Troubleshooting: Sounds Like Water but Nothing Is On

A leaking faucet.

It is never a good feeling when you hear water flowing through your pipes even though everything is turned off. No one wants a water leak because they can be costly and cause a lot of damage. Whenever you think there is a problem, be sure to take these steps to troubleshoot the situation.

Check Your Water Meter

A man adjusts a water meter.

Even a slow leak will spin the water movement indicator on your meter about one revolution in three minutes. Leaks can stay hidden underground or under a slab of concrete, so if everything is turned off and the water movement indicator is spinning, then you have a problem. If it isn’t spinning, then you don’t have to worry about a water leak.

Check Everywhere Else

If everything is turned off and you hear water, chances are there is a leak somewhere, and that is causing you to hear the water sounds. You want to check every faucet (including outside nozzles) and under every sink. Also, check the refrigerator (if you have an ice maker), dishwasher, washer, air conditioner, showers, bathtubs, toilet tanks, water tanks, basement, crawl spaces, pool, and irrigation systems. Leaks can be difficult to detect, so if you don’t find a leak or damage, that means it could be hiding.

When you are checking your water heater or boiler, look at the temperature and pressure relief valve. It is possible the valve is stuck open, and water is going down a pipe directly to a drain, so there aren’t any leaks. This valve is located near the top, usually on the side or back of the unit, and has a 1-inch pipe leading to a drain.

Also, if you have a trap in your toilet, tub, or shower that has hair or paper draping over the edge, it can cause the trap to drain slowly. This could cause you to hear it dripping down the drain pipes, and a slow drip could last for an hour or more.

Shut the Water Off

Tools above a toilet.

Another thing to do when troubleshooting the sounds of water is to turn off the water main at your house. Also shut off the water at the street if you can. If the water sound stops after either shutoff, it will help you locate the problem.

If you turn the water off at your house and the sound stops, the leak is in your home. However, if you still hear the sound, turn off the street valve. If it stops then, that means the leak is underground between the curb and your main valve.

Do You Have a Water Softener?

If you have a water softener or a water filtration unit, it is possible that it has a backwash timer or valve that is stuck. That means it is flushing the system continuously instead of operating normally and flushing it into a drain.

Also, a power outage could have thrown off an electric timer, which would backflush at odd times. You may simply be hearing it.

Call a Plumber or Leak Locator

A plumber stands in a bathroom.

If all else fails, call a plumber or leak locator to help you fix the problem. You don’t want to let a water leak get out of hand. It could cause major property damage and cost a lot of money in the long run. If you can’t figure out where the water is coming from but you hear it in the pipes, call a professional.