A leaking pipe is more than just an inconvenient hassle or nuisance. Leaking pipes can harm your property by causing serious damage to walls, flooring, and cabinetry. Given enough time, this water damage can cause poor water quality, compromise the structural integrity of your home, and foster mold growth that poses a health hazard to all home occupants.
According to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), even minor household leaks account for 1.0 trillion gallons of wasted water each year, and this excess moisture is equal to the annual use of water in nearly 11 million homes. Because leaks can occur behind bathroom walls or deep in the ground beneath the home, it is important to allow a professional plumber to conduct leak detection and perform pipe leak repairs.
A look at the top causes of leaking pipes can provide insight into why it is important to reach out to a professional to fix the problem.
1. Corrosion in Pipes
Due to constant exposure to moisture, water pipes can corrode over time. Corrosion occurs when oxygen, minerals, or acids within water react with metal. Pipes made of galvanized steel, cast iron, brass, or copper can corrode and result in large cracks. These cracks cause leaks that worsen as the material continues to degrade. In addition to metal piping that deteriorates with age, corrosion can also result from imbalanced mineral content or imbalanced pH of the flowing water.
Many homeowners are unaware they have corroded pipes until their pipework begins leaking. Other signs that you may have corrosion include the following:
- Discolored water or water stains
- Metallic smell or taste in water
- Clanks or gurgling in pipes
- Suddenly greenish copper pipes or red steel pipes
- Fluctuations in water temperature
- Poor water pressure
A trained plumber can conduct leak detection and determine whether to clean pipes or replace them with corrosion-resistant materials like PVC. For example, if your pipework is over 25 years old, it is usually in your best interest to upgrade the pipe system.
2. Degraded Seals
Industrial rubberized seals connect pipes to fixtures and help create a watertight enclosure. Due to the constant exposure to water, however, these seals can degrade over time. The degradation can make the sealant material crack or crumble. Water can then begin to leak at the point between the fixture and the pipe. A plumber can evaluate the source of pipe leakage and replace seals whenever necessary.
3. Tree Roots
Tree roots can also cause pipe leaks. This can occur if your underground waterline releases water vapor into the soil. As trees grow, the roots can detect the water source and burrow toward the pipes. Aggressive tree roots can intrude into the pipes and cause breakage or damage that results in leaks. If you notice abnormal water patches or sinkholes in your yard, this damage may be the result of an underground pipe leak. A plumber has the training and equipment necessary to complete pipe repairs.
4. Extreme Temperature Changes
Changes in water temperature can cause your pipes to expand or contract. These changes are usually gradual enough that the materials have the time to adjust. However, sudden freezing temperatures can create cracks that result in leaks. Similarly, using the hottest water setting on a frozen pipe can result in breaks or bursts. If you notice water flow problems after a snowstorm, cold front, or heatwave, reach out to a plumber to conduct full pipe detection and repairs.
5. Extreme Water Pressure
Water pressure is the force by which fluid pushes through pipes. Scientists measure water pressure in pounds per square inch (PSI). According to the EPA, normal residential water pressure falls between 40-80 PSI. Excessive water pressure can cause pipes to strain and shake, eventually resulting in breaks and leaks.
Signs that your water pressure may be too high include the following:
- Loud or shuddering noises from pipes
- Limited hot water supply
- Faucet aerator constantly dislodges
- Appliances leak or wear out quickly
- Higher water bills
A plumber can officially test the home water pressure and make adjustments as needed.
6. Loose or Broken Water Connectors
Water connectors link major appliances to pipes. Types of appliances include washing machines and dishwashers. When these appliances move or shake during spin cycles, the connections between the device and pipes can loosen. Trained plumbers can inspect connectors and complete repairs or upgrades wherever necessary.
7. Loose Drain Assembly
Leakage can also result from a loose drain assembly. This commonly occurs due to cracks in fixtures or under the sink. If you notice a puddle of water in the cabinet under the train, you may need to fix or upgrade the assembly. A plumber can help determine whether the problem originates from the fixture or drainpipe and repair your system as needed.
8. Clogged Pipes
Clogged pipes can cause water to back up into your plumbing. This blockage significantly increases pressure, and the pressure can eventually cause pipes to crack or burst. If you suspect a clogged pipe, avoid attempting household remedies or using harsh commercial drain cleaners.
These cleaners contain abrasive acids that strip, weaken, and erode pipes. Pipes weakened from commercial cleaners are far more susceptible to breakage. Instead, contact a plumber to remove clogs. Plumbers have the training and equipment to dislodge clogs even if they are deep under the house within the primary waterline.
9. Damaged Pipe Joints
Pipe joints are fittings or adapters used to connect one section of pipe tubing to the other. In plumbing terminology, joints are the most vulnerable parts of pipework since these junctures help redirect water within your plumbing system.
Pipe joints are susceptible to corrosion, aging, and general wear and tear. Because joints have a smaller surface area, they can also falter from exposure to high temperatures to excess water pressure. Pipe joints are not always visible to untrained individuals, so many people are unaware that their joints have deteriorated.
Signs of pipe joint damage include clanging, creaking, ticking, or banging noises when you turn on the water. Since joints are the weakest parts of the pipework, you should never attempt to remove or replace them yourself. This can cause further damage. Instead, allow a trained plumber to detect leakage and tighten or replace these tiny joints.
10. Foundational Shifts
Although the process is too gradual to feel it daily, soil and topography can shift over time. This can cause your home to shift along with all of its components. As your home foundation resettles, pipes can sometimes become misaligned and bend or separate. Pipe misalignment can also result from earthquakes, tremors, erosion, storms, or flooding. A plumber can conduct a full assessment of your pipework and repair any twisted or misaligned pipes.
Contact Us Today
Leaking pipes can have a negative impact on your plumbing system. Fortunately, professionals have the equipment and techniques necessary to handle the job. Apollo Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning offers professional pipe leak detection and pipe repair services for homes in Portland, OR, Vancouver WA, and Boise, ID.
We utilize trenchless technology and no-dig solutions for leak detection across a range of home piping. Our plumbers can repair problems with your main line, sewer lines, and water heaters. No matter the piping issue, our plumbers can help. Contact Apollo Plumbing, Heating & Air Conditioning today for all plumbing needs.