Home tips: how to find a water leak

elderly woman standing away from leaking shower head


Posted July 05, 2020

Don't let leaky taps increase your bills. Here's how to spot a water leak at home.

Water leaks are a big nuisance that can be tricky to identify, causing expensive repair costs and higher water bills. Luckily, there a few simple things you can do to help you locate the source of a water leak in and around your home.

More: How to fix a burst or leaking pipe in an emergency.

How to identify a water leak


Do a water leak test

If you have noticed an unusual increase in the cost of your water bills, but your consumption habits haven’t changed, then you may have a leak in your home. To identify whether you do have a water leak, you can perform a simple water leak test from your meter. Here’s how:

  • Find your water meter. This is typically in an underground box at the front of your home, or if you live in an apartment, it can usually be found in your laundry or kitchen cupboard or services cabinet
  • Take your meter reading. If you have a mechanical dial meter, this should be a series of black and red numbers.
  • Wait 10 minutes. Do not use any water during this time. this includes the toilet, washing machine and any garden watering systems.
  • Take your secondary meter reading. If the meter numbers have increased, then you may have a leak.

It’s best to run this test a few times to help confirm your results. You can also wait for an hour or so between meter readings to help identify smaller water leaks. If you have a clock meter, then you won’t have any numbers to read. In this instance, you should stop using any water inside and or outside your home and check to see if your meter wheel is spinning. If so, this means water is flowing through the meter and into your home and you may have a leak.

Plumbing leaks outside the home

Once you have confirmed you have a water leak, you then need to find it. Water leaks can occur both inside your home, and outside of the home in the piping that connects your water meter to your home, so it might not be as easy as finding a water stain on the ceiling.

Underground water leak

An underground leak is commonly referred to as a concealed leak. These typically occur in the pipes between your meter box and your home. They can be particularly hard to identify as these supply pipes run underground

If you think you maybe have an underground leak, then you need to call a plumber and turn off your water meter. The risk of causing further damage to your home or building foundation when trying to repair it yourself is not worth the risk.

Here are some of the tell-tale signs that you have an underground water leak:

  • Puddles of water around your driveway, curb or street
  • Soft or muddy areas in the garden
  • Patches of grass that seem greener
  • Unexplained cracking in outdoor pavement
  • Leaking irrigation pipes
  • Water in your meter box

Plumbing leaks inside your home

While it may seem time-consuming, identifying a water leak in your home will save you money not only on your water bills but also on your repair costs. Check for these signs of a leak around your home:

  • Water dripping or leaking from taps, toilets or showers
  • Wet or leaking piping in your kitchen and laundry. This can be done by wiping a dry piece of tissue along the pipe and inspecting whether it is wet.
  • Water pooling under appliances that use water, such as the dishwasher or fridge
  • Cupboards, benchtops or walls that are warped, crumbling or lifting
  • Toilet cistern continually running
  • Cracked or frayed washing machine hose
  • Water stains or warping on your ceilings, floors or walls
black and white image of faucet with water coming out

Some things you can do yourself, but home emergencies are not DIY.

Bathroom water leak

A leaking toilet is one of the most common water leaks in the home. The good news is, a toilet leak is very easy to identify. Simply place a dry piece of toilet paper on the round part of the toilet that holds water and waste and if it starts to get wet you have a leak.

Water leak inside a wall

Locating a water leak in the pipes inside your walls can be tricky, however, there are some tell-tale signs you can look out for:

  • Wet carpet or flooring, most likely near major appliances that use water like the washing machine and dishwasher
  • Peeling, buckling or bubbling paint
  • Drywall which appears to sag downwards or curve outwards
  • Walls or ceilings with a slightly washed-out appearance
  • Musty-smelling walls
  • Signs of mould

If you’ve identified that the water leak isn’t coming from your plumbing, it may be that your gutters and downpipes are clogged. High levels of rainwater without proper gutter drainage will eventually lead to water seeping through your roof and walls. Look for dark water marks on your ceiling or even dripping water from the ceiling during heavy rainfall.

While the signs of a water leak may only appear minor, if they are not addressed swiftly it can cause major problems; from bubbled wall paint and unsightly water stains to impaired structural integrity. Even if your home appears physically sound, water leaks can be associated with the growth of toxic mould and its associated health hazards.

Unsure where your water leak is coming from? Contact RACV to help you find a plumber. 
Search RACV Emergency Home Assist →