Leaks in the Home

The City of Brantford encourages you to check for water leaks. If your water bill is higher than usual and your consumption hasn't changed, you may have a leak.

Checking for leaks

Looking for tips on how to spot a leak? A list of helpful information is available below. 

The Region of Peel has also provided a video overview of where to begin looking for a water leak in your home.

To check for leaks in your home:

  1. Turn off all faucets and appliances that use water.
  2. Check your water meter. If you have a spinning red “leak indicator,” you may have a leak.
  3. Read the number of litres shown on the water meter. Wait at least 15 minutes before using water. If the number on the meter doesn't change, you likely don't have any leaks. To detect slow leaks, wait longer to check.


Toilets are prone to leaks and should be checked often. They account for a lot of water wastage.

To check for leaks in your toilet:

  1. Remove the toilet tank lid.Leaking Flapper Valve
  2. Put 10 drops of food colouring into the toilet's tank (not the bowl). Do not flush.
  3. If any colour appears in the toilet bowl within 15 minutes, water is leaking from the tank and you should repair it.


Flapper valves

A flapper valve holds and releases the water when you flush your toilet. They can easily cause leaks when the flapper valve fails to create a tight seal.

A seal may be compromised due to several reasons, such as:

  • a snagging chain
  • corrosion
  • worn flapper


Steps to change your flapper valve

To replace your flapper valve:

  1. Turn off the water
  2. Flush the toilet to empty the tank
  3. Remove the flapper
  4. Clean any buildup and install a new valve

Leaks in toilets can also be caused by worn fill valves. Fill valves refill the toilet tank. Gently bend the float arm of the valve downwards so that it shuts off the water about half an inch below the top of the overflow pipe. The tank water level should be at the level line on the inside of the tank.


Worn washers in faucets can leak. If a firmly closed tap continues to drip, you may need to replace the washer. You should also check other water valves in the house to find any major leaks. 

Whole house humidifiers

Central humidifiers are built into your house's heating and cooling system. They use direct water supply and can have leaks. The equipment includes an overflow drain to the sewer in case the refill valve fails to close. The water is sent directly to the sewer when the valve fails to work. This can result in water wastage. You should check your humidifier often.

Mechanical trap seal primers

In houses 20 years or older, laundry sink faucets are usually attached to a trap seal primer. The mechanical trap seal primer releases water to the floor drain every time you use the tap. This prevents sewer gases from entering your home. The seal is prone to wear, and should be checked for leaks.

To see if your mechanical trap seal primer is leaking, check for:

  • Dripping sound near the floor drain.
  • Unusually warm laundry room.
  • High water bill and no other leaks.
  • Flowing water in the drain tube.

Learn more from these water conservation videos.

Water softeners

Although there are many things a homeowner can do to maintain their water softener, if it is found to be leaking at the base, top, or from any of its connections, it is recommended that you have it dealt with professionally. Not only does a leaking softener result in a higher water bill, but it can also pose safety and electrical risks for the entire household.

Water Softeners regenerate periodically by having a backwash valve open automatically to let in fresh water. When this happens, the valve can get stuck in the open position, causing water to continuously run to the drain. This very often goes undetected because there is usually little noise created, other than a soft trickling sound in the sewer pipe. If it does happen, it can result in some really high water bills due to the amount of water being quietly wasted. If you find this happening in your home, turn the water feed line to the softener off, open the bypass if possible, and get the unit repaired immediately. Other sources of leaking can result from loose water line connections, cracked water-carrying components and worn valve seals that should be repaired.

Underground irrigation systems

With large volumes of water coursing through the water piping system located underground, it’s easy to see how a leak might go unnoticed. In addition to wasting water, in-ground sprinkler system leaks can damage your lawn and garden if they aren’t caught and repaired quickly. Depending on your irrigation system design, you likely have water pipes and valves that run throughout your landscape that are prone to leaking issues.

It is important to note that if your system is not properly winterized in time to fully drain water from the system, your buried pipes may have experienced severe freezing. Frozen water can burst the pipes leading to leaking water the next time your system is turned on. The best way to ensure your system is properly winterized is to have the water blown out of your lines, preferably by a professional.

How to find out if your underground sprinkler system is leaking:

If there are no obvious clues, such as a broken sprinkler head where you might see more than the normal amount of water gushing out, check your water meter. If the dial is moving when there is no known water use taking place, you probably have a leak.

If you close the valve to your outdoor irrigation system and the meter dial continues to move, then the leak is indoors.

If the meter dial stops moving, the leak is outdoors. While hidden pipes leaking under your lawn are not immediately obvious, there signs you can look for including:

  • Hissing or other noises emanating from your system
  • Sprinkling with unusually low water pressure when the system is turned on
  • Water running right off your lawn or coming to the surface
  • Mold and mildew on the lawn or plant damage caused by fungus
  • Areas that are much greener above the water lines or around the sprinkler heads
  • Sunken and/or muddy area in your lawn
  • Dirty water spraying from a sprinkler head

For helpful tips on how to check your irrigation system for leaks and what to watch for, check out this video made possible by the Region of Peel: Finding leaks in your in-ground sprinkler system.

Leaking water pipes

In addition to causing higher water bills, if you ignore leaking pipes in your home long enough they will wreak havoc on your entire home. Poor water quality, warped and stained walls, invasive black mold, and flooding are some of the ways leaky pipes damage your whole house and end up costing a fortune. There are several different ways a pipe can start leaking.

Electrochemical corrosion

Metal pipes are required by code to be electrically grounded, and this is normally done by grounding the cold water inlet pipe to the home. (Note that a plumbing system with plastic forms of piping does not require any kind of electrical grounding).

If you have ever noticed green/blue staining (patina) on your copper pipes, it signifies that the plumbing job may not have been done correctly in the first place. In this situation, copper water piping is corroding from the inside out. This can lead to pinhole leaks as well as a green/blue water colour, (usually the first sign). It can also create bigger leaks, which will be costly for you in the long run.

Pinhole leaks can further develop due to excessive flux being used for soldering joints. Excess flux lying on the bottom of the pipe will also corrode the copper, hence pin holes on the bottom only. The bottom line is that if you see a green/blue patina on your pipes, you should contact a professional plumber to come and assess the situation.

Water hammer

This form of hydraulic shock in your water pipes sounds like a banging “hammer” and occurs when the shut-off valve or tap on a high-pressure water line suddenly closes. When a valve is closed quickly, it suddenly stops the water from moving through the pipes and sets up a shock wave through the water, causing the pipes to vibrate and “shudder”. More than just producing an annoying noise in the pipes, water hammer can actually damage the pipe connections and joints, resulting in leaks and costly repairs.

Your pipes will likely have air chambers, consisting of a short pipe behind most valves (some older homes may not have this, unless the plumbing has been updated). These chambers should be filled with air to absorb the shock when the water flow stops suddenly. If water enters the air chamber, over time this cushion of air will be lost along with the ability to absorb shock.

How to fix water hammer:

  1. Shut off the water to your home at the main.
  2. Open the highest faucet in your home.
  3. Open the lowest faucet (it's usually outside or in the basement) and let all the water drain out.
  4. Turn the lowest faucet off (the one you opened in step number 3) and slowly turn the water main back on.

After you have done this, re-check the noisy faucet or appliance to determine if there are still issues. If the plumbing in your home is old and you don’t have air chambers, you may want to consider having them installed.

Pipe connections
Leaks can further develop in water pipe joints and other connections due to a number of reasons. Small shifts in your home’s foundation, extreme temperatures, excess water pressure, and shaking appliances such as washing machines, can all lead to loosening or deterioration and eventual rupturing of water pipe connections.