Why Do I Hear Dripping in the Walls?

Stacey Marcus
Written by Stacey Marcus
Reviewed by Jeff Botelho
Updated October 12, 2021
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ID'ing the sound of dripping water in your wall requires some reconnaissance

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Dripping water in your wall is not on the playlist of music you want to hear in your home. Perhaps you forgot to turn off the water in the sink or shower faucet, a pipe is clogged or frozen, or your roof is leaking. Learn how to look for signs that you have a problem, identify the cause of the dripping water, and steps you can take to fix it.

What Are Some Signs of Dripping Water Behind the Walls?

Wondering if the sound of dripping water is in your home or your head? Take a tour inside and outside your home to find clues.

Signs that you have a problem include:

  • Peeling wallpaper or paint

  • Water bill increase

  • Ceiling cracks

  • Water stains on the wall

  • Mold or musty odor

  • Discoloration of floor or walls

  • Varying wall textures

  • Pools of water around appliances

  • Sagging gutters

  • Condensation

What Could Be Causing Dripping Water?

Trying to find the source of water dripping in your walls can be as simple as turning off a running faucet or as challenging as looking for a needle in a haystack. Here are some possible causes of the sound of dripping water in your wall.

Leaky Faucet

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A leaky faucet can migrate into dripping in the walls if left unattended. Some leaks are audible and obvious, while others are slow and sporadic. Mechanical issues like corrosion and faulty O-rings, and mineral scale can damage the seal, causing the faucet to leak. Be sure to shut off a faucet that is running and check the water meter to see if your usage is rising. Compare whether it makes sense to repair or replace leaky faucets.

Also, open vanity and kitchen sink cabinets and check for puddles below the faucets. “Oftentimes faucets leak internally and you don’t know until you go looking for something in the back of the cabinet,” says Jeff Botelho, Expert Review Board member and licensed journeyman plumber.

Compare whether it makes sense to repair or replace leaky faucets.

Cracked or Leaky Pipe

Leaky pipes are one of the top problems associated with dripping water sounds in the wall. Although you can’t see a cracked pipe through the wall, it can create a variety of strange sounds and costly problems like structural damage and increased water costs. The crack can make an audible vibration in the pipe, like dripping or tapping. Checking the walls for discoloration indicates you may have a problem that requires investigation.

Faulty Air Conditioner Runoff

If your air conditioner runoff has not been correctly routed to an exit point, it can cause water to drip into a pipe. The sound may seem to emanate from your walls.

Condensation

When pipes quickly change temperature, you may hear a dripping sound in the wall from the condensation that forms. Condensation typically occurs in the summer and winter months because of rapid temperature fluctuations.

Clogged Pipes

Clogged pipes make the water run down slowly, which can create a dripping sound.

Toilet Problems

Toilet overflows and clogs are obvious problems that can cause water to run or drip in the walls. However, toilet tanks can also be responsible for mysterious dripping sounds because of an improperly sealed flapper or crack in an overflow tube. Look for signs of other possible problems in your bathroom that may be the cause of the dripping sound.

Botelho suggests adding a few drops of food coloring in the toilet tank to help determine if that’s the culprit. He says to add some food coloring to the water in the tank and wait about 15 minutes. Check the bowl and see if it’s the same color as the water in the tank. “If the colored water has made its way into the bowl, you know you have a faulty flapper, which is a simple and relatively inexpensive repair,” he says.

Roof Leak

Roof leaks are one of the top causes of water dripping in the walls of a home. If you hear dripping in your walls after a rainstorm or snowstorm, you may have to fix your roof.

Botelho advises, “If you have an attic, grab a flashlight and take a look around for water dripping through a nail hole or where your plumbing vent penetrates the roof. These leaks are usually pretty easy to find if you have access to the roof from the inside of your house.”

Clogged Gutters

If clogged gutters are the cause of the dripping sound you hear in your walls, you may notice water spilling from the sides, staining, or sagging. If you see plants growing or bird nests on your gutters, there’s a solid chance they’re clogged. Was there a recent wind or rain storm? Be sure to inspect your home’s exterior and check your gutters if you suspect the sounds you are hearing may be from an issue outside your home.

Slow Drains

Trickier than an overflow to spot, a slow drain may indicate damaged plumbing that sounds like a dripping sound in the wall. If you hear the sound after you just used an appliance like a shower or washing machine, you may be able to find the culprit. A plumber can help you find a simple solution and save you money and time.

Can You Fix Water Dripping Behind the Walls Yourself?

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The first step in stopping the sound of water dripping in your walls is to identify the source. If the solution is simple like shutting off a running faucet, cleaning your gutters, or fixing a sealant in your toilet tank, you may want to fix it yourself. For more complex issues like cracked or clogged pipes or roof leaks, it is best to call a local plumbing professional who is trained and certified to identify and solve problems safely and correctly. You can also help prevent water leaks by performing regular inspections and maintenance.

“Most tradespeople will tell you that their most valuable tool in identifying problems inside the house is an informed homeowner,” Botelho says. “Familiarize yourself as much as safely possible with all of the systems inside you home. You may not know all the technical language and names for every component of every system, but if you know where things are located, you can drastically cut down on diagnostic costs when the time comes to hire a professional to handle a problem in your home."

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