When you have a water leak under the sink, you’ll probably see wet cabinetry, or find items you’d stored to be a bit damp. When you have a toilet leak, you may notice water on the floor at the base, or hear it running even though it shouldn’t be. Unfortunately, slab leak detection is a whole other beast.
But when you have a slab leak—a leak in the water lines that run under the concrete foundation of your home —it can be much harder to find. And the longer it’s left to its own devices, the more damaging (and expensive to repair) it can be.
Did you know that an estimated 20 to 50% of North America’s water supply is lost because of leaks? That’s why it’s so important for homeowners and businesses to conduct regular inspections to check for leaks until slab leak detection technology catches up and makes it easier to find them underground.
At ePIPE, we understand that homeowners may need to be able to detect these slab leaks without having to wait for the technology and before it presents a much bigger issue. In order to help every home and building owner, here’s what we’ll be covering:
- What Causes a Slab Leak?
- Sign of a Slab Leak
- Fixing a Slab Leak
- How to Avoid a Slab Leak
What Causes a Slab Leak?
Many common causes of slab leaks aren’t something you have control over. Even if a home or building owner does everything right, a slab leak can occur and spell trouble. Here are just a few causes of a slab leak:
- Pipe corrosion: If your home or office has old pipes, corrosion may be the culprit, especially if your home uses copper pipes. Over time, the contact from any soil, sediment, and metals may degrade your pipes and their overall quality. This creates pinholes, which can be enough to wreak havoc on the concrete slab that your home is built on.
- Poorly-constructed foundation: Homes or buildings constructed on faulty foundations may also face slab leaks. Trees near your home can sometimes send roots next to or near your foundation, which pulls moisture from the soil and causes the soil to contract. If the foundation shifts and cracks (as a result of soil volume change), it could damage the nearby plumbing and lead to a slab leak.
- Incorrect water pressure: Too much pressure on the pipes underground can lead to cracks, which cause leaks. This is common in areas with clay soil since it expands when wet and contracts when dry. The ground under the foundation shifts, putting too much pressure on the slabs and pipes. Additionally, if your water pressure inside the pipes is too high, the pipes will vibrate too much. When pipes are next to hard surfaces like concrete, rebar, other pipes, or gravel, it will eventually form a hole in the pipe, causing leaks.
Signs of a Slab Leak
Knowing what causes a slab leak is a good thing, but it’s also crucial to watch for various warning signs. Spotting a sign of a slab leak early on can save you thousands of dollars in costlier repairs or, in some more severe scenarios, an entire repiping.
Every home or building owner should be familiar with these signs:
- Pooling water: Pooling water around the foundation could signal a leak in the pipes in your home’s foundation. (It may also indicate a drainage issue.) Puddles inside the building are also something to watch for.
- Sound of water running or dripping: If you hear running or drippping water, but aren’t running any water at any of the faucets in your home, this is an indication of a plumbing issue. Generally, you won’t hear the water if it’s just a small, slow drip; be extra diligent in listening for these sounds when you know any faucets aren’t currently going.
- Odor/mold: One of the most common signs of a long-standing leak is the smell of mildew. You may also see mold spores. Mold and mildew grow in moist environments, so it’s critical to repair the leak and dry the surrounding area as soon as possible. The last thing you want to add to a slab leak issue is a mold issue.
- Cracks in the wall: This may be a sign of water damage from a slab leak because water running under the house erodes the soil. This removes the slab’s support, placing more strain on the slab and walls. The cracks are most often present at the baseboards and the bottom of the wall.
- Hot spots or warm spots on your flooring: If parts of your floor feel warm, this is an indication of a plumbing problem within the hot water line. If you can’t determine the source of the leak, it’s best to hire a professional service to come out and investigate for you. They can inspect your plumbing system and use other tools to isolate the location of the leak.
- High water bill: Keep a special eye on your water bill. If you notice a steady increase in your bill without any change in your living situation, it’s time to inspect your plumbing system for leaks. Turn off all the water in your home, then take a look at your water meter. If after a couple of hours, the meter has moved, that’s a sign of plumbing leaks somewhere on your property.
- Reduced water pressure: With any leak, even those in your slab foundation, less water is running through your water pipes to where you need it. This is because water is escaping from the pipes and going somewhere it shouldn’t be, causing reduced water pressure. Any time there is a sudden decrease when no other fixtures are used at the same time, it could be a slab leak.
Fixing a Leak
If you’ve got a slab leak, you’ll need a plumber who provides leak detection services to visit your property to confirm and evaluate the situation.
The most expensive and messy approach is to break through the slab to make the necessary slab leak repair. Since this is less than ideal for most, it’s possible to re-route pipes so that they are easily accessible for future maintenance and repair.
Often, the least invasive and most cost-effective option is an epoxy solution. It involves applying an epoxy coating to the existing pipes. It doesn’t require expensive digging and landscape restoration. The epoxy hardens to create a new pipe within the old one and seals any holes in the existing pipes to stop leaks. Epoxy coating is durable, minimally invasive, and can save you money in the long run.
How to Avoid a Leak
Though many causes aren’t your fault, you can still take steps to keep your pipes in good shape and avoid slab leaks.
- Watch out for your potable water supply: Slab leaks occur in any pipe that runs below your property’s foundation. This includes your pipelines for potable water! Make sure to keep an eye out for your potable water supply. If you notice a reduced water pressure as we mentioned, call a plumber or professional right away.
- Regularly test the pH of your water: If your water is too acidic, you’ll notice corrosion of metal pipes much faster than if you had neutral water. If your water is too alkaline, it can cause scale to build up. It can also cause issues with your water heater—especially if you use a gas water heater. The EPA recommends a pH between 6.5 and 8.5 but doesn’t regulate it. If your water is very basic, it may also be hard (full of calcium and other minerals). Even within the EPA range, you may have issues with hardness. If that’s the case, ask a plumbing professional about using a water softener.
- Regulate your water pressure: You may like strong water pressure for your shower, but keeping it up too much can create problems in the long run. Don’t apply too much pressure on your pipes, especially if they’re older in age.
- Get regular inspections: Have a professional inspect your entire plumbing system once a year. Conduct your own monthly inspections to keep an eye on things in the meantime.
For older buildings, slab leaks may be inevitable, but the key is to know what to look for, what your repair options are, and what you can do to prevent another one in the future.
The ePIPE team has years of experience handling slab leak detection and repairs in residential and commercial buildings. Have a specialty project you want looked at? We’ll support you there, too.
We even offer financing options and provide emergency services.
Make sure you avoid disaster by knowing the signs and knowing when to call a professional. Contact us to get a quote and have your property professionally inspected for a slab leak today.