How to Tell When a Water Line Needs Repair: Trenchless for Water Lines

By Tabitha Mishra
Published: May 24, 2018 | Last updated: July 5, 2023
Key Takeaways

The most common signs of impending water line repair include leaky faucets, loss of water pressure, discolored water, and dampness or mold on walls and floors. Trenchless rehabilitation methods may provide a cost-effective fix.

We’ve all had to deal with leaky faucets and damp walls, forcing us to call a plumber. The cost associated with plumbing repairs sometimes acts as a deterrent to getting the problem fixed. However; as per studies, it is estimated that a leaky faucet that drips at the rate of one drop per second can waste about 3,000 gallons of water in a year. About 10 percent of homes have had leaks from faucets, valves and other joints that are estimated to waste about 90 gallons of water every day. Many are not aware of this huge loss of clean water and the effort that goes into supplying it to our homes.


The most common signs of impending repair are leaky faucets, loss of water pressure, discolored water, and dampness or mold on walls and floors. Taking these symptoms seriously can save you a lot of money in the long run because water damage becomes noticeable on walls and floors only after it has wreaked havoc in the interior.

Preventing Expensive Water Line Damage

Getting pipelines checked periodically is about the only way you can ensure that all systems are working well. Trenchless inspection methods using video inspection can pinpoint problem areas in the system and help reduce cost by repairing affected pipes. Trenchless rehabilitation methods such as cured-in-place pipe (CIPP), sliplining, pipe bursting and mechanical spot repair can be used to rectify the problems without incurring the extra cost associated with the traditional repairing methods.


Reasons for Water Line Leaks

Often, a leak in the pipe goes unnoticed for a long period of time because it is not perceptible. Leaky faucets are not the only reason for water leaks. Broken seals around water connectors, improper jointing or damage in joints of bends and tees, corrosion in pipes; obstruction in air vents, excess water pressure and tree root intrusion are all causes for leaks.

The constant freezing and thawing of pipes due to sudden temperature changes causing expansion and contraction and sometimes cracking pipes are also reasons for leaks. (Read "Tips on Preventing Frozen Pipes.")

Common Signs Your Water Lines Need Repair

Since most of the plumbing in homes is concealed for aesthetic reasons, these damages are rarely detected until they show up on the surface in the form of damp patches on walls and floors. Fortunately, there are always signs to indicate water leaks; however, some of them are easily detectable while some are not.

Sounds in Your Pipes

Often, the first signs of leaks in your water lines come in the form of sounds like hissing, bubbling, banging, clanking and dripping sounds coming from water pipes. Banging and clanking sounds are indicative of unsecured pipes, which tend to bang around as water moves down them due to the pressure in the pipe. These pipes need to be secured to a wall using clamps, hooks or a block of wood to reduce their movement.

Wet Spots

Wet patches around sinks, tubs and toilets are signs that you have a leak coming from the water valve, handle or knob. These are common leaks and require tightening of the knob or replacement of the seal. They usually appear right after a knob is turned on or the toilet is flushed and usually aren't present when the valve is closed.


Changes in Your Walls

Damp and discolored patches on dry walls and floors are signs you have experienced a pipe rupture and it is slowly dampening the internal area of your walls. Areas on your walls that are cooler than the surrounding wall space is an earlier form of this condition, which happens before dampness occurs. The peeling or blistering of paint and rotting timber floors can also occur.

If left untreated, this kind of leak will result in serious structural damage to your home.

Other Common Signs of Water Line Damage

Other common signs of a water line damage include leaking hose bibs, a very slowly dripping faucet, reduced flow of water in taps caused by a pipe rupture, corrosion or tuberculation, and finally, unexpected high water bills, etc. Tuberculation and corrosion are common in older cast iron pipes.

More Uncommon Signs of Water Line Damage

Not uncommon but lesser known signs of water leaks or damage include structural changes in your home, changes to the taste of water and changes to your lawn and/or yard.

Water Discoloration

Rust stains Rusty water flowing out of your tap for a few seconds after turning on the faucet are signs you have a corrosion problem. This needs to be repaired as soon as possible, as these issues can progress into the internal erosion of your pipelines causing cracks, channeling, breaks and disintegration.

Moss in Your Lawn and Yard

Water line damage which occurs in your main lines can be detected by changes in your lawn or yard. Overgrown and lush green patches on the lawn compared to the surrounding lawn grass is one of the first signs you have an underground leak causing excessive hydration of the surrounding soil. This can lead to bright mossy patches on your lawn and yard and even moldy soil. White salty build up on concrete paths is also common.

Structurally, you'll begin to see the heaving of paved areas, sinkholes and potholes begin to appear in the surrounding ground if nor repaired.

Changes in Water Pressure and Taste

Normal flow of water from the tap that reduces considerably after a few seconds, or excessive water pressure, are both signs that you have a problem with your pipe's ability to regulate water pressure, it can be caused by a blockage, crack or corrosion in the case of low water pressure or a broken valve in the case of excessive pressure.

A change in the taste of your water can be a sign of corrosion or seepage of the surrounding matter into your water line through a crack.

These signs should be investigated to pinpoint the problem area so that the leak can be contained. Often a leak in one part of the house may manifest itself in an entirely unexpected area. Most of the leaks lie undetected for many years because the signs are noticed in a part of the house that carries no water pipelines. It is, therefore, essential to take any wet spots seriously irrespective of the presence of a water pipeline passing through that location.

Trenchless Methods for Inspecting and Repairing a Water Line

Fortunately, trenchless technology has brought with it the ability to detect leaks in water pipelines without breaking up the tiles or digging up the lawn. This is a huge relief to homeowners not just because their landscape remains untouched but because the bills are quite reasonable.

CCTV Inspection of Water Lines

Pipe inspection using video cameras helps contractors highlight and repair problem areas. This also prevents the digging up or repairing of pipes that are in good condition.

During a CCTVI, a video camera connected to a monitor is let inside the water pipeline. As the camera travels, it sends back images that allow the operator to inspect the pipe in real time. Problem areas such as cracks, corrosion, dents, holes, root intrusion etc. are noted and accordingly repaired.

Pigging a Water Line

Pigging is used where a buildup of sediments and solids is noted at the bottom of the pipeline as a result of suspended particles in the water or chemical deposits such as calcium on the inside circumference of the pipe.

Depending on whether the deposits are hard or soft, appropriate methods are selected. Pigging can effectively remove soft sediments from the pipe by inserting ice or foam pigs. The pipe section to be cleaned is isolated by shutting off the valves; a pig is then inserted and allowed to travel down the pipe, removing the sediments as it progresses. This method is fast, non-toxic and very effective for pipes that are in good condition but have lost the flow capacity owing to buildup.

Rehabilitating Water Lines Using Trenchless Technology

Some pipelines cannot be repaired and need to be replaced to restore the integrity of the plumbing system. Trenchless rehabilitation methods such as cured-in-place pipe (CIPP), sliplining, pipe bursting and epoxy pipelining can be used for accomplishing this by rehabilitating affected pipes.

CIPP utilizes a flexible liner material infused with a resin to line the inside of the pipe; sliplining is the process where a new pipe but of smaller diameter is inserted into the old pipe and the annular space is sealed with grout; pipe bursting can be used to increase the diameter of an existing pipe by inserting a bigger pipe behind a bursting head that fragments the older pipe; epoxy pipe lining smoothly coats the insides of the pipe and covers over holes, cracks and corrosion.

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Written by Tabitha Mishra | Civil Engineer, Technical Content Writer

Tabitha Mishra

Tabitha has a Bachelors Degree in Civil Engineering from Mumbai University, India, and is currently freelancing as a technical content writer. Prior to writing, she has worked as a site engineer and site manager for various building construction, building rehabilitation, and real estate evaluation projects.

Tabitha is also certified as a Primavera project management professional and is well versed with Auto CAD. In her spare time, she does private consultation for small-sized home builders and assists with plans and permissions.

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