Do you see signs of water pooling in your yard on a dry day? Is your water bill ridiculously high? These are both signs of an underground pipe leak.

Obviously, a pipe leak inside your home is usually pretty easy to find because you can see water pooling on the floor, dripping from a ceiling, or making walls soggy. But finding a pipe leak in your yard can be something else. Underground pipe leaks are hard to find because they’re often buried deep below the surface, underneath driveways, or in similarly difficult situations. Short of hiring a tractor to dig up your yard, what can you do?


Here we will look at your options.

Determining Whether A Leak Exists

Underground pipe leaks occur when an underground water supply pipe breaks or leaks—either along its length or where it connects to elbows or other fittings. Leaks and breaks can occur because of invasive roots, shifting ground, or freezing or corroding pipes.

If you suspect that water may be leaking from a broken pipe or fitting somewhere underground, the following simple test will let you know for sure:

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Check the water meter's dials.
Check the water meter’s dials. ©Don Vandervort, HomeTips

1 Turn off every faucet, fixture, and appliance that uses water—even the ice maker. Do NOT turn off the main shutoff valve.

2 Open the water meter’s cover so that you can see the gauge.

3 Mark the rim of the gauge where the needle is pointing (if there are several dials, mark the one that indicates 1-cubic-foot increments).

4 Leave the water shut off for 30 minutes, and then see if the needle has moved from the mark. If it has, your plumbing is leaking somewhere.

5 You can look for signs of a leak, such as sinkholes or mushy areas of ground, but you may have to have a professional find it. See more about this below.

How to Find Water Wasters

Outdoor valves, hoses, sprinkler systems, and water features can waste a lot of water without you knowing there’s a problem until you receive your water bill. Please view this video to learn a variety of ways you can reduce wasted water by keeping an eye on your sprinklers, drip systems, hoses, and more.


How to Find an Underground Leak

One of the popular methods that professional leak detectors use to find an underground leak involves charging the pipes with nitrogen, an inert gas.

When the pressurized gas finds a leak, it comes blowing out, producing a loud hiss. With the help of a probe pushed down into the ground, an amplifier, and headphones, the this hiss can be heard. The leak detection specialist moves along the suspected route with the probe and eventually zeroes-in on the leak. This video shows the process:


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About Don Vandervort
An avid builder and remodeler, Don Vandervort has developed his expertise for more than 30 years, as Building Editor for Sunset Books, Senior Editor at Home Magazine, author of more than 30 home improvement books, and writer of countless magazine articles. He appeared for 3 seasons on HGTV’s “The Fix,” and served as MSN’s home expert for several years. Don founded HomeTips in 1996. Read more about Don Vandervort