Are you seeing moist spots on the floor of your home? Or have your utility or water bills suddenly spiked up? Or do you get frustrated in the shower because of the low water pressure? If you experience one or more of these in your home, you most likely have a leaking slab.
Before I delve into what a slab leak is, let me explain to you what is underneath your house regarding plumbing works. The foundation of your home, primarily concrete, sits on an array of copper pipes. These pipes control the water and sewer systems in your house.
While the sewer system is channeled to all the drains within the home and is responsible for carrying wastewater away from your home to the city canal or sewer lines, the water system plays an entirely opposite role. Your faucets, shower, valves, and every appliance that requires water are connected to the water system pipes to supply water to your home.
Even the slightest leak in any of these pipes can lead to one of the most devastating problems homeowners and landlords could think of. The worse part of it all is that this leak can unnoticeably exist for a long time, causing several problems within your home and leaving you confused and lost concerning the cause of the issues.
However, understanding the signs of a slab leak and how it happens can help you detect the problem earlier and handle the entire situation before it results in a disaster. How can you tell if your house slab has a leak? In this post, I\’ll walk you through a complete guide on slab leaks, their signs, cause how to manage them.
What is a Slab Leak
Your house is built on a concrete slab foundation. A layer of concrete is placed on the earth then your house is built on this concrete layer (slab). Any damage to the concrete foundation sabotages the structural value and function of the entire building. In addition, we shouldn\’t forget about the copper pipes below this foundation.
A slab leak occurs when the copper pipes under your home foundation puncture or break. These pipes can crack due to poor craftsmanship, substandard materials and the construction process, among others. Unfortunately, when this leak happens, its signs remain ambiguous until the damage becomes evident. In other words, the symptoms of a slab may not be clear until the damages begin to surface within your home.
A tiny slab leak can lead to a higher water bill and cause expensive damage in your house and let\’s not ignore the fact that it may affect the water supply inside the house. The pipes underneath your house supply water throughout your home, and you need this daily to complete many chores, prepare meals, keep the house clean and many more.
Leaving a slab leak unchecked will dampen and thoroughly soak the soil underneath the foundation. As a result, your floor surface becomes rough, and the building will gradually sink into the earth. Well, it doesn\’t have to get to this stage; if you make yourself conversant with these signs of a slab leak, you will detect the problem earlier and correct it immediately.
Causes of a Slab Leak
A leak in your slab can emanate from different factors, ranging from naturally occurring elements like landslide and foundation shifting, man-made factors like poor installation, even mechanical factors resulting in abrasion of the pipes and chemical characteristics like corrosion. Here, we shall be discussing common causes of a slab leak.
Poor craftsmanship and quality
Poor craftsmanship and quality are prevalent causes of leaking slabs. During the installation process of these pipes, if not careful and attentive enough, it could cause damage which the house sitting on it will suffer in the future.
These copper pipes usually come in one big roll; the plumber loosens and separates them, then bury them in the earth. If he places the pipe around rocks, gravel or a relatively rough surface, it could cause a dent in the line. If one of the lines is cracked on dented during installation, that line could cause a slab leak in the house as it may eventually fracture or break as a result of the pressure of water flowing through it against a rough surface over time.
To counter this issue, a good plumber, when laying the pipes, will first prepare a sand bed to lay the pipe evenly and avoid any damage to it.
Copper is naturally vulnerable to other elements and easily softens when in contact with other metals. This tends to make them corrode faster. Notably, the soil contains certain metals. If the copper pipe is laid directly in the ground and the metal present in the soil reacts with the pipe, galvanic corrosion takes place. Galvanic corrosion is the type that occurs between two metals, rendering them worthless. If this happens, the soil will eat away a part of the copper pipe and cause a leak.
Here is another common cause of the leaking slab. Abrasion means the scrapping, wearing or peeling off of a surface due to friction. In summary, abrasion is the damage caused by friction.
As water flows through the copper pipes, they vibrate. Suppose the pipe is laid next to another pipe, on a concrete surface, gravel or other rough surfaces. When it vibrates, it causes friction between it and the immediate surface, causing the surface of the pipe to erode gradually. When this happens over time, it creates a hole in the line and causes a slab leak.
Though, sleeving the lines correctly reduces the chances of abrasion. However, they are at a higher risk of abrasion if they are hot water pipes. Regardless of how well the plumber sleeves the lines, they will expand when hot water flows through them and contract when it cools. Continuous expansion and contraction may poke little holes in the pipes and lead to a slab leak.
If you are in a state like California, you will most likely witness an earthquake. An earthquake is a devasting natural disaster that leaves a lot of properties in shambles. One of the many damages earthquakes awakens in a slab leak. Remember, your concrete foundation sits on the earth, and due to several factors, the earth may move or shift, causing the function to adjust from its original coordinates. When the earth moves, and your foundation along with it, it causes some imbalances underground, which may affect how the pipes are laid. If the ground shifts and affects the evenness of the surface the lines rest on, it may cause them to bend or even break.
The Age of the Building
Time is one of the most significant factors that affect a building. Over time, structures lose their strength, hence the need for building maintenance. In addition, the materials used in older buildings may not be as effective as those used in recent structures. In other words, the older building has the chance of experiencing a slab leak.
Signs of a Slab Leak
You won\’t notice a slab leak if you don\’t pay enough attention. The symptoms are not exactly obvious, and the longer they are unattended, the more damage they cause to your house. To prevent this, you must watch closely for the signs of a slab leak. How do you know you have a slab leak in your house? Look within your home for the following symptoms.
1. Water Puddles
Is water pooling on the floor inside your house or around the building? You may have a slab leak, especially if the water gathers where there is no nearby water source.
2. Hot Spots on the Floor
If there is a hot water line in your house and you ever notice a hot spot or an unusually warm area on the floor in your house, one of those pipes may be leaking and causing a slab leak.
3. Damp or Moldy Floorboards or Carpet
Water seeps from the ground through the foundation slab and into your house when there is a slab leak. As this happens, the area around the leak dampens, and molds may even grow around.
4. Irregular Water Meter Activity
The water meter should only move when water is used in the house. If your water meter moves regularly, even when no water is being used, it is a sign of a slab leak.
5. Hike in Water Bill
The government and economy are not always responsible for the increase in specific bills. A slab leak can also be responsible. If your water bills have been constantly increasing without significant change in your water consumption, you should call a professional plumber to check for a slab leak.
6. Low Water Pressure
If your shower, faucets and other water outlets within your home run slower than usual, you may be experiencing low water pressure due to a slab leak.
7. Sound Of Running Water
Do you still hear water running even when all the taps are turned off? If yes, the sound of running water may be coming from underneath the foundation slab of your house. This is a sign of a slab leak and should be urgently treated.
8. Cracks in Foundation
These may not always be directly related to slab leaks but could happen due to slab leaks. When there is a leak underneath the slab, the soil moistens, gets softer, and gradually swallows the foundation of the building, causing it to crack.
9. Warped Flooring
When there is a slab leak, water may seep into the house and affect the floor finishes. It can cause the wood floor to warp and tiles to loosen. If you notice these signs, don\’t hesitate to call a plumber.
10. Excess Moisture in The Basement
If your house has a basement with unexplained dampness, excess moisture, water pooling or molds, it may be a sign of a slab leak.
If you suspect a slab leak based on one or more of these signs, you must call a professional plumber to check for the leak as soon as possible. Early detection of slab leaks can save you a lot of stress and prevent costly damage.
Fixing Your Slab Leak
If your house has a slab leak, you have three basic options to fix it. The most suitable option depends on the magnitude of the leak and the structure of your plumbing system. Below are the options for restoring a slab leak.
Repair the Damaged Area
This is a suitable solution only if the leak originates from a small area and the pipe is in good condition. In this case, the leaking area and its corresponding fitting can be easily replaced. However, if breaking the foundation isn\’t an option, epoxy can be used to line the insides of the pipe to seal the leak.
Change the Pipe Routing
If the pipe is old and no longer in acceptable condition, it is best to reroute the pipe. To do this, completely seal one of the pipe outlets and relay it. In this case, the new routing of the lines will be above ground level.
Re-Pipe the House
This option is only advisable if the house pipe system has significantly declined. In this case, the entire piping system will be replaced, automatically fixing any leak.
A slab leak may not be apparent until its damages are. These damages are expensive to fix and will only result in more damages if ignored. Early detection, however, saves you the stress of the damages and the repair cost. As a homeowner, landlord, or tenant, you must be vigilant about maintenance troubles within the house. Slab leaks are not easily identifiable. However, you can tell if your home has a slab leak upon getting here.