Wet floors eventually turn into moldy, rotten messes, especially when the damp conditions go on for months undetected. If you've noticed a wet patch under your kitchen sink or around your toilet, your first instinct likely tells you to blame a dripping pipe or leaking fixture. However, you need to rule out a common condensation problem before calling an emergency plumber to fix a non-existing leak.
Check the Water Meter
Start by shutting off every running water source in your house, such as the water heater, and watching your meter. Since condensation gathers from humid air instead of leeching through the pipes or tanks, a slow increase in your meter readings when no devices are running is a sure indicator of a leak. Dedicate about 12 hours over the course of a single day to catch tiny and slow leaks that make barely a ripple in water usage charts.
Try a Dye Test
If you suspect that a specific part of your plumbing is leaking, you can try a basic dye test with food coloring from the grocery store. Mix up a cup of heavily hued water and pour it down the sink, then put a white paper underneath the pipes to see what colors you catch. You can try the same trick in your toilet by adding it to the tank and seeing if your bowl color changes or you get splotches around the base due to a leak. Condensation drips stay colorless no matter how much dye you add to your water.
Dry the Pipes
Towel off the pipes and see how long it takes for the moisture to return. Condensation will stay away as long as you keep the area low in humidity with tricks like:
- Pointing a fan at the toilet or drain pipe in question
- Setting up a portable dehumidifier in the immediate area
- Insulating the pipe with foam wrap to mitigate temperature differences between the water inside and air outside
If you try at least one of these three options and find the floor gets wet again, you're most likely dealing with a leak. It's easier to rule out condensation by assuming it's the problem before you spend a lot more money on in-depth plumbing inspections to find a leak that may not exist.
Look for Ripples
Is a wet toilet bowl or tank confusing your quest to separate condensation problems from genuine leaks? Check the surface of the water in the bowl for more clues. Constant or occasional ripples mean the bowl is refilling in between flushes, a strong indicator of a tank leak due to a bad gasket or valve. This symptom can also pop up if the wax gasket connecting the bowl to the drain goes bad as well. You may also hear growling or dripping noises in the fill tank when there's a toilet leak.
Hire Professional Leak Testing
Don't play guessing games if you can't decide which problem you're facing after a few simple tests. Unless you can get a positive diagnosis of condensation on your own, have a peek at this website or hire a plumber for a full professional testing service to discover leaks behind walls, inside your foundation, and in other hidden spots. Infrared, wave response, and pressure testing help the pros find the problem quickly before it can put the rest of your home at risk for serious water damage.
Even though condensation is easier to fix than a real leak, both problems need immediate attention. You'll also need to inspect the floor even after it dries out fully to make sure there's no mold development or early signs of rot. A tiny damp spot can spread quickly to the rest of the framing in the house, weakening the structural integrity of your home.