush the tank properly.

Sinks, Tubs, and Toilets

Bathrooms are prime areas for water leaks. Check for leaks under the sink, and watch for puddles around the bases of showers, tubs, and toilets. 

Older or worn-out toilet flappers are a common source of water leaks in toilets, and they should be replaced at least every five years. Replacement is typically quick and easy, and parts can be purchased from your local hardware store. However, if home repairs aren’t your strong suit, you can always contact a certified plumber for assistance.

A sad couple sit on a plastic-covered couch as water drips from the ceiling due to a leak upstairs.

Signs of a hidden leak

Some leaks are more obvious than others. For example, you may notice a puddle of water at the base of your dishwasher right away, but other signs of a leak can be much harder to spot.

Unfortunately, this also means that hidden leaks can cause a lot of damage before you even realize they’re there. If you see any of these signs of a hidden leak, call a certified professional plumber right away.

High water bills

Even small leaks can waste thousands of gallons of water, causing a large increase in your bill. If you notice that your water bill is suddenly higher than normal, that's key sign to start checking for leaks throughout your home.

    Other signs of hidden water leaks and water damage:

    • Mold, mildew, or a musty smell (which may mean mold is growing inside a wall, where you can't see it).
    • A constant dripping sound—follow the sound to see if you can find the location of the leak.
    • Reduced or inconsistent water pressure, especially if it happens when you're only using one water fixture at a time.
    • Peeling or bubbling paint or wallpaper
    • Bulging wallboards, which can indicate damage inside your home's structure
    • Water stains on ceilings and walls, which may be a yellow or brown color
    • Damaged flooring, such as warped or stained wood or laminate; loose tiles, possibly with cracked or peeling caulking; or carpet that is moist or smells musty in a certain area.

    What to do if you find a water leak in your home

    With any kind of water leak, it's important to act fast to prevent major damage to your home, no matter how small the issue may seem.

    First, take photos of the leak and document any signs of damage in case you need to file a home insurance claim. 

    Then, if you’re not comfortable making minor plumbing repairs yourself, it’s always best to reach out to a certified plumbing professional. And if you spot signs of a hidden leak, or see extensive water damage, then it’s definitely time to call in the experts for assistance.




    The information we share on our site is intended to serve as a general overview. Please refer to your policy or contact your local independent agent for specific coverage details.

    Source: 1. " Facts + Statistics: Homeowners and renters insurance," Insurance Information Institute, Inc., accessed February 2, 2024. | 2. Glenda Taylor and Bob Vila, "How to: Find a Plumbing Leak,” Bob Vila, updated December 22, 2020. | 3. " 9 Signs You Have a Water Leak,” Simply Green Plumbing, accessed February 2, 2024.

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