Home Improvement

The Homeowner’s Guide to Slab Leaks

Having a leak in a slab foundation is a real problem.  Everything about it is a nightmare.

When a person buys a house built on a slab foundation, they don’t think about where the plumbing might be.  They just know everything is working and don’t give it another thought.

The fact is that the plumbing for the house is buried in sand and gravel in the ground underneath the slab foundation.  Some contractors even put the plumbing right in the concrete of the slab itself.  This is all well and good until a pipe leaks.

In areas of the country where there is a lot of heave due to the ground freezing, it is not surprising for a pipe to be pushed to one side or the other, or pushed up, causing the pipe to break, or leak.  In other areas, the clay soil absorbs water and pushes the pipes out of place causing them to leak.

In some places, the soil is very acidic.  Over time, little pinhole leaks can develop in the pipes from the constant exposure to acid. These will continue to grow until they cause a leak beneath or in the slab.  When the slab cracks from the pressure, that’s when the problems begin.

How to Tell

Sometimes it’s no problem for the homeowner to be able to tell that they need a slab leak repair service to come to their home right away.  When the water stops running out of the faucet, clearly it’s running out somewhere else.  That other place is the slab.

But usually, a slab leak will be slow to develop.  If the leak is under the concrete slab it will be a while before the water saturates the ground and causes the slab to crack from the pressure of the expanding soil.

Also if a leak saturates the ground under the slab and then the ground freezes, the pressure will push up on the slab and cause it to crack.  Freezing ground expands the same way water in an ice cube tray expands.

When a leak is developing slowly, there are things a homeowner might notice.  Low water pressure can be a clue.  A homeowner might notice that one part of the living room floor is frequently damp and there doesn’t seem to be a reason.

Sometimes a linoleum floor will have a slight bulge in a particular area.  This is water slowly building up under the floor.

The first clue a homeowner might get is a spike in their water bill.  This doesn’t necessarily mean that there is a slab leak.  The pipes could be leaking somewhere else like out in the yard, or at the water meter.

This is when a homeowner really needs a professional slab leak repair service.  The technicians can drain all the pipes and then force air through the plumbing to determine where the leak is.  If the leak is not under the slab, that’s great.  But then the homeowner has all kinds of other issues, but at least it’s not damaging the house.

Sometimes the drywall in the house might be damp.  It’s under wallpaper the homeowner might not even notice it until mold starts forming.  Or perhaps the cabinet under the bathroom sink has water underneath it.

The homeowner might replace the drain pipes thinking that is the problem when it is actually the water coming up from the slab.

The Repair

Repairing a slab leak is tricky business.

The slab leak repair service technicians will do everything they can to not break through the slab. A broken slab is just asking for foundation problems.

One thing that can be done is to completely reroute the plumbing. Although this is a huge job, it will stop slab leaks from happening again later.

Or plumbers can perform a procedure where they snake pipes through the old pipes.  The new pipe will burst the old pipe away and leave the new piping behind.

Another way to repair a slab leak is to tunnel underneath the slab.   This has to be done very carefully by an experienced slab leak repair service.  Otherwise, the act of tunneling could cause damage to the slab.  This is not something a homeowner should try on their own.

If homeowners ignore their slab leak problems, eventually the slab will crack.  When the concrete is cracked, it will shift.  Doors won’t close properly, windows won’t open, and the drywall will crack.  These are signs of foundation failure.