If you’ve noticed the grass to be marshy at the front of your house and asked yourself, ‘what’s causing the wet patch in my yard?’ it may be a hidden problem you need to investigate.
One of the first signs of a water leak for many homeowners is the increased water bill they’ve received in the mail. The higher than expected bill is often a sign of a concealed water leak on the property.
But some water leaks, while concealed, can make a visible appearance. In fact a wet patch in the yard that doesn’t go away may be a sign there is a leak on your main water line feeding into your house.
It’s quite common for these leaks to spring up underground due to age, or earth movement causing the poly pipe to split or a fitting to fail. This can cause a constant rush of water underground, rising up to make a muddy wet patch in your yard.
The moment you see a wet patch, it’s important to identify who is responsible to fix the leak.
How to identify who is responsible to fix a concealed leak
This image from QLD Urban Utilities shows exactly who needs to be notified when a water leak is identified in your front yard.
If the water leak is near the footpath towards the road, it is the water authority in your area who must be notified of the leak. It’s their responsibility and expense to fix the leak.
If the water leak is in your front yard between the water meter and your house, it’s time to call a licensed plumber to locate the leak and fix it as soon as possible.
If you want to save labour charges from your plumber, you may be able to dig for the leak yourself. This can remove the time charged on your final bill. But under no circumstances should you be fixing a water pipe yourself if you don’t have the correct plumbing license.
Why do I need a licensed plumber to fix a concealed water leak?
Poly pipe seems to be the pipe people think they can touch to fix their own leaks. But that’s not the case at all. Water pipes, irrelevant of material, must be maintained by a licensed plumber. Water can cause significant damage to surrounding properties if it’s not fixed correctly.
I know of one insurance claim where a concealed water leak went undetected for a long while and pooled underneath the foundations of a neighbouring property.
The damage was extensive, requiring the residents to move out of their home while work was done to rectify the damage to the foundations of the home.
If a water leak is fixed by an unlicensed person and it leaks again causing damage to your property or others, you will be liable for the costs and your insurance company may not cover you.
How to locate a water leak in your front yard
The hardest part to fixing a concealed water leak in the front yard is finding the location of the leak. Water travels fast and can pool in areas not necessarily near the leaking pipe. You may have a few holes or a trench in your front yard to locate it.
To have an idea of where to dig, locate your water meter (which is usually towards the footpath of your property) and find the first hose tap on the outside of your house. This gives you a visual guide of where the water pipe runs and will help you as you dig. Before you dig, turn off the water meter as the hole will keep filling with water while you dig. Use a shovel when you dig and take care not to ‘chop’ into the ground. There may be other services running next to the water pipe (there shouldn’t be, but you can never assume). When in doubt, call dial before you dig.
The first place to dig is where the grass is the muddiest. Once you’ve located the pipe, use a garden spade or a small container to scoop out the mud. You may be able to see the split. Turn the water meter on, and if you see the water spurt out, you’ve found the leak. If not, look at where you’ve dug and feel along the pipe to see where the water is running from.
Once the leak has been found, keep the water meter off until the plumber comes to fix it. Split pipes will need to be cut and replaced with new pipe and fittings.
Some water leaks can be hard to locate if they are in gardens, underneath landscape rocks or beneath footpaths. Sometimes a jackhammer is needed to remove the concrete to locate the leak. These types of leaks are usually outsourced straight to the plumber because they have the necessary equipment. They will put the soil back after the leak has been fixed, but landscaping and turf will be your responsibility to replace.