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How to Find a Water Leak Outside

Water meter

An abnormally high water bill or unexplained muddy area in the yard can be a red flag that a water leak exists somewhere outside your home. Follow these quick and easy steps from Roto-Rooter to discover whether a leak exists, and what steps you should take to rectify the situation.

First, confirm that there is in fact a leak by checking your water meter. If you aren’t sure where your water meter is located, call your local water company for help. Begin by ensuring that there is absolutely no water running--no dishwashers, sprinklers, garden hoses, washing machines, toilets, etc. Be sure to warn your housemates not to turn the water on while you are observing the meter so you’ll get an accurate reading.

Open the water meter cover using a large screwdriver (watch out for bugs!). Look for the leak indicator. In most cases, the leak indicator is a small triangle (could be red, blue or white). The leak indicator is highly sensitive and will spin even if only a small amount of water is flowing through the meter. If your water meter doesn’t have a leak indicator, take note of the current water meter reading. Wait 30 minutes to an hour and check the meter again. If the reading changes, you have a leak.

Confirm that the leak is in fact outdoors by conducting the same tests after shutting off your home’s main valve. In most homes, the main shutoff valve is located in the basement or garage near an outdoor faucet.

If the meter does not show evidence that there is a water leak, you may want to call your water company to ensure that the meter is functioning properly.

If your water meter experiment suggests a leak on your property, it is highly likely that the leak exists somewhere in the main service line between the water meter and the main shutoff valve of your home. Leaks can be caused by a variety of issues. Environmental causes include shifting soil, which can erode around pipes over time and put pressure on underground water pipes. In other cases, the age of the home is the cause--the supply pipes are damaged or worn out. Copper pipes are very resistant to corrosion, as is the new PEX piping. But older pipe materials such as galvanized cast iron may be near the end of their service life.

Once you have determined that you have an outdoor leak, contact a licensed Roto-Rooter plumber. Accessing your main sewer line will require professional equipment. Roto-Rooter plumbers will utilize sophisticated leak detection equipment to pinpoint the exact location of the leak, minimizing the damage to your yard while ensuring an efficient and thorough repair process.

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