What Are Gradual Water Leaks?

Gradual Water Leak

Gradual water leaks can occur in any home.

The cause of the leak can vary, but they are most common when a pipe, gutter, valve, fitting or appliance has gradually deteriorated.

An indicator of a gradual leak can be determined by the age of the home and product, but sometimes it can be a workmanship error, faulty part or the item (or adhesive) is simply towards the end of its material life.

What is a gradual water leak?

A gradual water leak is when water (potable or wastewater) constantly drips, sprays, trickles or flows from an item. The ongoing release of water escaping the item is what is classed as a gradual leak. It’s not a sudden burst, however a gradual leak can lead to a sudden burst.

Sometimes a gradual leak can be a hard leak to locate as they can be concealed underground or within the walls or ceiling of your home. However, there can be some vital clues which may indicate a gradual leak has occurred before damage appears.

Where do gradual water leaks commonly occur in the home?

Any pipe connection – whether it’s a waste or water pipe can produce a gradual leak. But there are common areas of the bathroom and kitchen where a gradual leak can occur. Here are the most common gradual leaks.

oxidisation on a copper pipe indicates moisture and is considered a gradual leak
Oxidisation on a copper pipe indicates moisture and is considered a gradual leak
  • Shower combination – generally on the tee piece connection to the hot and cold water tap. These are the pipes behind the shower wall.
  • Bath combination – on the tee piece behind the tiled wall connection bath taps and bath spout
  • On a crimped or welded copper pipe joints (water line)
  • On a PVC trap connection under a basin or sink (waste line)
  • Brass thread for water connected appliances like dishwasher or washing machine – sometimes the connected hose is not tightened enough or cross-threaded at installation
  • Shower and/or bath waste – where the grate waste doesn’t connect correctly to the puddle flange
  • Flexi hose connections which have been cross-threaded
  • Poly pipe connectors – usually underground connecting water from your water meter to your house
  • Rusted valley gutters or quad gutters on the exterior of the house
  • Broken down or blocked downpipes
  • Cracked Earthenware pipes – installed on home sewer lines pre 1980’s
  • Dishwasher and washing  machine hoses where the perforated hose has split

How can you identify a gradual leak?

Sometimes, you won’t realise there is a gradual leak in your home until

  • Water stain marks appear on the ceiling or plasterboard walls.
  • Calcium stains or efflorescence marks on concrete or tiles.
  • Skirting pulls away from the wall and starts to swell or rot.
  • Cornice in the ceiling pulls away and swells/dips from the moisture.
  • Visible Mould spores
  • Timber floorboards start to stain and rot.
  • Vanity or kitchen cabinetry starts to swell.
  • Cabinetry kickers swell or pull away from the cabinetry.
  • Tiles and grout start to pull away from the wall.
  • Silicone goes mouldy.
  • Swampy/very green grass in the front yard.
  • Cracks or structural damage occurs in the home.
  • Green oxidization can be seen on copper pipes and connections in accessible areas.

When these damages occur, it will require investigation by a plumber. Your plumber will need to complete a leak detection test at your home to locate the leak and fix it for you.

Before the damages appear, there may be some ways to discern a leak has occurred:

  • Compare your water bills. If you have a high-water bill from last quarter is it because you have used more water or could there be a leak at your home?
  • Check your water meter. If the dial on the water meter is spinning and no one is using water in the house (don’t forget to consider washing machine or dishwasher use) this could indicate a leak.
  • Touch test the cabinetry in the kitchen and bathroom and check for any moisture. The weekly clean of those areas can be a good time to do a touch test.

Unfortunately, some leaks just won’t be found until the damages are visible after a period of time as the pipe will only leak when the tap is turned on and water is running through it.

Common examples of these are

  • If the leak is the pipe connecting to the shower rose. It won’t leak unless the taps are turned on.
  • Or on a dishwasher or washing machine outlet hose. The water won’t leak until the appliance is used.
  • Waste leaks won’t occur unless water drains down the pipe.

Gradual leaks will usually be an exclusion from insurance (always check your PDS though) as they will occur on items that have usually reached the end of their material life or have gradually deteriorated. Depending on the location of the item leaking, they can be retightened or replaced to prevent further damage.  Corrosion, oxidization and rust are common causes to gradual leaks and is an indication the item is reaching its material life.

Regular maintenance and checks around your home are vital.

Owing a property requires an investment of time and money to maintain and there comes a point when parts of the house will need to be replaced at an owner’s expense. The bathrooms, kitchen and laundry will need to be renovated due to age. Or the sewer pipes in your home will need to be upgraded from earthenware to PVC due to ground movement cracks, or gal water pipes will have rusted so much inside and the water pressure so low, it will force you to replace them with copper or PEX.

This is why when renovating any bathroom, kitchen or laundry in your home, it is recommended to replace the pipes in the wall and floor. It’s an incredibly frustrating experience to repair a leaking pipe behind a newly renovated bathroom wall.

Ensuring you use a reputable plumber to repair leaks when they occur can prevent further damage from occurring. It would also be wise to get your plumber to do these additional checks to make the most of their call out fee.

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