Most homeowners do cursory leak inspections. They make sure faucets aren't dripping, that the cabinets beneath a sink are dry, and that water isn't puddling around the tap handles. One place they often don't consider checking for leaks, though, is in the walls. Considering that the bulk of your plumbing pipes and water supply lines run through your walls or beneath the house in the basement or crawlspace, this is a major oversight that can result in extensive damage in the event a leak does occur. The following can help you remain alert to the signs of a pipe leak in the walls.
High water usage
Leaks in a water supply line are usually the easiest to catch early, simply because you will typically show higher water usage and receive a larger than normal water bill. You can also check your meter regularly to make sure your house isn't hemorrhaging water somewhere. To do this, shut off all the water in the house, including the supply to appliances like ice makers or swamp coolers. Then go look at the water meter. If the meter is still ticking away, then water is running somewhere. This could mean a leak, so it is a good idea to call in a plumber to have a full inspection done before the issue becomes more severe.
Mold, mildew, and must
A musty odor means there is moisture somewhere in the house. Follow your nose to see if you can find the culprit. If it is because of a water leak in your walls, you should sniff around areas where you know the pipes run, such as in the rooms that back up to a kitchen, bathroom, or utility room. Open closets and lift rugs, where possible, to look for signs of mildew or mold growth. You may find small black dots along baseboards, a musty smelling "dust" in carpets, or dark discolorations on walls if a water leak has lead to mold and mildew. Your plumber can cut out the damage and repair the leak. Then you can have the wallboard or carpeting replaced.
Modern latex paints create a plastic-like coating on walls and ceilings. When water leaks behind these wallboards, the drywall itself may become mushy, but the paint holds it all together for a while. Instead of dissolving, the water trapped behind the paint causes the paint to develop bubbles. If a bubble does pop, moisture will dribble out, and the paint may begin to peel off in big sheets. If you notice bubbling paint anywhere in your home, assume water is to blame and that you have a leak that needs to be repaired.
Contact plumbing services in your area for more help.