Your water main is the line that connects your home to the municipal water supply which runs along your street. The part of the line that belongs to you is typically the portion on your property. Clean water should flow freely from the city’s line, into your water main, then your pipes, and to your fixtures. However, problems sometimes arise that prevent clean water from reaching you.
This blog is a reference for identifying a leak in your water main. In every case, the solution is the same: Contact a professional with experience identifying leaks and ask them to perform the necessary repairs. Recognizing that you have a leak is one thing; pinpointing its location and applying the correct fix is quite another. Unless you have experience or training as a plumber, we strongly discourage you from DIY repairs concerning your water line; the wrong move could result in thousands of dollars in water damage, which your homeowner’s policy would likely not cover.
Here are some signs that you may have a leak in your water main:
If you notice that your water is dirty or has an odd taste, smell, or texture, then you may be experiencing a leak somewhere. Exposure to the earth or incursion by root systems can cause dirt to get into the line, and that dirt can spread throughout your system, including your hot water tank. If you notice such symptoms, it’s time to call a professional. Contaminated water carries considerable health risks for you and your family, including bacterial infections, hard minerals, or pollutants.
Low Water Pressure
If you turn on your faucet or shower and notice that there is no water pressure – even when no other appliances are running (e.g. dishwasher), then you may have a leak somewhere. If necessary, you can talk to your water company to confirm the amount of pressure you are supposed to have at each fixture. It should be obvious though; look for changes in performance.
Flooding in Your Yard
If you notice pools of water forming outside on a dry day, then you may have a leaking water main. Your water main usually passes under your front yard, so if you know where it is, the location of the puddle may help you identify the problem. Also: If the grass in your yard is lush and green while you haven’t been watering it, and you happen to notice that your neighbor’s lawn is not as green, this may also indicate a problem.
If your faucets and pipes make noise when you use them, don’t worry: It’s usually a sign of normal wear and tear. However, if your pipes continue to make noises after you shut off the fixture, you may want to investigate further.
Walls or Floors with Odd Temperatures or Water Stains
If the pipes within your walls, floors, or ceiling are leaking, the water will collect below the leak. If you touch a wall and notice that it’s too warm or too cold, then it may be a sign that water is pooling there. Such pools can also damage the drywall and wood, cause electrical problems, or enable mold growth. If you have such a pool forming, it’s only a matter of time before your wall or ceiling rots through, and you have water all over your floor, so you would do well to address it early.
Leaking water can cause electrical trouble. This is a dangerous situation, because current passing through your home is a safety hazard, and it can even start a fire. It can also damage the electrical system itself. If certain lights, outlets or equipment are not getting power, take a closer look.
Sometimes your water main is housed in concrete, in your driveway for example, which may pass beneath your foundation. When this line forms a leak, it’s called a slab leak. Slab leaks are difficult to detect because the leaking water often stays far below the surface. The pressure they generate can produce cracks in your driveway or foundation, or cause the earth beneath your home to turn into mud, thus undermining the foundation. Ultimately, they can cause severe structural damage to your home.
It takes a trained professional to detect slab leaks. If you notice specific symptoms (e.g., cracks or leaks in your concrete, or water oozing up from beneath it), report them to your plumbing professional, and they will be able to come out and use specific equipment to detect the leak. Slab leaks are not a simple fix for most, but a vendor with the right tools and training should have minimal trouble.