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Identifying Leaks & Fixing Leaky Toilets and Sinks

Water bill running high? Noticing a foul odor under your sink? Toilet running all night? You’re likely dealing with a leak! This time on the ACE Home Services blog, how to identify if you have a leak and how to address leaky toilets and sinks!

First things first, you need to identify and find the leak. Here’s how you can test for a sneaky leak.


Check Your Meter

This is a surefire method of detecting a leak in your plumbing. Shut off all the water in your home, make sure there’s no faucets, no laundry running, nothing at all. Check the meter and mark where it’s at. Now you can either sit and wait and see if your meter is still moving or you can wait a few hours (maybe overnight) and check again. If whether right away or after some hours the meter has changed that means water is getting ‘used’ somewhere in the house, indicating a likely leak. Now, this won’t help you find the leak as the leak could be anywhere in the system after the meter, but now you know something is up. And knowing is half the battle!


Monitor Your BIll

Take a look at your monthly services bill and look at your usage and the bill amount. If your water habits haven’t changed and your bill is consistently rising then you’ve found your first clue. The average American household (a family of four) uses about 12,000 gallons of water per month. That’s for showers, laundry, dishes, you name it. If they’re using more than that they have a leak somewhere in the system.

Make it Easy: Gather up a few months of your water bills and compare.  Having a few months of solid data will make it much easier to spot any problems.

Remember: Some of your plumbing systems may be underground and you might never notice these leaks directly – but you’ll still be paying for them!


Test for a Leaky Toilet

Toilets account for up to 30% of a household’s water use, meaning if there’s a leak there it’s bound to have a heavy impact. Thankfully, there’s an incredibly easy way to test your toilet for a potential leak. Grab some food coloring, add a few drops to the toilet tank and wait. If after about 10 minutes the water in the toilet bowl begins to show the food coloring, then you have a link that is letting water flow from the tank. This means your toilet tank will be constantly draining and refilling, and raising your water usage and bill along with it.

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Check Your Outdoor Usage

Leaks don’t just happen inside, like we mentioned there’s a whole bunch of your plumbing system that’s outdoors or underground! Leaks can happen there too.Check your spigots outside by grabbing a garden hose and hooking it up. If water is leaking through the connection then you probably have some broken down gaskets that need replacing. Look at your yard, are there certain areas where the grass is growing in faster, or weeds popping up like crazy? You might have a leak in your irrigation system that needs repairs. Leaks in that can send your bill skyrocketing!


Common Sense and Professional Care

Keep an eye out for mold, bad smells, or wetness.These all can indicate leaks. If you think you notice something, check and verify. Look to the back of your cabinets, or under the sink basins. Spotting a leak fast here can save you thousands, not just in wasted water but in repairs! 

If your home is over 25 years old, the plumbing system might already be in a rough spot and need attention. Have a professional plumber come out and do an inspection to catch any problems before they result in leaks and damages!   

If you suspect a leak anywhere in your plumbing system, call in a professional to make a repair as soon as possible. Don’t wait until it gets worse and you end up with a real mess on your hands!

man fixing a leaky toilet

Fixing a Leaky Toilet

Alright, you identified a leak in your plumbing, went to the toilet, and did the food coloring test, and boom – you’ve found your problem. Let’s take a look specifically at how to fix a leaky toilet.

The Toilet

Toilets have two major components, the bowl that rests on the floor and the tank that is the ‘back’ of the toilet, holding water that is released whenever the toilet is flushed. The bowl is essentially one large solid piece of porcelain as a drain. The tank on the other hand has a number of different valves, seals, and moving parts that could all have a leak crop up. 

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Fixing a Running Toilet

Perhaps the most common ‘leak’ is a running toilet. It’s not a leak in the traditional sense, you won’t be seeing water all over the floor for instance but it is wasting water nonetheless. Thankfully, this is an easy fix for you to handle at home!  

A toilet runs because of two likely errors, either the flapper isn’t sealing itself correctly in the flush valve or the water level is too high, making the excess water to flow through the overflow tube constantly. Either of these are simple fixes! The water level can be adjusted using the refill valve in the tank and if the flapper valve is giving trouble it is easy to adjust so it sits just right. Sometimes it’s as simple as fixing the chain connecting the flapper to the flush lever. It’s really that easy!

Fixing Leaks at the Toilet Base

Toilets can also leak at the base, with water seeping out around the floor. It is very likely that water leaking out here along the floor is dirty water so you’ll want to stop using this toilet until the leak is repaired. 

This leak is most likely caused by a problem with the wax ring that seals the toilet to the drain opening in the floor. To get to this you’ll have to remove the toilet and replace the wax ring. After shutting off the water to your toilet, flush the remaining water so your tank and bowl are empty. Then you can remove the bolts and nuts securing the toilet to the floor and gain access to the wax ring that needs repair. If that seems a bit beyond your capabilities don’t hesitate to call in a professional.

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Fixing a Leaky Sink

Leaky sinks can do a lot of damage so you’ll want to get to them right away! Thankfully they’re fairly simple to identify and repair as needed! There are a couple of likely sources of a leak under your sink, the water supply or the drain.

Fixing Water-Supply Leaks

The water in supply hoses is under pressure, so it’s common for their leaks to be a spray or actively drip. These are most commonly due to fittings that aren’t as tight as they should be. Take a look at the shut-off valve and see if it just needs a quick tightening. Hold the valve with one wrench and manipulate the nut with another. The faucet fixtures themselves might also have a leak, similarly these are probably due to loose fittings. Use a pair of adjustable or locking pliers to get in close to the connections and tighten them up. These are usually located in difficult to reach or cramped places in the back of the sink but with the right tools and a little bit of effort you can handle it!

Fixing Drain Leaks

Leaks in the drain line and trap can be caused by loose connections, blockages, or if they’re made of metal perhaps corrosion. The first thing to do is tighten up the connections and see if that settles it. If your trap is plastic, you can usually tighten these by hand, whereas metal nuts will need a tool to get the right grip and force. If you notice your metal fittings aren’t tightening like they should the metal may be corroded and need replacement.  If there’s still a leak after tightening the connections, you’ll want to remove the trap entirely and clean it out. While you’re at it, clear the line of any blockages.


Remember, you take care of your plumbing and it’ll take care of you! If you need professional help fixing the leak and getting everything back in order give ACE Home Services a call. We’ve been helping the Valley handle all of their plumbing, AC, and heating troubles for over 25 years!

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