It may start out as a tiny drip, or you may instantly have more water than you know what to do with. However, when you have a water leak in your plumbing, timing is everything to avoid devastating consequences down the road.

Tracing a leak in your home can be tricky. But wiping up the water or fixing only a portion of it is delaying the inevitable. Getting to the source of the matter is the only way to fix the problem once and for all. Yet finding the source is a different matter.

A leaking pipe you can see dripping under your sink is much easier to find and fix than a small wet spot forming on the ceiling of your bedroom. When water begins to seep into places blocked by ceilings or walls, its much more difficult finding the root of the problem.

How To Trace A Water Leak In Your Plumbing

Where do you start?

Start by confirming the leak. This can be an easy process with appliances; simply move the appliance and look for water leaks in and around the main water line that connects up with the appliance.

For kitchens and bathrooms, open cabinet doors and shine a flashlight to all corners, looking for corrosion around the pipes, puddles of water, or even small wet spots with beginning stages of mildew or mold. If water is forming behind the walls, below the floor boards, or underneath cabinets, you may notice peeling paint or wallpaper, or buckling materials.

Its also time to walk through your home, looking at the floors, walls and ceilings throughout. Even a small stain on the ceiling could be an indication of a running problem throughout your home. Also look at walls and ceilings located directly underneath other areas of your home with water sources – a bathroom shower or a refrigerator with built in water and ice dispensers can leak water, and have it flow straight down to the next level. Also look for warped flooring, spongy spots in carpet or padding, and moisture in places its never been before.

Head down to the basement and crawlspace of your home and look around as well. Water tends to travel down, so the place you find a water stain or puddle is often not the source of the problem. Still, it can be a starting point. If you see mold, mildew, rotted wood, or puddles of water in the basement or crawlspace, use that to track upward and find where the source begins.

If these doesn’t reveal the source, verify you have a leak. Turn off every faucet, appliance and fixture in your home that uses water, and record the usage on your water meter. Leave all fixtures, appliances and faucets off for eight hours, then read the meter again. If you have any changes, it indicates you have a leak in your plumbing system, and a plumber should be called in immediately to find and fix the problem.