After a major water leak in the laundry room of our last house a couple of years ago, we were forced to completely gut the room, remediate mold that had been growing behind the walls, and basically start from scratch. The leak originated from the unit above us – our neighbor up there had a slow leak in her laundry area and all that water trickled downward. What seemed like a small, harmless leak, turned into a massive problem once we opened the walls and discovered all the damage it had caused. It had definitely been leaking for a lot longer period of time than anyone realized just based off of how damaged everything was.
The whole process was really eye opening and needless to say, it made us extra cautious of what we could do to prevent future leaks so I thought I’d share some helpful insight that we learned from that experience and still apply to this day.
Bottom line…as a home owner you should always be very aware of what’s INSIDE your walls before hanging or doing anything to the OUTSIDE of them – knowing this could stop or prevent unnecessary leaks. Here’s a couple tips to help you determine:
KNOW A LITTLE ABOUT YOUR HOUSE
Whenever I want to hang something near a water source – a mirror above a sink / a photo above a toilet – I always stop and ask myself where the water line might run behind the wall.
In most cases, your water line will come up from the floor to your sink or toilet and the wall space above will be free of obstructions behind the walls but in the case of our condo with a unit above us, I knew that there was most likely a floor to ceiling drain pipe that ran behind the wall – the water from upstairs has to go somewhere right? Makes sense that it would drain down / tie into our line at some point along the way.
Assuming this was the case, I was always pretty anxious about how I could safely hang anything without the possibility of accidentally hitting a pipe behind the wall. That’s why it’s always important to know a little bit about how your house is constructed to avoid potential leaks.
UNSURE? USE A STUD FINDER
If you find yourself in a situation where you’re unsure, use a stud finder to locate the nearest stud so you can hang your heavy item on a stud.
The blue stud finder works off 13 different sensors to detect both wood and metal studs in the wall while the yellow stud buddy uses powerful magnets to find pre-existing nails/screws in the wall because wherever there’s screw, there’s a stud.
IF YOU RENOVATE, TAKE A TON OF PHOTOS
If you ever find yourself with open walls like we did in the laundry room, do your future self a favor and snap as many photos as you can. When we were renovating our garage last year we decided to run electrical so we could install lights to flank the exterior of the garage.
With the new electrical in, we were required by code to close up the walls. Before closing up the walls, we made sure to snap a lot of photos with the newly ran electrical to reference back to later after the walls were closed up. If we ever decide to mount anything to the walls in the garage, we’ll want to know where the electrical is so as to safely avoid nicking it if we ever decide to hang anything here.
IF ALL ELSE FAILS, PUT A CAMERA IN THE WALL
When we were trying to install our floating vanity in the condo bathroom, we had to use heavy duty anchors to support the weight of the vanity but we also knew that plumbing for the unit above most likely ran behind our walls too.
After using the stud finder and coming up empty – that happens a lot when installing Ikea furniture – our only option was to use heavy duty anchors to safely secure the vanity to the wall.
In order to avoid a water catastrophe by accidentally hitting a water pipe, we made a small hole in the drywall and stuck our phone inside to take photos. Thankfully we did, because look at what we found – a pipe sandwiched between a couple of studs! Good thing that screw narrowly missed the pipe!
We used our phone or they make these fancy inspection scopes too.
BUT IF YOU WANT TO BE REALLY, REALLY SURE…
Just use 3M Command Strips or my new favorite 3M product, the 3M claw. I use the 16 lb velcro command strips for most all my picture hanging needs and the 3M claw comes in 15, 25, 45, and 65 lb hanging weights so I’ve used those to hang some of my heavier mirrors without issue!
If I ever find myself in a situation where neither of the above products will work for the given application – like the time we had to rehang cabinets in our newly remodeled laundry room – I reference all the tips above to make sure we know exactly where things are prior to hanging.