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Water Leaks: 3 Plumbing Tips that Will Help You Avoid Costly Problems

 

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by Jeff Patterson in How to Avoid Water Leaks

My neighbor Pat recently discovered his house had high water pressure. Why is this such an issue?

While you may like strong showers in the morning your house’s internal plumbing doesn’t. Water pressure over 80 psi (pounds per square inch) can cause all sorts of issues but the primary one is water leaks.

Unfortunately I’ve been the victim of 3 pinhole leaks at our house on three separate occasions. My wife and I took a red eye flight back from Seattle to discover the first leak caused a 4 foot by 4 foot section of kitchen ceiling to collapse. Don’t get me wrong, I know the copper pipes are a big culprit but when your water pressure is 90 psi it doesn’t help.

I’ve also had the bad luck of having water leaks at clothes washers, faucets, toilets, bathtubs, exterior hose bibs, you name it. Trust me, with my own house and having to field calls from tenants at our rental homes I’ve learned how to avoid expensive water problems.

Today I’m going to share 3 tips that will help you improve your home’s water pressure, reduce the likelihood of costly water bills, and help you sleep better knowing you won’t wake up to a puddle on your kitchen’s floor.

Preventing water leaks that ruin your ceiling, walls, and floors is easier than your think. And you can follow through on my tips in an evening or over the weekend. So let’s get started!

Test Your Water Pressure Regularly (Just Like Your Blood Pressure)

Building codes state water pressure shouldn’t exceed 80 psi and Pat’s was reading a little over 90 psi (just like mine).

The solution to his problem was replacing his existing water pressure regulator. The picture above is of my water pressure regulator.

Water pressure regulators should be installed by a licensed contractor who follows the local building code specifications. Pat called our local plumbing hero Matt Mertz who has done this type of repair god knows how many times.

Most water pressure regulators are factory preset at 50 psi and even though our plumber is super awesome he forgot to tell Pat about this (oops). The first time you take a shower with water pressure  at about 50 psi you’ll notice the water flow is pretty darn low.

The good news is that water pressure regulators can be adjusted and you don’t need to call your plumber to do this.

Watch this video to see how Pat tested and adjusted his water pressure down from 70 psi to 60 psi. He initially adjusted it too high and this video shows how to adjust the water pressure to a lower setting.

Test and Adjust Your Home’s Water Pressure

If you suspect your water pressure is too high make sure you test it with a water pressure gauge ($10 at Home Depot or Lowes).

 

Test your water pressure to make sure it's not too high

 

Get a licensed contractor to install a water pressure regulator if you don’t already have one. Pat’s cost roughly $130. This is a much cheaper option then having a copper pipe burst, your ceiling be ruined, and the floor below be buckling. Trust me, a ceiling alone can be several hundred dollars to fix.

If you already have a water pressure regulator and would like to see if it still works properly follow the steps Pat took in our video. I’ll recap this here with some pictures, too.

First, shut off the water at your house’s internal water main. Turn the shut off valve completely to the right.

Loosen the the locking nut on the water pressure regulator by turning it to the left.

 

Loosen the locking nut on the water pressure regulator

 

Turn the adjusting screw to the left to reduce the water pressure or to the right to increase the water pressure.

 

To increase or decrease the water pressure turn the adjusting screw

 

Tighten the locking nut and retest your water pressure at the laundry tub or any hose bib to see if the pressure went up or down.

Having a good water pressure regulator is one big step in the right direction when trying to prevent your water pipes and appliances from wearing out over time.

 

Use Quarter Turn Ball (Shutoff) Valves 

Any time I buy a new rental home the first thing I do, besides buying utility line insurance, is replace all the water supply lines that connect the water supply to a faucet, toilet, or washing machine.

You’ll typically see evidence of mineral buildup on old supply lines that need replaced.

My mother-in-law just bought a townhouse and got a letter from the water company stating she had high water consumption. Even though we knew this was due to watering new landscaping I checked underneath all her vanities to see if there were leaks.

There wasn’t any water damage but you can tell I should be a good son and replace her old copper tube supply lines with the steel braided variety which are much stronger and dependable.

 

Inspect your faucet, toilet, and washer water supply lines for signs of corrosion

Here’s the next HUGE cost saving tip: replace every old shutoff valve with a brand new quarter turn ball valve.

I again do this in every single rental home we own. The old shutoff valves typically don’t work at all and this is a big problem when someone’s toilet is overflowing at midnight. So I avoid this scenario altogether and install quarter turn ball valves.

This type of valve can be found at every hardware store and are great because they don’t have any rubber seals that breakdown over time. And with the invention of SharkBite fittings you can install these shutoff valves yourself.

Replace old water supply shutoff valves with quarter turn ball valves

A prior blog post of mine discusses how to use SharkBite fittings. They are AWESOME!!

 

Use Steel Braided Water Supply Lines

I use steel braided supply lines on bath & kitchen faucets …

 

Use steel braided water supply lines for kitchen and bath faucets to prevent water leaks

 

Toilets …

 

Use steel braided water supply lines for toilets to prevent water leaks

 

And finally, clothes washing machines.

 

Use steel braided water supply lines to prevent washing machine water leaks

 

 

Summary Points for Plumbing Heaven

So here are the summary points you need to remember:

  • Use a water pressure gauge to test your house’s water pressure
  • If your pressure is too high have a licensed contractor install a water pressure regulator
  • Adjust the water pressure on your existing water pressure so it’s between 55-75 psi
  • Replace old tube water supply lines to bath & kitchen faucets with steel braided supply lines
  • Replace clothes washer rubber supply lines with the steel braided variety
  • Finally, use quarter turn ball valves when replacing old shutoff valves that don’t work (You’ll thank me when your toilet clogs at midnight!)

Here’s a list of the supplies in case you’re interested

I think these are easy home repair projects for anyone to do over the weekend or in the evening. You’ll spend a little bit of money, but it’s nothing compared to having to call a plumber to fix a leak or getting a contractor to come in and replace a section of your ceiling because of water damage. And this doesn’t factor in the aggravation of a disrupted home life.

 

What’s Next

If you have any questions please ask them in the comment section. You can also share any crazy stories you’ve encountered with water leaks.

If you’re remodeling a bathroom you might like our free ‘Guide to a Bathroom Makeover in 10-Days’, it has a ton of great tips

Get Our Guide

Thanks for reading, watching and being part of our awesome community.

Have a great day and talk with you soon,

Jeff Patterson

 

 

 

 

P.S. If you didn’t know, we have online classes for homeowners doing a DIY bathroom remodel.

They’re affordable, step-by-step and awesome for newbies.

Learn More

 

49 Comments
  1. Patrick says:

    I accidentally came across this blog article and I am truly satisfied that I have read it. The post was great! The youtube video was a wonderful idea as well! The pictures were also extremely descriptive and provided additional valuable information.
    Speaking about myself, I have many stories about water leaks to tell, but I’m afraid that will take a week or two:) I totally agree with you about the steel braided supply lines, I have been using them since they’ve started selling them. I will keep reading your blog in the future as I find it extremely informational:) Good luck with the articles.

    1. Jeff says:

      Thanks Patrick, sounds like we both have a love hate relationship with water. I’m really happy you like HRT. Let me know if you have any additional questions 🙂

  2. kahrmellesarah says:

    How wonderful, clear, prudent, informative and brilliant is this information !!
    It even is philanthropic to post this on the Internet, to be so helpful to countless people,free of charge or gimmick. Thank you! I am going to the local hardware store tomorrow and buy everything suggested and what they don’t have, I’ll order on Amazon !!

    1. Thank you so much. I love all the comments because often times even better suggestions arise from them!!!

      It’s really all the people here that make Home Repair Tutor so cool and inspirational. We can help each other, and that’s what brings joy to me 🙂

  3. Kavitha says:

    Hello Jeff, good evening. We live in Prosper, Texas & we have a question regarding our water pressure in our home. My builder did not give us a water regulator. We are having a problem with very low water pressure that’s between 65-71 PSI. If I can built in a water pressure regulator, will it help us get 80 PSI? How much would it cost? Please feel free to contact me back & let me know! Thank you very much. Appreciate it 🙂

    1. I’m not sure what normal water pressure should be in your area Kavitha but here in Pittsburgh 60-80 psi is what we shoot for.

      A water pressure regulator is installed to lower pressure from say 100 psi down to about 60-80 psi.

      Is there a particular part of your house that has low pressure?

  4. Kavitha says:

    Thank you for your feed back! Unfortunately my whole house (kitchen,bathrooms, etc) is having low pressure. I work a lot around the house & I like having really high water pressure. Like I said, my water pressure is usually 80 PSI, but It recently dropped down to 60-70 PSI. It’s like an on & off thing. Can I install a water pressure regulator to increase it? Would you know anyone near here that can help us? Thanks again! 🙂

    1. You know what Kavitha, I’d check with your water company and see if there’s an issue at the street. They should at least check and see if the problem is on their end. If so, they’ll take care of it probably with no cost to you.

      So try this route first unless you have well water.

  5. Cheryl says:

    Hi Jeff,
    We paid Tom Moffitt $453 to install a 3″ water pressure regulator this week, would have been $533 without their club discount. That seems a bit high, correct? They also charged $71 to disconnect the water meter, and $59 minimum for diagnostic. Then $283 to install a pair of 1/2″ IPS by 3/8″ shut offs under our sink. Tom Moffitt is quick & was great before, but do you think they are charging too much now? Thanks, Cheryl

    1. I’m not familiar with them Cheryl. The $453 does seem overpriced but it’s hard for me to say since I wasn’t there to see what they had to do.

      It could have been a complex installation or super simple for a master plumber. I’ve paid less than $200 for water pressure regulators to be installed. Keep in mind that the regulator itself can range from $50 to $100. And if it takes the plumber an hour to install that easily adds up to $200.

      The shutoff price definitely seems high. A good shutoff valve costs $10 each. So unless it took them 2.5 hours to do that job it was way too much. If you need a good plumber I do recommend Angie’s List because that’s where I’ve found most of the ones I use for our rentals in Pittsburgh. I can’t do all the repairs myself so that’s why I like finding great plumbers.

  6. Megan says:

    I got a watts water pressure gauge. Maybe you can help me out. I’m still a little confused on how to read the results. I left the gauge on for a few minutes. I put it outside on the hose hook up. It reads 72 PSI. However the red black or goes all the way to 170. I am not sure what the red lever really means. I do not have a pressure regulator. Should my water pressure be below 72 and what does the reading of the red lever mean? Thank you.

    1. Megan says:

      I am sorry I meant to red dial, not the red black.

  7. John says:

    I live in a trailer park and I’m hooking up to the water. Well the main is three quarters PVC and all my plumbing under and inside the house is half inch cpvc and when I turn the valve on I end up having a line at a fitting bust or just start leaking pin hole size leaks up and down some pipes or where fittings are glued. Would a pressure vavle fix this or do I need a pressure regulator? And where is the best place to install which ever would be best for my problem?

    1. Mike says:

      You should always use a pressure reducer just past the main line turn on. This reduces the pressure through out your whole water system. Another thing to keep in mind, does your water supplier (City or Town). Do they use pressure reducers in the meter set? If so you need to contact them to check and set your pressure.
      Here’s another tip do they have a check valve in the meter set. Check valves prevent private systems contaminating the Cities water system. If they do this creates another problem its called thermal heat expansion. It allows their water to enter your home, but not allow your water to enter the cities. So what happens to water when it’s heated up? Well it expans which means it builds up pressure in your system.
      Therefore this is known as thermal heat expansion. If or when this happens you can have a thermal heat expansion tank installed on or near the water heater. You should check with a licensed plumber for codes and installation.

  8. Johnny Shih says:

    You mentioned replacing the copper water supply lines with steel braided water supply lines which I think is a great idea. I recently had a water leak in our house that started from a copper line behind our fridge. It leaked down the wall into the basement and now we have to have considerable work done. It probably could of been avoided if we had steel braided lines. Thanks for the great advice.

  9. Chris says:

    Hello and thanks for your tips. I am having an awful time replacing a toilet supply line. I have a new 9″ steel braided line with 3/8″ compression fitting. Every time I install this and then turn the water on it leaks from the supply line where it attaches to the toilet. I know it has something to do with the line because it only leaks when the water is turned on. It is the second new line I have tried. Even put plumbers tape on the thread to try and help, but to no avail. Help!

  10. Paul says:

    I like your passion for quarter-turn valves! Myself, I haven’t swapped out any under the sinks or behind toilets yet, BUT…I would REALLY like to swap out the shower handles in the master bath with quarter-turn valve/shandles. Both hot and cold stems need fresh washers at least yearly, and I have had to grind the stem seats on more than one occasion, and I’ve only lived here six years! Tired of the hassle, so I am thinking that stems involving quarter-turn valves might solve my problems. Is there a trick to this? Or would this simply be a matter of replacing the stem seats and/or installing some kind of new stems (maybe with discs) without having to change anything about the pipes/plumbing?

  11. Hey, Jeff! Thanks for your helpful article! Plumbing repairs can often be costly, but if you follow proper maintenance guidelines, you can drastically reduce that cost. I had never tested my water pressure regularly before this article. I’m hopeful that I’ll be able to lower my plumber costs by continuing to regulate it.

    Alex Jennings |

  12. gary says:

    can a closed brass gate valve in the closed position leak water into the water line beyond ? I have another GATE VALVE located approx. 300 ft. beyond the first gate and it to seeps water beyond the closed valve . both valves are on the same line with no outlets in between the two valves . if pressure is the cause , at what pressure do 1 1/2 ” brass gate valves ( valves are about 6 months old ) leak and are they junk it this point?.

  13. Emily says:

    What can you do if you don’t want to turn the water pressure down? We tried that a few weeks ago, and it just made us use more water. We have a few leaks that we’re trying to fix up, and I’m worried that a pipe might bust. How do you know if the leak was caused by old pipes, or high water pressure?

  14. Randy says:

    I similarly had a pipe bring down the ceiling in my kitchen. The water pressure was the result of my daughter flushing a diaper down the toiled, though. Never the less, you were certainly right about it costing several hundred dollars to repair

  15. Dee says:

    Hi,

    Thank you so much! That’s truly informative. I recently had a plumber over to inspect the water pipes and he said my pressure regulator thing is broken and I need to replace it. He said the pressure of water in my pipes is currently 90 psi! He quoted $1125 for it. Is it really such an expensive affair to replace the pressure valve in NJ?

  16. Thanks so much for sharing! I love your website, it helps a lot of people. I’ve had a few plumbing repairs done by plumbers, when I realized after that I could have done it myself to save money. I’ll be saving this for later!

  17. Dean says:

    Awesome post. The common problems you have suggested in this article are all issues that can be avoided by being proactive. You have done a great job at outlining how to go about addressing these problem areas by putting preventative measures in place. With a little bit of elbow grease, you can potentially prevent future headaches and cash withdrawals. Well done!

  18. astri says:

    I’ve lived in my home for 30 years and my water lines inside the home are copper. I’ve had several leaks in the last couple of years (in the wall under the bathroom sink-1x, in the wall behind my shower wall-1x, in the wall behind my water heater-3x, in the wall behind my wall mounted kitchen faucet) all within the last 3 years. Most appear to be pin leaks and there is some green (corrosion?). I live in west Texas and the soil usually dry and alkaline. Now I have another leak somewhere between my water heater (across the hall) and my bathroom. I’ve considered having the copper lines replaced due to their age (over 30 yrs). What would be my best option…PEX or something else? I have had to take early retirement due to a disability and am limited on funds. What do you suggest?

  19. Clare says:

    My son accidently knocked off the water pressure valve with a 25lb weight. It snapped the threaded copper pipe off and water was spurting out everywhere. We turned the fuse off for the pump in the well. We have tried to plug the hole in the copper pipe and now hoping to it is not going to cost an arm and a leg to get it fixed. I wish we had a better way to turn off the water until it can get fixed. Any suggestions?

    1. Hey Clare, sorry to hear about your problem.

      You could install a shutoff valve pretty easily. I personally like SharkBite shutoffs.

      Let me know if you think this is a solution or not!!

      I also answered your question on my podcast in episode 236,

      check it out here

      http://hrtllc.wpengine.com/podcast/

  20. Ken says:

    Thanks for the tips. Good advice.
    I am having a water leak nightmare as we speak. My tenant is having high water bills and we seem to hear water running after he uses the hot water in the shower, then turns it off. The water is definitely running, but we have no signs of water anywhere. It is a foundation house and the old copper lines run from the water heater (in the garage closet) through and under the foundation and back up into the tub/shower manifold. Seems like a lot of water is running. Meter is spinning pretty good and it just sounds like an outside faucet is on. So I am suspecting a leak in the line under or in the foundation.
    And then I recall… my previous tenant who lived in this place for many years really liked hot hot showers. He always had the hot water heater turned really hot. I am wondering if super hot water can cause problems with the pipes.
    Well, my plan is to install new PEX lines from the water heater to all the things in the house in the attic. I’m just going to disconnect the existing hot line and leave it there and cap it off. I hope this works.

    1. Yah that sounds like a water leak Ken. Please PLEASE let me know what you find out. I’d love to share your story on the Podcast so that other homeowners can learn what to do if they encounter the same problem. If I had to bet, the pipe under the foundation sounds broken. PEX will be an easy way to approach the new fix.

  21. stan says:

    I recently had 3 hose bibs replaced at a cost of over $616.00. They had this scam going if you purchase their maintenance plan for $89.00, you get a discount. I would have changed the bibs myself but it required a new soldered connection. He also said the plastic pipe from the meter would have to be replaced with a newer type of plastic at a cost of ~$3000.00. He tested with water pressure regulator and said it needed replacing as the water pressure was above 80psi. He didn’t even try to adjust the regulator. He suggested i replace it myself. I’ll buy a water pressure gauge and see if I can adjust the pressure myself before replacing it. I live in California and it seems the plumbers used compression fitting on the houses instead of a threaded pipe or a soldered connection.

    1. Whew, that’s a lot of money for both projects. Yes, try adjusting the water pressure regulator to see if the pressure can be lowered. If it still remains high you can replace the water pressure regulator for material cost of less than $100. But keep me posted Stan, I’d be happy to lend some advice.

  22. Justin Knox says:

    Thanks for the help. I just recently had some plumbing work done and realized that I have not known how to maintain my plumbing effectively. I had not even realized that I could check the water pressure myself. How often do you recommend checking the water pressure in my house?

    1. Once yearly is good Justin but if you start to see things break like your ice maker or shutoffs then you’ll want to check it at least a few times per year 😀

  23. Yev says:

    Regarding replacement of water pressure regulator, it is unnecessary most of the time. You can easily rebuilt it with a new gasket set. Mine has recently broke, showing pressure over. 100psi, after opening up the regulator (watts). O e of the gaskets disintegrated, I replaced it for 80 cents. Back to 60 psi. Good article otherwise !

    1. Thanks so much Yev for the great tip.

      Maybe I should have kept the old regulator and done that tutorial…darn it.

      Appreciate your tip 😉

  24. Dan Moss says:

    Jeff Great piece! Washer machine hoses are the biggest offenders. Blisters on rubber hoses are signs it is time to change them. I usually recommend change every three to five years to my clients. As a side note on the supply lines… while the plumber is at your hose have replace supply lines with the good old fashion chrome platted copper supplies, they will outlast any steel braided supply line. Next time you pick up one those steel braided supply lines look inside of them. They rely on a very thin walled poly lining to prevent leaks. They are great for the weekend warrior or handyman but if you got a pro in your house insist on something that will never fail.

    1. Thanks Dan for the great tip. I’ll have to check out the chrome plated copper supply lines…never used them but that may change!! Great tip on the blisters, washing machine hoses are a scary situation. If one fails it’s a disaster.

  25. Anna says:

    That’s really great tips which you have shared with us so that we can never get into serious issues and will always keep our home maintained.

    1. Thanks Anna, hope they help 🙂

  26. I love the suggestion to test your water pressure regularly. I have lived in my home for about five years and I haven’t even thought to check the pressure valve. Is it possible that just having an old regulator could cause problems in your plumbing? I will have to look into regulatory services in my area to assess the piping.

  27. Luke Yancey says:

    I never knew that high water pressure can lead to leaks all over the house, but it makes a lot of sense. I also agree with you that you should use the steel braided supply lines for your washer and toilets. My old apartment was ancient and they didn’t have these. We got leaks all the time!

    1. Thanks Luke for your comment. Yep, steel braided supply lines are the best. I wouldn’t use anything else.

  28. Marc Greg says:

    Hello,
    My initial water pressure is around 100, after following all the steps and releasing the adjusting screw to the left trying to decrease the water pressure, nothing happens. Kept slowing trying to adjust and the pressure never decreased from 100. The screw moved maybe a inch out, but i never had any decrease on the water pressure. Please help.

    blessings

    1. Ron says:

      Prv might be faulty

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