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What Is a Slab Leak?

a home with a slab leak

Many homeowners have heard the term “slab leak”. But, what does it mean and how would you know if you had one? These types of leaks can be quite a concern, as they can end up costing a pretty penny.

For starters, the term slab refers to the concrete slab that many homes are built on. If you have a slab leak, it means that there is water leaking under your home’s foundation. This can happen if you have pipes running under or through your foundation that burst or crack.

Slab leaks often happen when plumbing gets older and wears down over time. However, pipes can also break due to other factors. For example, leaks can occur if your pipes were not installed correctly or were damaged during the construction of your home. This can also happen if minerals in your water have corroded your pipes.

It’s important to detect and fix slab leaks as soon as possible. Slab leaks can seriously damage your foundation, and in some cases, they can even affect the structural integrity of your home. Beyond damaging your foundation, slab leaks can also lead to issues such as water damage, pest problems and mold growth.

Signs You Have a Slab Leak

Some signs that you might have a slab leak include:

  • The sound of running water. If you keep hearing water even when your shower, faucets, dishwasher and other fixtures are off, then it might be a sign that you have a slab leak.
  • Wet carpets, flooring or baseboards. If parts of your carpet or flooring are damp, warm or cold, then this could be a sign that there is a water leak nearby. Or, if your floor is bubbling or warping, then there could be water leaking under that spot.
  • Mildew or mold. If you start to smell mold or see mold or mildew starting to grow in your home, then you could have a leak in the foundation.
  • An unexplained drop in water pressure. Whenever water is seeping out a spot where it shouldn’t be, it makes it difficult for your pipes to maintain pressure. If you notice low water pressure in your sink, hose or shower, then there might be a leak.
  • Changes to the foundation. If you notice cracks along your foundation, water pooling around the slab or cracks in your walls, then you could have a water leak. Similarly, if you have problems closing your doors or windows out of the blue, then it could be a sign of a slab leak.
  • An unusual increase in your water bill. A variety of things can lead to increased water bills, including simpler issues like using more water while you’re hosting guests. However, this can also be an early sign of an even costlier problem.

If you notice any of these signs or think you might have a slab leak, it is smart to reach out to a professional. It’s usually difficult for homeowners to identify slab leaks on their own because a number of different issues can cause these signs.

However, a plumber can help you save precious time by taking care of the leak for you before the issue gets worse. Licensed plumbers have the training and tools needed to figure out what’s causing the problem in your home. Then, they can help resolve the plumbing issue as efficiently as possible.

a running sink

How Long Do Copper Pipes Last?

Copper pipes were the industry standard for many years and this kind of piping still has many advantages. For one, properly installed copper pipes can last an average of 40 to 60 years. This is much longer than pipes made from other kinds of materials.

However, these pipes do have their downsides. Copper pipes are more vulnerable to environmental conditions, like freezing temperatures, than some newer types of plumbing. This often leads homeowners to wonder if their pipes will freeze at 32 degrees. In addition, they can break down if sediment from hard water builds up inside the pipes. Metal objects like clamps or nails that are touching the pipes might also react with the copper and start to corrode the pipe. Additionally, years of water flow through a copper pipe can wear down the pipe itself or the fittings.

Any of these conditions can cause corrosion and might lead to pitting. Pitting is when there’s excess corrosion in a particular part of a pipe. In turn, this pitting might develop into a pinhole leak, which is a hole in the pipe that starts small and expands over time.

Scientists are still doing research to figure out what exactly causes pitting and the resulting pinhole leaks. However, there is some sign that pitting might result from many factors. For example, things like faulty installation, improper pipe manufacturing, the presence of certain minerals in the water or inadequate electrical grounding might cause pitting.

Once pitting begins, anything that further degrades copper pipes has the potential to turn what was a once small problem into a big issue. These pinhole leaks can lead to even larger problems like slab leaks in homes with copper pipes. This is why it’s important to reach out to a plumbing professional as soon as you think you might have a water leak in your home. Professionals can determine why a leak may have occurred, such as due to the minerals in your water. Then, they can answer any questions you may have, such as what are the pros and cons of water softeners?

Unfortunately, there is currently no way to completely prevent pitting or pinhole leaks in your pipes. However, if you work with a pro, they can help keep these tiny holes from turning into huge problems. They can work with you to set up a regular maintenance schedule to help catch any plumbing problems as early as possible. Additionally, if they detect any plumbing issues, they can make needed repairs.

a home with a slab leak which leads the homeowner wonder how to fix a slab leak

How to Fix a Slab Leak

The best way to fix a slab leak is to contact a licensed plumber. For many reasons, it’s extremely difficult for homeowners to fix these types of leaks. For one, it is hard to pinpoint the exact location of the issue without expert equipment and training. And, to fix a slab leak, you must first determine if the issue at hand is truly a slab leak.

Professionals find slab leaks by using their expertise and technical tools. For example, one way they can figure out where a leak is coming from is to listen to the foundation using equipment like acoustic discs and ground microphones. They might also conduct an elimination test, where they isolate each water supply line in your home to help figure out if one of them has a leak.

Additionally, a pro will ask you questions about what possible signs of a slab leak that you have seen, felt or heard and inspect any problem areas that you mention. They will also answer any other questions you might have and help you understand what options you have available to fix the issue.

Some things that the professional might recommend to fix the problem include:

  • A spot fix to the pipe. If the leak is small or is isolated to a single location, then a plumber might recommend repairing just one or a few areas of your piping through a process like epoxy restoration.
  • Replacing pipes. If the plumber finds that your slab leak is coming from multiple leaks in your plumbing system, then it might be best to replace your entire piping system altogether rather than just spot treat the issue. This can be a complicated process that involves tearing into your foundation with a jackhammer or other heavy equipment. When there are multiple leaks, re-piping can help reduce the chance that you’ll continue to face issues for years to come.
  • Rerouting pipes. Another option if you have a major slab leak issue might be to reroute pipes, especially if the pipes in your floors or walls are also causing problems. A professional might recommend this option over a complete pipe replacement if you have several leaks but only a section of the pipes in your home need to be replaced completely.
  • Foundation re-level. If you have had a leak for a long time, then there’s a chance that it could have caused a serious problem with your foundation beyond a plumbing issue. If a plumbing specialist uncovers a major slab leak that might have impacted the structural integrity of your home, then it’s also good to reach out to a foundation expert. They can best determine if you need to relevel your foundation or take other actions to fix the structure of your house.

ABC Can Locate and Fix Slab Leaks 

Discovering a slab leak on your property can be extremely worrisome. When you contact ABC Home & Commerical Services, our plumbers can use a variety of tools to locate the leak and then provide you with suggestions on how to move forward. As a family-run business, we believe in honesty and transparency, so you can have peace of mind that we will provide you with the best recommendations for you, your family and your largest investment.

Tom Riggs

Tom Riggs is the Division Manager for Mechanical Services, overseeing sales and operations for HVAC, Plumbing, Electrical, Appliance Repair and Water Quality for all ABC Austin branches. He joined ABC in 2014. Before ABC, he was an HVAC Service Technician, HVAC Comfort Advisor/Sales and Operations Manager. Tom attended Universal Technical Institute. He's an avid outdoorsman and enjoys country living with his wife and two sons.

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