A clogged toilet. A leaky faucet. Water pooling under your sink. These are all obvious indicators that you have a plumbing issue.
But what if your predicament isn’t staring you in the face? There might be other signs around your home that suggest you have a plumbing problem—and if you don’t catch it in time, it could turn into a costly mess to fix.
Repairing a plumbing issue can set you back anywhere from $600 to a whopping $20,000, according to Michael Green, vice president of operations for Benjamin Franklin Plumbing.
So scout out your home for potential water leaks, but turn your focus from the sink to other areas of your property. Read on for some unexpected signs there’s a problem with your home’s plumbing system.
Patches of thick, unruly grass
Healthy lawns are usually uniform in growth and color—but not if you have a plumbing issue.
“Sewer leaks can cause areas of dense growth inconsistent with the rest of the yard,” says Aaron Mulder, co-owner of Mr. Rooter Plumbing of San Antonio, TX. “Though it sounds gross, your sewer contains a lot of nutrients that encourage rapid growth of grass and roots. Therefore, plumbers often find root masses living in sewer systems that are well over 6 feet long.”
Sunken wet spots in the lawn
Backyard pools are nice; sunken wet spots on your lawn are not.
“Pooling groundwater is typical in many areas, especially after a few days of wet weather,” says Mulder. “But if you notice an area that just always seems wet, it may be best to investigate further.”
Your yard smells like sewage
“Having a smelly yard could be an indication of two major plumbing problems: a leaking sewer pipe or issues with your private septic tank,” says Green.
A leaking sewer pipe happens when the underground wastewater pipes rupture, causing raw sewage from your home to leak into the ground. It will cause not only foul smells in your backyard, but also drains backing up inside your home.
If your home uses a private septic system, Green says, the stench could indicate a full tank or a blocked drain field.
“Septic tanks typically use fields of drain lines to siphon off liquid waste and return it to the ground near your home,” he says. “Freezing temperatures or solid waste blockages can cause the drains to clog, making the tank overflow with liquid waste and seep into your yard.”
Mike Mushinski, president of bluefrog Plumbing + Drain, says other sewage smells can result from a lack of proper drain traps or vent pipes, broken seals around toilets, dry traps, or clogged vent pipes.
Rodents taking up residence
Where there’s sewage, there are bound to be rodents.
“Draining systems with cracks and holes in the piping allow rats to easily access their way in and live off its water and unsanitary materials,” says Green.
Hearing consistent creaking noises coming from your pipes or noticing a change in water flow can indicate you have a rat taking up residence in your pipes.
“Mice and rats will literally eat through copper and plastic to get to water when they are desperate enough,” Mulder adds. “Always inspect any exposed piping for bite or chew marks, as this could quickly become an issue.”
Low water pressure
Feel like your water pressure is one step up from a trickle? A low flow in your shower could indicate a leak somewhere in your household plumbing. Buildup in pipes could also be blocking the flow of water.
“For both problems, you can have a plumber repair or replace parts of your plumbing system to alleviate the issue,” says Green.
An increase in the water bill
If your water bill is unreasonably high, Mushinski says there might be a leak in the potable water system or irrigation system. A broken sprinkler head uses more water than functioning sprinkler heads, so check that all sprinkler heads are functioning properly.
“If those appear to be in working order, a deeper analysis of the issue from a licensed technician is in order,” says Mushinski.