Leaky pipes are commonplace in Florida, and the state has some of the hardest water in the nation. If you’ve noticed your pipes leaking more than they should, you’re not alone.
Let’s clear up the science behind why your pipes leak more than the next state over.
Why Are Leaky Pipes Common in Florida?
There are many factors that lead to leaky pipes, and even the best copper piping will eventually need maintenance or replacement. Fortunately, the reasons for Florida’s notorious leaky pipes are well-documented.
Common Causes of Leaky Pipes
There are four main things that result in leaky pipes in your home:
- Poor plumbing craftsmanship
- Corroded piping
- Cracks in older pipes
- Excess pressure that puts strain on your plumbing
It goes without saying that lousy craftsmanship is a known cause of bad piping. Plumbers who cut corners and use poor-quality materials might cost less in the short term, but they end up costing you a lot more when it’s time to repair your waterworks.
Overall, you’re better off hiring a reputable contractor to handle your plumbing, as you’ll save money in the long run.
Corrosion happens when the chemicals and minerals in your water clog up your piping, and it’s common in places with hard water (like Florida). But, unlike your kitchen appliances, you won’t often see the build-up until it’s too late – and we’ll break down how to recognize the warning signs in a minute.
Cracks are a different matter entirely.
They’re usually caused by bad weather, poor insulation, and excess pressure. Small cracks might look like an innocent problem, but as water leaks, they’ll grow into bigger ones.
And excessive pressure can come from several places. Your plumbing is designed to withstand a lot of punishment, but it loses its integrity over time.
Hard Water in Florida
The water supplied by municipalities in Florida is very hard. This is because Florida is known as a “karstic” state, meaning rock and limestone are prevalent in the foundations beneath your housing.
Hard water contains a lot of minerals that cause chalky build-up and corrode your plumbing over time. Calcium and magnesium are the most common minerals that contribute to hard water.
And, you guessed it, limestone contains a lot of calcium and magnesium.
While hard water issafe to drink, it’s bad for your skin, hair, appliances, and clothes. It shortens the lifespan of anything connected to your main water supply – and, given that your plumbing is your water supply, hard water is one of the main causes of leaky pipes in Florida.
Treatment plants use chlorine to sanitize drinking water and remove harmful bacteria. And thanks to Florida’s warm climate, these bacteria grow more quickly than in other states.
That means it takes greater amounts of chlorine to sanitize the water properly.
But this causes problems when it mixes with the oxygen and hydrogen sulfide that’s already in the water – the resulting cocktail is highly corrosive to the copper piping you’ll find in your plumbing.
How to Recognize Signs of a Water Leak
Detecting the signs of plumbing leaks early will save you a fortune – and there are certain signs that you should never ignore. Leaky pipes only get worse without intervention.
High Water Bills
Keep an eye on your monthly water bills. A sudden spike means you’ve used more water than normal. If you’re unsure where the excess water is going, there’s a good chance your plumbing has sprung a leak somewhere.
Foundation cracks are serious structural deficiencies that put your home’s integrity in jeopardy. There are several causes of foundation cracks, but common ones include soft or damp soil.
If your underground plumbing is leaking a lot, those leaks can build and cause foundation cracks over time, resulting in severe damage to your property if neglected.
Bad and Musty Smells
Mildew and mold give off a musty smell, and mold can form in black, dark, and red spots around damp areas. It’s normal for mold to develop in your bathroom (particularly around showers and baths) but if you see it elsewhere, it’s a sure sign of a leak somewhere.
On top of that, mold can be bad for the lungs in people with allergies and pre-existing health conditions. A long exposure over time results in otherwise preventable complications, such as coughing, chest pain, and shortness of breath.
Unexplained Warm or Damp Spots
Warm spots that mysteriously appear under the flooring are a sign of hot water leakage, which results in the same kinds of structural damage as foundation cracks.
Damp spots that appear elsewhere (like corners and wall surfaces) are another sign that your piping has begun to leak.
Florida is a hot state, and snowfall and sub-zero temperatures are rare. Nevertheless, when the temperature does drop sharply, the water in your pipes can freeze.
Frozen water expands and puts additional strain on your plumbing. When it thaws again, it’s worth checking for any of the signs on this list to get ahead of trouble.
Bad Water Flow
A faucet that isn’t flowing as well as it used to is another telltale sign. If you notice poor water flow from a tap or shower, test the other sources of water in your house. If multiple taps aren’t flowing properly, it’s time to find the leak.
What to Do About Leaky Pipes
Once you’ve found leaks – or the revealing signs of leakage – it’s time to act. You can fix minor issues with a spot of DIY.
Track Down the Source
If unsure as to the leak’s severity, you’ll need to track it down. The best way of doing so is by following the clues we listed above – look with your eyes and your nose for dampness and musty smells. Isolate faucets and water outlets to narrow down the source of a leak.
Pinhole leaks occur in copper pipes when the copper corrodes enough to make a hole.
If you notice multiple pinhole leaks spring up, it’s worth keeping track of them. One or two per year are commonplace, but if you’re seeing more than three in a six-month period, there’s a wider problem (like high water pressure) that needs to be fixed.
Newer piping can be patched up with a variety of tools:
- Plumber’s tape
- Repair clamps
Epoxy putty and plumber’s tape are easy solutions, but they won’t last as long as a repair clamp, which is a small metal sleeve with rubber on the inside.
Contact a Professional
If you’re unsure of how to proceed or you’ve noticed signs of severe water leakage, it’s probably time to contact a professional for help.
It will end up costing you far less than ignoring your leaky pipes.
How to Minimize Future Leaks
Prevention is always the cheaper option. Taking steps to mitigate leaks and staying vigilant is kinder on your plumbing – and on your bank account.
Strengthen Your Seals
If you’ve got a wrench handy, you can tighten the valves around sinks, showers, and bathtubs to prevent water leaks.
Store-bought plumber’s tape and caulk can be used to block small leaks, and you can tighten the connections (clockwise) around sinks to stop them from dripping.
Keep an Eye on Your Water Pressure
Your home’s water pressure should sit between 25 and 50 psi. Most professionals recommend an average value of around 50 psi.
Some homes have pressure gauges built into their water supply systems, but if they don’t, you can test your water pressure by attaching a pressure gauge to a faucet.
Pay special attention if you notice loud banging noises when you shut off your taps or if your toilets sometimes run on their own – these are signs of excessively high water pressure.
High water pressure also results in more expensive water bills. That’s because the pressure pushes more water through your taps when you turn them on.
Install a Water Softener
Water softeners remove most of the corrosive minerals from your water supply and lengthen the lifespan of your plumbing. It’s a good idea for Florida homeowners to install a water softener – as we mentioned above, the state’s water supply is hard because it’s a karstic environment.
Fix Your Water Leaks and Save Money
Knowing the early warning signs of leaks in your plumbing is an important skill for any homeowner. That’s even more true in Florida, the “hard water state”. If you find leaky pipes in your home, don’t panic.
Act quickly, and you can save a lot of money before a slow drip turns into a flood.
Think you’ve found a leak, and you’re unsure how to proceed? Click here to contact us for an expert consultation.