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Three Clever Ways to Check for Plumbing Leaks

Plumbing leaks cause immense damage—water damage to your home and belongings, and damage to your water bill. It’s important to promptly find and fix leaks as they arise. It may seem like massive floods or burst pipes are the only sources of water damage, but long slow drips or leaks can be just as destructive over time.

Our expert plumbers at Roto-Rooter have devised a few clever DIY methods for finding hidden or small leaks before they grow in to larger problems.

Food Coloring

Most people are familiar with the symptoms of a clogged toilet, but smaller toilet leaks can be harder to identify. They can lead to the largest amounts of water being wasted.

A common small leak can occur where the toilet tank leaks into the bowl. When you flush, the water only shuts off to the toilet tank when the water level passes a certain point. When there is a leak, the water will just keep running. To diagnose a leak like this, add about 6 drops of food coloring to the tank, do not flush the toilet, and wait 30 seconds. Open the lid to the toilet bowl, and if there is any amount of coloring present, your toilet is leaking and requires repair. (It is important to not try this method for other types of leaks, as the food coloring can stain other materials.)

Water Meter

Most homes have a water meter located in their front yard near the curb. This meter keeps track of the amount of water used by a household since the meter was installed, and it can be used to determine whether a house has plumbing leaks or not.

To test for leaks using your water meter, first designate a large segment of a day in which you will not use any water in your home—at least 3 hours, longer if possible. Remember not to run the dishwasher or washing machine or flush the toilet during this time. Then, head to the water meter and write down the number it shows. After the time period has elapsed, go back to the water meter and take a second reading. If the second reading is greater than the first, one or more leaks are present.


Infrared cameras function much like regular cameras, except that rather than recording how much light reflects off of objects, they reflect how much heat an object emits. Infrared is also capable of seeing cold or warm objects through thin walls. Infrared cameras are useful for locating leaks within walls because the wet areas will be colder, making them visible through the camera. Infrared cameras are an expensive investment for the average homeowner, so it’s unlikely you’ll ever want to own one yourself, but some companies will do an infrared scan of your home for you.

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