Take precautions when you notice that turning a handle won’t cause water to completely stop. Plumbing leaks will only get worse over time. If a faucet washer is already worn out, applying more force can actually do more harm than good. You don’t want to strip the threads. If you do go that far, turn off the water under the sink at the source so that your faucet will stop running.
It’s a good domestic practice to regularly go around your house and make a mental note of the state of your faucets. Don’t forget the faucets that exist behind your washer and under the kitchen sink, connecting the dishwasher and refrigerator to the main water line.
Next, take a good look around the outside of your home. Outside hosebibs are easy to overlook, and during the colder months, even more susceptible to unnoticed problems. Be sure to disconnect your hose before a freeze. Outside hosebibs that freeze usually do not cause any trouble until they start to thaw. You may notice a wet spot on your carpet in the closet for instance.
Another thing to quickly take notice of is the ceiling of a two or more story building. If water is leaking somewhere overhead, you need to know about it before it gets out of control. Pay attention to the flooring around toilets, dishwasher and washing machine. If there is cracked and blistered paint, or water-damaged material, it could be a leak that is intermittent, happening only when a certain fixture is used, but not constantly. Those situations still need to be corrected immediately to salvage the remaining building materials and keep serious rot and mold from happening.
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