How to find a water leak inside a wall

Picture showing some signs that tell there is a water leak inside a wall
It is possible to tell whether there is a leak inside a wall before these signs of water damage appear

Any water leak inside a wall significantly reduces the quality of your home environment. Such hidden leaks in your plumbing system affect the quality of air you breathe  while causing extensive damage to your walls.

Leaks are also one of the major causes of water wastage in your household. And, might be the main reason why you keep on paying a high water utility bill month after month.

How can a water leak inside a wall  affect your monthly water bill?

Well, do you know that on  average, small slow leaks release approximately 7-15 gallons of water every hour?  This is equivalent to 2-4 cups every minute.

On average, leaks can waste approximately 7-14 CCF’s every month. (CCFs is the amount of water you have used as indicated on your bill.)

See, you always end up paying for water leaks out of your own pocket- directly or indirectly. Because, water wastage from leaks alone can account for half of your water bill each month.

Additionally, they lower the quality of your home atmosphere  putting your health and that of your loved ones at risk. And, we all know how expensive proper medical care has become in this era.

Often, leaks in your plumbing fixtures and pipes go undetected because they happen silently. Meaning, you might go for months without noticing that there is a water leak inside your walls. Or, any other part of your home.

Unless, of course, you spot some of the obvious signs of water damage -which signify extensive destruction. And, even then, you might find it difficult to locate the source of the leak since most of these signs appear far away from the actual source of the damage.

To keep your home healthy, you should always  test for water leaks in your plumbing system-regularly. Instead of waiting for the unpleasant signs of water damage to appear.

How often? – Every time you suspect there might be a water leak in/ around your household. There are two major clues that ought to raise your suspicion from time to time.

Clues that indicate the presence of a hidden water leak inside a wall- what to watch out for!

  • A musty smell in the air. Most times, you’ll start to feel the surrounding air becoming unusually stuffy before you smell the dampness. For this to happen though, you must have the ability to be in the present moment and trust your sense of smell.

(It’s unfortunate that most of us give up our ability to remain present and attentive to all sorts of physical, emotional and mind distractions. Often, we get lost somewhere amidst all the distractions.

And, in the process we end up losing control of ourselves and our surroundings. Then, end up in an endless cycle of unhappiness, unproductivity and poor health. Remember, there is a connection between your internal & external surrounding and the way you are living and experiencing your life in general.

So, if you are not in control of yourself or your surrounding……who is? And, do they have your best interest at heart as much as you would? – Other than helping you detect the presence of a musty smell in the air you breathe inside your home, being present in the moment can help figure this out.)

  • A dramatic increase in your water bill.

A sudden spike in your monthly water bill may mean that you have a hidden water leak as explained in this article.

Generally, finding a water leak inside a wall is not such a difficult task. It is something you can do within a few hours as you are about to learn below. We will not only look at a step-by-step process on how you can find a water leak inside your walls. But also, what to do once you find it.

Overview of the entire procedure of finding a water leak inside a wall

So, the entire process can be summarized into 3 main stages. Each stage has its own set of actions.

Stage A- Finding out whether there is a leak in your home or not

In this stage, you are simply testing for the presence of a leak. It is important for you to ascertain there is a leak in your home before you start looking for it. I mean, you wouldn’t want to spend your time looking for something whose presence you are not sure of, would you?

Stage B – Looking for the place where the leak is taking place

At this point you already know that there is a leak in or around your home.  What you don’t know, however, is the place where the leak is taking place. Your home is divided into many areas.

And, at this stage, you are simply trying to narrow down to the specific area where the leak is. Is it in your kitchen? Bathroom/ showers? Behind your walls? This is an important aspect of the entire exercise because you’ll find out whether the leak is inside your walls.  Or not.

Stage C- Finding the actual source of the leak

Once you’ve known the place where the leak is happening, it’s now time to try and locate its actual source. It’s crucial for you to do this because it’s the only way you can actually stop the leak.  And, begin to restore your home.

Example, if you find that the leak is inside your walls in stage 2, stage 3 will help you know the exact source of the leak behind your walls.

Now, let’s look at the steps you need to follow at each stage mentioned above.


Stage A: How to find a water leak- 6 Easy-Steps

There are a few tools you will need to test for the presence of a leak in your home. These tools include- Your eyes, Pen, Paper and your Water Meter.

All materials mentioned above can easily be found in and around your home. Add a screw-driver to the mix. You might need it to access your water meter depending on the location and type of water meter you have.

Step 1:

Shut- off all the water-dependent appliances in your home including the water heater, washing machine, dishwasher and sprinklers. Ensure all the faucets are properly closed as well.

Step 2:

Find your water meter. Usually, it is located somewhere outside your house- at a place the official meter readers can access, on foot, easily.

Specifically, look for some form of cover in one of these two most likely places around your household. That is:

  1. Your driveway- mostly check someplace close to the curb
  2. Your front-yard.

What you are looking for here is a plastic, metallic or even, concrete covering that protects your water meter.

Step 3:

Once you’ve successfully located your water meter, carefully open its cover to check and record the number of water usage. That is, the total number of water gallons that have been consumed by your home. Note this number down as your first reading.


Your screw driver might come in handy at this point. If your water meter is one of those that are difficult to access with your bare hands. Depending on how the cover is fitted on the meter, you might need to use the screw driver to open.  So you can get the meter’s reading.

If the covering is loosely fitted, slowly pull it open using your hand then get your reading. But, if it’s fixed a bit more tightly, simply use your screw-driver.

How? – By gently passing it through the hole of the cover and pulling it open.

Avoid using excessive force when using a screw driver to access your water meter.  The whole exercise is rather simple and does not demand unnecessary force from your end.)

Step 4:

After recording your first reading, leave the water completely turned off for a minimum of 3-4 hours.

Don’t let ANY water run (both inside and outside your house) during this testing period. Do not even attempt to flush your toilet within this period. Doing this increases the level of accuracy of your final results.

Step 5:

Once the 3-4 hour waiting period is over, check your water meter again. Read and record the number of water usage as noted in step 3 above. This will be your second reading.

Step 6:

Finally, compare the results of your second reading to your first reading. Can you notice any difference?

How can you tell if you have a water leak?

Essentially, you are looking to see if both readings are the same. Or, if your second reading is higher than the first. If you find they are the same, you can be sure that there is no leak. Hence, get rid of any worries you might have on whether you might have a leak or not.

But, if you see that your second reading is higher than the first, it means, there is an increase in your water usage. Which, in turn, is a clear indication of the presence of a leak inside or around your home.

You can be sure there is a leak because, remember, you did not actively use any water inside your house during the entire testing period, right?

And, you also completely shut off all the water-dependent appliances plus faucets the whole time. So, any increase in water usage at this time can only come from water leaks.


Stage B: How can you tell where a water leak is coming from?

After confirming that you have a leak in your home, your next course of action is finding out where the leak is happening.

To do this, you must first employ the elimination method. So you can get rid of the obvious places you are likely to experience leaks in and around your household.

The most obvious places to check include:

  • Your toilet’s tank parts including the flapper valve.
  • Under your bathroom and kitchen sinks
  • Areas around your showers and bathtubs- are there any drips of water?
  • Areas close to your water heater and the hoses of your washing machine- do you see any small pools of water?
  • Irrigation systems and water faucets found outside your house
How do you tell if there is a leak behind a wall?

Once you find out that there is no leak in all the likely places mentioned above, you can be sure that you have a hidden leak somewhere in your plumbing system. And, the main challenge you are faced with at this point is knowing whether the leak is inside your walls or not.

Of course, there are some obvious signs that indicate the presence of a leak behind a wall. Some of them include peeling, bubbling paint, cracking, discoloration and small pools of water at the base of the wall.

But, as we’ve already seen, such signs mean that extensive damage has already taken place. Yet, the reason why we are trying to locate any water leak so earnestly in this exercise is to find it in good time. Thus, prevent any damage from getting to its extensive level.


Is there is a way you can tell if there is a leak behind a wall before any of the obvious signs mentioned above appear?

Specifically, there are two things you must do to find out-early enough- if the leak is behind your walls:

  1. Look for a persistent earthy smell in the surrounding air. This is easy to notice as you can always tell when the quality of the air you breathe changes from room to room.
  2. Listen for the sound of a leak behind your walls. The best time to do this would be late at night. You’ll be able to quickly hear sounds of small drops of water inside your walls in the dead silence of the night. If you hear the sound of small drops of water or a subtle hiss of running water, mark that spot. Marking such spots properly will make your work easier when it comes to locating the actual source of the leak. Which is what you’ll be doing in the final stage.


Stage C: Locating the actual source of a water leak inside a wall

At this final stage, you are trying to pinpoint the exact location of the hidden leak behind your walls.

There are several ways to do this. All involve the use of a leak detection equipment of some kind. We will discuss only 2 ways in this post.

In my opinion, using either a moisture meter or an infrared camera are the 2 easiest ways of locating the source of a leak behind a wall.

  1. Scanning for a water leak inside a wall using a moisture meter – How does a moisture meter work?

A moisture meter is a special equipment that analyzes a wall’s moisture content. They (moisture meters) are easy to use.

All you have to do is place the moisture meter against a wall- directly, and it scans to reveal the wall’s moisture content. This way, you can easily tell if there is a leak at a particular point inside your wall.

Specifically, you’ll be looking to confirm if the moisture content exceeds the acceptable levels for the wall. Or, not.

What moisture level is acceptable in drywall?

Readings on a moisture meter are usually in percentages- ranging from about 5% to 40%.  When using a moisture meter to locate the source of a leak, keep the following points in mind:

  • A reading of 5 to 12% is considered an optimal range
  • Readings of 12 all the way up to 17% are considered moderate. Thus, acceptable moisture levels.
  • Any reading that is over 17% is a clear indication of high moisture levels. And, signify the presence of a leak behind that particular point of your wall or nearby.
Are moisture meters accurate for drywall?

There are moisture meters that are specifically designed to be used on drywalls. Commonly referred to as moisture meters for drywall, they accurately detect even the smallest increase in moisture content inside walls. Including a slight increase of about 0.1% above what is considered normal moisture content for drywalls.

However, when purchasing a moisture meter to use on drywall, always check to confirm that it has extended-length pins. Longer pins will help you find the source of a water leak behind your walls more accurately.

Important tip:

If you were unable to pinpoint a potential leak’s exact location under stage B, put your moisture meter at various spots on the wall. Approximately 6 or 7 different spots. The spot with the highest moisture content reading is either directly linked to the source of the leak. Or closest to it.


What is the best moisture meter?

I have found 4 highly recommended moisture meters that will give you the best value for your money. Any one of these 4 moisture meters  will help you find the source of a water leak inside your walls successfully.

    • Dual Moisture Meter: LCD Backlit Display- Sensor for moisture and temperature in wood, concrete, drywall as well as carpet
    • MMD4E Digital Moisture Meter with Audible and Visual
    • DCT Pin-type Moisture Meter- General moisture reader for drywall, wood and lumber
    • HQRP 4-pin LCD Moisture Meter for identification and detection of hidden leaks in Drywall, Wood, Plaster, Concrete, Ceiling and Carpet.


2.  Finding a water leak inside a wall using an infrared camera

Overall, infrared cameras are used to detect heat. Thus, indicate a wall’s temperature. As a result, it is easy to tell whether there is a leak at a certain point in your wall or not. Because, wet areas will always be cooler than the surrounding regions.

Using an infrared camera is simple: You place it close to the object or wall being scanned for a leak. Then, look at the coloring on the screen. Hot objects have a red or orange color whereas cool objects appear blue or purple.

What is the best Infrared Camera to use?

There are 3 high-quality and easy-to-use infrared cameras you can spend your money on:

      • FLIR C2 Compact Thermal Imaging System
      • Handheld IR Resolution Infrared Thermal Imager  with 3.2″ Color
      • Handheld Infrared Thermal Imaging Camera, Digital display temperature (-20 to 300 degrees)

Important Tip:

Most emergency water damage restoration professionals use infrared cameras to find the source of water leaks in homes. Therefore, you can always choose to rent one from  them instead of buying one- if you know you won’t need to use it too frequently.

What to do once you find out that you have a water leak inside your walls

The best possible solution is to contact a well-licensed water restoration expert as soon as possible. So you can prevent any further water damage to your walls.

Trying to address the leak all by yourself, i.e. the DIY route might be a tedious task.

In general, it would involve removing the entire sheetrock or wet drywall carefully. And, either completely drying out or replacing all the materials that have been affected by water damage. You must also fix the actual source of the leakage, alongside any other plumbing repairs that may crop up.

Sound like a lot to handle on your own, right? Well, it is.

Especially if we add the fact that you may not have all the proper tools needed for the tasks. But, there is no job too big or too complicated for the right water damage restoration company.

In fact, with certified professionals, your only job would be to call  and explain the situation to them. Everything else will be well taken care of from that point on. And, you can comfortably:

      • Trust that your home is in good hands
      • Count on advanced cleaning, repair and remediation techniques that are effective and efficient
      • Navigate all the insurance paperwork with professional help from the restoration company.


That’s it! Once you follow all the steps as laid out above, you can be sure that your home is in good hands. And, will be fully restored in the shortest time possible.

(Remember to document each and every step you take once you confirm the presence of a water leak inside your home. As noted in our previous discussion, documentation is crucial if it turns out that you need to file a claim. You must provide sufficient proof that you did not neglect the leak to let it worsen. Instead, you took the necessary steps to contain the situation before  filing any claims)

We’ve looked at the manual process of finding water leaks in your home from time to time. Clearly, you must first test for the presence of a leak then look for the place of its occurrence. Before, finding it’s actual source.

Also, you should know- there is an easier way to test for the presence of a water leak inside your home.  Time is the most valuable yet priceless resource we’ve all got. And, if you can save it in one way to use it wisely in another- the better your life will turn out.

Over to you

Isn’t it quite intriguing how time is the one resource of trade available to all of us in equal measure? Yet, there is widening inequality in the way we all live and experience life?

Arguably, the inequality and differences comes from how one chooses to use and exchange their time. Meaning, it is the most critical determinant of your productivity thus overall success.

And, if you are to begin evaluating your time usage right now. Would you say that you rob yourself of the chance to live a productive and successful life? By mis-using or rather, not taking good care of your time?

Or, do you allow other people and things to rob you of this chance? By letting external distractions keep you from focusing and using your time sufficiently?

Of course, testing for the presence of a water leak as described in stage A above is worth your time. You get to maintain a high quality home atmosphere while protecting your bank account in the long run.

However, like I mentioned earlier on, there is an easier way which involves the use of a water leak detectors.  You can always rely on a good water leak detector to inform you whenever there are leaks in your home.

In fact, water leak detectors are a must-have home aid equipment. They will detect any leak on its onset. Then, send you an alert so you can take the necessary action as explained in stages B and C. This way, you cut the total time taken to find any hidden leak inside your wall by half. We’ll have a detailed discussion on this in another article.




Add a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *