Possible pipe leak in wall behind toilet

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Old 09-19-13, 08:04 PM
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Possible pipe leak in wall behind toilet

I live alone in a somewhat small 3 bedroom, 2 bath house. A couple of nights ago (Tuesday 9/17), I flushed the toilet in the guest or 2nd upstairs bath. Later that night I walked by the bathroom and heard a constant dripping noise. On inspection I didn't see any water near the toilet, bathtub or under the bath sink. I thought it might have been coming from inside the toilet tank. I also noticed that once in awhile it would make a noise like it was refilling the tank or bowl. Exhausted from a very long work day, I just went to bed and decided to check in the morning.

The next morning around 10:30 a.m. the constant dripping sound was still there, sounding almost like the patter of light rain on the roof. I put my ear to the wall and heard what sounded like dripping from inside the wall. Running late for work, I turned off the master water switch for the house and left.

Later that night about 11:00 p.m. when I came home, before turning the water on I went upstairs to listen for the dripping noise. It was not there. After the main water switch was turned back on I checked again. This time the dripping noise was back.

At this point I took off the lid on the toilet, there was water or condensation under the lid. I then flushed the toilet twice to see if there was any change. The dripping continued. I did notice that the water in the tank would slowly go down for no apparent reason. Then I put some vinegar in tank and waited about 10-15 minutes. Some of the vinegar was making its way into the bowl.

Then I turned off the water switch just for the upstairs 2nd bath toilet and flushed the toilet so all the water would clear out of the tank. After about 5 mins the dripping noise slowed to a stop.

The last test that I did was to turn on the water to the toilet, then quickly run the 15 feet to the toilet and hold the fill valve to prevent water from going into the tank. At this point I put my ear to the wall, still holding the fill valve and clearly heard dripping from behind the wall.

So this is where I am at now. The water to the affected bathroom is off, no more dripping noises. Would you agree that there is a water leak? (could it be something else?). If so given that it only leaked about Tuesday afternoon to Wednesday morning, realistically how much damage could have been done?

The house is 7 years old. I've only been in the house 13 months. Unfortunately, the home owner's warranty expired last month and I did not renew it. After a large auto repair expense, I don't have the money right now to have a plumber tear out the dry wall and fix a pipe. I might have the money in three to six months. Do you think I could wait that long before any mold growth got to bad? I live in Las Vegas where the air is very dry.

This bathroom is rarely used and in fact had not been used since the bath tub faucet was replaced by a plumber about a month ago (and also in the master bath too. Both were replaced due to a loud whistling noise). I know the guy had to push really hard to get the tub faucet on, but Im not sure if that could have caused the problem.

Any similar experience or advice would be greatly appreciated.
 
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Old 09-19-13, 08:09 PM
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Add a little red food coloring to the tank.
If the bowl turns red it's a leaking flapper.
About a $10.00 fix.
 
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Old 09-19-13, 08:15 PM
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I did pour vinegar into the tank and saw some of it later showing up in the bowl. However I'm not sure how that would explain the dripping sound from behind the wall, especially when I held the fill valve so no water could fill the tank.

I suppose its possible I have a defective flapper and a pipe leak at the same time.
 
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Old 09-19-13, 10:22 PM
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Welcome to the forums.

I did notice that the water in the tank would slowly go down for no apparent reason
That would suggest a leaking flapper.

Try turning off just the valve for the toilet to isolate the toilet from the rest of the plumbing.
 
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Old 09-20-13, 12:06 AM
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Thanks for the reply. I'm sorry I should have mentioned that I turned off the valve for the toilet but kept the valve for the sink and shower / tub turned on. I ran some water in the sink (but not the tub) and didn't hear any dripping noise. I'll try running some water in the tub as well.

As of now all the cold water valves for that bathroom are off out of caution. I couldn't make the hot water valves budge at all. Not sure if they should be messed with so I haven't used any tools to dislodge them. There is one hot water valve that is turned upwards but I can't tell from the scribble next to it what its for. It seems like the cold water off position is opposite the hot water off position.

I had a leaking flapper in the master bath which I replaced about six months ago. From what I recall it did not make a dripping noise that sounded like it was coming from behind the wall. It was more like a distinct running water sound from the toilet. I would LOVE for it to be just a flapper issue, but I fear the worst.
 
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Old 09-20-13, 01:49 AM
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If you had a leak in the wall you shouldn't have to run the water......it'll be dripping without running any water.

You have the toilet turned off and the sink and tub turned on and you don't hear any dripping..... that's basically what you said..... is that correct ?

If so......the toilet is the issue.
 
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Old 09-20-13, 03:01 AM
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PJmax,

Yes sir that's correct. In fact I tested again tonight. Water valve to toilet turned off. Water valve to sink and tub turned on. Ran water in the sink first for about 30 seconds, turned off the sink faucet and listened. No dripping sound. Ran water to sink and tub at the same time for 30 seconds to a minute. Turned off both faucets and listened. No dripping sound.

The only time I get a dripping sound is when the water valve is turned on to the toilet. But what I do not understand is if there is no or very little water in the tank (because I'm holding the arm that keeps the tank from filling), how could it be the flapper? And what am I hearing given that the tank is not filling?
 
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Old 09-20-13, 09:17 AM
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As long as there is any water in the tank you should hear the drip.

I've heard the same thing with my own toilet when the flapper was going bad.
 
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Old 09-20-13, 07:48 PM
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Thanks for the advice.

So the dripping sound I hear from the wall is actually an echo from the toilet going up through the piping? Trying to figure out an explanation for that.
 
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Old 09-24-13, 02:59 AM
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UPDATE:

Definitely a flapper problem. On turning on the water to the toilet the tank was filling slowly because water was leaking into the bowl. I put my finger on the front edge of the flapper and the tank was able to fill in a more normal fashion. The dripping sound started immediately on turning on the water to the toilet.

After the tank filled the water level in the tank almost immediately started to drop. As it was going down I flushed the toilet again. Again I held down the flapper as the tank started to fill. Oddly the overflow tube started to fill up as the tank was filling and at one point started to overflow.

After the tank was full the water level in the tank started to fall again. I flushed and this time as the water was filling the tank, with the water level still low, I put in several drops of red food coloring (special wal-mart trip just for that... I don't cook). The red food coloring showed up in the bowl right away. So clearly its leaking into the bowl.

So the dripping sound is probably the water dripping out of the bowl and into the drain pipe for the toilet.

Of course next step is to replace the flapper. I should have time to replace it Tuesday and report back.
 
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Old 09-26-13, 02:37 AM
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update 09/25:

Replaced the flapper which fixed the water leak from tank to toilet problem. Confirmed this by applying the red food coloring test. Not one drop of food coloring from tank to bowl.

As for the "dripping" sound from behind wall, the behavior has changed. Now, after a flush I can hear a fast dripping sound (with and without my ear to the wall) for the first minute to two minutes, then it slows to about one drip per second up to about three or four minutes. After four to five minutes the dripping sound seems to have completely stopped (although sometimes I think I hear a drop afterwards but it could just be normal plumbing sounds). I actually timed the dripping sound with a stop watch over several flushes.

So this is different than before I replaced the flapper. Before the flapper was replaced the dripping sound was constant and would never stop as long as the water was turned on to the toilet.

The water does not overflow into the overflow riser, but it comes right up to the top where literally another millimeter or two it would overflow into it.

Is it normal after a flush for water to drip from the bowl into the drain pipe for a few minutes afterwards?

One side note is that it is possible I am hearing something which most people don't notice because I have extraordinary hearing ability in my left ear (my right ear is deaf and the left ear has over compensated over time. Audiologists love me because hearing tests for my left ear are literally off the charts, especially in high frequencies.)

Having said that, I don't hear the "dripping" sound after a flush from the other two toilets in the house, one upstairs the other downstairs.

At the moment I have the water turned off to that bathroom out of an abundance of caution. One question that I have is will the fact that the water is shut off to the upstairs bathroom cause unbalanced water pressure in the plumbing which could cause a pipe to leak or break? Especially when doing something like washing clothes in the upstairs washer?
 
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Old 09-26-13, 03:08 AM
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Shutting the water off in the upstairs bath will not cause any inbalance in the water system.

When you flush the toilet the water drains down from the tank into the bowl thru the flapper. The tank fills with water as well as the bowl. The water to fill the bowl is the water that goes down that plastic pipe that is standing up. Water will drip below the flapper into the bowl as well as thru that fill tube. You could hear either one drip for a while after fill up.
 
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Old 09-27-13, 09:42 PM
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Got it, thanks PJmax. It sure eases my mind that the dripping noise was related to the flapper and that the post flush dripping sound is normal. I probably don't hear it in the master bathroom because it has a bunch of lights above the mirror that make a buzzing sound which masks some of the sounds from the toilet plumbing that I would normally hear.

A friend of mine suggested that I get a water hammer arrestor for the washing machine. Is that a good idea?
 
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