If you are in your kitchen or bathroom and start to smell a nasty, musty odor, then you may initially suspect mold growth. So you look around. You look at the walls, the ceiling, and every other area that is immediately apparent, but you cannot find the source. Then it hits you.
The source of the mold smell is hidden beneath your sink.
So you open your sink's cabinet and find it: a leak.
A leaky sink does not start as a major problem. In fact, it starts off as a relatively small issue. However, if left alone, it can become a major problem affecting your home, your health, and eventually your wallet. Here is what you need to know to deal with your leaky sink and prevent further problems.
Symptoms of a Water Leak Under the Sink
There are numerous indicators that your sink may have a leak. As described in the initial scenario, mold growth and a nasty musty smell are certainly indicators. However, there are less extreme symptoms of a leaky sink at play.
One of the most apparent symptoms of a leaky sink is the accumulation of moisture, specifically damp or fully wet spots near and around the sink with no immediately visible point of origin. This moisture accumulation is a fairly obvious sign of a leak, especially if you have not used that sink all day.
If you find your sink's cabinet or the flooring around it discolored, you are looking at another tell-tale sign of a leak. The discoloration can be due to numerous factors, be it mold growth, waterlogged and weakened materials, or both.
Drip Drip Drip
One of the most important signs is not one that you can look out for. Instead, you need to listen for it. If you can hear a dripping sound, but it is not coming from the faucet, then there is a good chance you will hear the drip of a leaky sink. A persistent drip sound is absolutely a symptom of a leaky sink.
What Causes a Water Leak Under the Sink?
Now that you know what the symptoms of a leaky sink are, you need to understand what can cause a leaky sink. Understanding the cause is the first step toward understanding how to solve the problem.
Loose or Corroded Pipes
The source of a leak is almost always going to have to do with the pipes under your sink. If your pipes are loose, then the simple solution is to tighten them back up. However, if your pipes are damaged due to corrosion, you have a more complex problem.
A corroded pipe will only get worse. If you have encountered a corroded pipe, then you should shut off the water to your sink until such a time as it can be prepared. If you do not take this step, you are inviting further moisture from the leak and inevitable water damage.
Worn Out/Damaged Faucets and Valves
When the source of your leak is not a pipe, then the likely culprit is a faucet or valve. More specifically, you will likely encounter a faucet or valve that has been worn out or damaged over time. If you find a drip around a faucet or valve, or there has been an accumulation of moisture, then you can take it as confirmation that the valve or faucet is the culprit.
If you have a clogged drain, that can cause a leak under your sink. A well-placed clog can cause a build-up of water and pressure in your sink, leading to a leak. If left unchecked, it can cause some serious damage to your pipes, leading to major problems.
How to Fix a Water Leak Under the Sink
Turn Off the Water
The first thing you need to do is turn off the water connection to that sink. This will prevent further leaks from occurring while you are making the necessary repairs.
Inspect Pipes and Fixtures
You want to thoroughly inspect your pipes and your fixtures for any damages or perceivable causes of damage. Take note of every problem you find, as these are essential things that should be taken care of to prevent further leaks. Be mindful of damaged parts and pipes, as they will likely be replaced.
Replace Damaged Parts
Once you have taken note of the parts that need to be replaced, proceed to procure the new parts. Replace them according to their directions.
Tighten Loose Pipes
If any pipes seem loose, even if they are not part of the immediate problem, tighten them up. This will go a long way toward preventing further issues down the line.
Clean the Drain
You should take this as an opportunity to clean out the drain of the sink. This will help prevent clogs that can cause nasty leaks. You can snake out the drain before you do any disassembling.
Call a Professional If Needed
If you are worried that this process is something you lack confidence in doing, then calling in a professional to handle the repairs is absolutely an option. A plumbing professional will ensure that everything is installed properly with no trial and error. Bringing in a plumber may be essential depending on where you live, as some territories require you to be licensed to work on the pipes in your home. Be sure to check your area's laws on the matters before taking on any repairs on your own.
What If I Ignore the Leak?
There are, no doubt, some out there who think a small leak is no big deal. These people are mistaken. Ignoring even a tiny leak can lead to some majorly expensive problems. Here are some problems that you can avoid if you don't ignore the leak.
When water accumulates in one spot for a long period of time, it softens and damages the surrounding material. This is especially true if the material is wood. This can eventually soften the wooden foundation of the sink, which can cause real damage.
Increased Water Bills
If you think a small leak cannot contribute significantly to your water bill, then you have another thing coming. Even a small drip can add a large amount of money to your bill. A consistent enough drip means that there is a constant flow of water, and that little bit is on the clock.
Growth of Mold and Mildew
Potentially the most serious problem that can come about from a leaky sink is mold growth. Mold is more than just an unsightly stain. It is a dangerous fungus that can do serious structural damage to your home if it is allowed to spread unchecked and spread it will. What starts as a problem under your sink can quickly spread beyond other parts of your home.
Not only does mold pose a risk to your home's structure, but it can also seriously threaten your and your family's health. Mold sends out spores to spread to other surfaces, and these spores are microscopic. Because the spores are so small, it is easy to inhale them. Given the corrosive properties of mold, you can experience some serious health problems, particularly in your respiratory system.