Leak Detection and Repair

If you have received an unusually high water bill, there could be a leak somewhere in your home.  Usually, there is no need to call a plumber to find a leak; you can do it yourself and save some money.  This is a step-by-step guide to finding leaks in your home.

Man under sink

Step 1 - Things you will need to before you start:
Paper Towel
Red or Blue Food Coloring or dye tablets
Make sure there are no faucets, toilets or other water using fixtures being used inside the home.

Step 2 - Your Water Meter
Locate your water meter.  It is usually located near the street on the front of your property.  Open the lid and examine the face of the meter.

Make note of the digital meter reading.  The reading should be the same, or higher, than the last reading indicated on your most recent water bill.   If the current reading is lower than what is indicated on the most recent bill, the meter could have been read incorrectly.  Contact your local water utility to report a misread meter.

Water meter

Next, look at the leak detector for movement.  If there is water passing through the meter, the leak detector will be turning counter-clockwise.   The more water that flows through the meter, the faster the leak detector will turn.   For slight leaks, you may have to watch the leak detector for a few minutes to note movement.   Click here for instructions on how to read your water meter.

Hands washing dishes

Step 3 - Your Kitchen
Visually inspect your kitchen faucet for any drips or leaks.  If the kitchen faucet drips, make the necessary faucet repairs.  Next, look under the kitchen sink and visually inspect the valve connections.  Again, if there are any drips, make necessary repairs as soon as possible.

An automatic dishwasher uses about 14 gallons of water per complete cycle.  If there are any leaks associated with your dishwasher, repair them immediately.

The clothes washer can develop leaks at the valve connections or in the hoses.  Visually inspect these items for any leaks or drips.

Step 4 - Your Bathroom
In most households, more than 75 percent of entire water usage is in the bathroom.   Here is what to look for:

Visually inspect the lavatory faucet(s) for any drips or leaks.   If the lavatory faucet drips, make the necessary faucet repairs.   Next, look under the lavatory sink and visually inspect the valve connections.   Again, if there are any drips, make necessary repairs as soon as possible.

Bathroom accessories

Also, visually inspect the tub/shower faucets for drips or leaks.   Again, any leaks should be repaired promptly.


Your toilet(s) can be the biggest source of water waste in your home.  A toilet that constantly leaks loud enough to hear can waste hundred of gallons of water each day.  Also, toilet leaks cannot always be heard.

Here is a proven way to check your toilets for leaks:
Remove the lid from the tank, or the back, of the toilet.
Put your ear close to the tank.  If you hear a trickle or a hissing sound, there may be a leak.

Place two dye tablets or 5-8 drops of food color into the tank of the toilet and wait 15-20 minutes.  Do not flush the toilet during this test.

After 15-20 minutes, look into the bowl of the toilet.  If the color starts to develop in the bowl, there is a leak in the toilet and it must be repaired.

Usually, installing a new flapper will correct the leak.

Also check the water level in the toilet tank.  In the middle of the toilet, there is an overflow pipe.  The water level should be 1/2 inch below the top of this pipe.  If the water level is at the top of this pipe, adjust the water level.  If not corrected, water can flow over the top, through the bowl and down the drain.

Step 5 - Here are other important items to check in your home:
Check the water heater for any valve leaks (pressure relief and main valves)
Visually inspect outdoor faucets for leaks.

If your home has an irrigation system, frequently inspect all valves and connections for leaks.


Confused about how to repair a toilet or faucet?   Choose a link below for detailed instructions:
Faucet Repair
Toilet Repair

Information provided by the city of Durham.