You’ve seen the signs. A stain on the ceiling, or water pooling on the floor – these are signs every homeowner dreads. You have a water leak on your hands.
More than just a nuisance, a water leak can cause significant damage to your ceiling and floor. Even if you are well insured, you’ll still be on the hook for paying the deductible, so you want to track down the source of the leak and do it quickly. The trick is to try to find it without tearing apart the ceiling and walls.
One common cause of roof leaks is ice damming. Ice damming happens when an excessive amount of ice builds up along the edge of the roof. That ice blocks the melting snow from running off the roof, allowing the water to back up and seep under the roofing materials and inside the house. If the leak is coming from ice damming, you will typically see water or stains on the ceiling close to the outside wall, or on the outside wall itself. If the water or stain is more than five feet from an outer wall, it is probably the result of a damaged roof.
Bathrooms are tricky when it comes to finding leaks. There are three types to watch out for:
- A water supply leak – This happens when the water supply to a fixture is not tight enough or a joint in the pipe has failed. It usually manifests itself as a continuous stream or drip of water to the affected area. Finding a leak under the sink or behind the toilet is usually easy. However, if the leak is coming from the shower valve and you don’t have easy access, you may have to cut a hole in the wall behind the shower.
- A drain leak – If the leak pattern is not a constant stream of water, chances are that it’s a drain leak. Depending on the volume of water you are running at any given time, there could be no leak at all or an absolute gusher. Drain leaks are caused by a connection to the drain coming loose. If the leak is under the sink, the fix might be as simple as tightening the connections at the trap. On the other hand, if the leak is coming from the toilet or tub drain, be prepared for some ceiling removal.
- Sweating toilet – This leak usually happens in the summer. Condensation builds around the toilet and then drips down on the floor. You may not even notice it gathering on the floor. Eventually, the water starts to seep under the toilet, through the subfloor, and onto the ceiling below. By the time the leak is visible on the ceiling below, there may be rot and/or floor damage. The best way to prevent this issue is to replace your toilet with an insulated one designed to reduce or eliminate sweating. You can also apply a bathroom caulk around the base of the toilet to keep water from getting into the floor. This step is now part of the plumbing code.