Plumbing issues come in many forms, but they all have one thing in common: the potential to cause huge headaches.
A slab leak is one of the worst types of plumbing-related problems. They occur when pipes or water supply lines under a concrete foundation break.
Slab leaks can cause major water damage and result in an increase in your water bill. That’s why it’s important to fix the problem as soon as possible.
If you’ve never experienced this type of leak, read on. We’re going over detection tips, along with how to fix a slab leak in your home.
What Causes a Slab Leak
Before learning how to detect a slab leak, it helps to understand why they occur in the first place.
The most common cause is too much pressure placed on the pipes or water line under your home’s foundation. This can happen as a result of shifting soil or construction defects.
Another cause of slab leaks is pipe corrosion. After enough deterioration, the pipe breaks and you have a leak on your hands. This is more likely in older homes that still have copper piping.
Finally, friction between the pipe and surrounding rock under your home can lead to a leak. Fluctuations in temperature can cause pipes to rattle when in use. Over time, the effects of abrasion cause the pipe to burst.
Symptoms of a Leak
Regardless of the cause, slab leaks often present themselves in a similar manner. However, it’s easy to pass a slab leak off as another plumbing issue. That’s why it’s important to understand which telltale signs to look for.
One of the most common signs of a slab leak is the sound of running water when there shouldn’t be. For example, if all of the faucets in your home are turned off, and you still hear what sounds like water running, you most likely have a slab leak.
Another common sign is the presence of wet or warm areas on your floor. These may appear as small puddles on tile or hardwood or moisture underneath carpeting. You may also start to notice the smell of mildew in these areas.
If you suddenly notice cracks in your concrete foundation, this is an indication you have a slab leak on your hands. The foundation may also start to buckle and cause other issues to the structure of your home. These issues may include cracks in your walls and ceilings or doors sticking.
How to Fix a Slab Leak
It’s important to understand that fixing a slab leak typically requires extensive work. You’ll need to have a good understanding of plumbing systems, along with the tools needed to get underneath the slab.
If you feel like you’re in over your head, it’s important to call in a professional. This will ensure you don’t accidentally cause additional damage.
The first step in the process involves determining exactly where the leak is. Even finding a leak can prove difficult.
Accessing the Leak
You may have a good idea where a slab leak has occurred based on traces of water in your home. However, you’ll still have to pinpoint the exact location before making the repairs.
In most cases, a plumber will need to use listening equipment to locate the leak. They’ll turn off the main water valve and pump air into the pipes. They can then listen for the point at which the air is escaping.
Once you’ve located the leak, you’ll need to access it. This process requires removing the flooring to expose the slab. You’ll then need to cut a hole in the slab with a jackhammer.
Once you’ve cut through the slab, you’ll be able to evaluate the extent of the leak and determine which repair technique is appropriate.
Installing a New Plumbing System
If you’re dealing with multiple slab leaks, replacing your pipes altogether may be the best option. This is a surefire way to ensure all leaks stop and that they don’t occur in the future. Consider this option if you have an old home with original plumbing.
You’ll need to have a professional plumber perform this job. They’ll install a new system that includes secure attachments and fittings that prevent unexpected leaks from happening down the road.
A big advantage of having a new plumbing system installed is that you’ll have warranty protection. Yes, you’ll have to spend more money upfront, but you’ll get peace of mind — and add value to your home.
If your slab leak is minor, consider restoring the pipe with epoxy. This is much more affordable than re-piping your home.
This process involves inserting an epoxy coating into the leaking pipe. The coating solidifies, resulting in a reinforced pipe.
You can even fix minor leaks in the sewer line with epoxy coating. However, make sure you consult a plumber before trying to access and fix the line.
If you want to avoid having to cut through your slab, you may consider rerouting your pipes. This involves adding new piping around the outside of your home.
You’ll need to dig a small hole around the perimeter of the foundation where the pipe is. You’ll then need to cut and cap off the existing pipe and replace it with the new one.
If you choose this option, it’s important you use PEX pipes. These are flexible, durable, and cost-effective. They’ll hold up well and won’t corrode like galvanized iron or copper piping.
Repairing the Access Hole
If you’ve chosen to cut a hole in your slab to access the leak, it’s important to leave it open for a few days. This way you can ensure the leak is properly fixed.
After a few days, you’ll need to fill the hole with concrete and seal it with adhesive. You’ll then have to replace the flooring.
Fix Your Slab Leak Sonner Rather Than Later
Once you realize you’re dealing with a slab leak, the last thing you want to do is put off addressing the issue. This can result in severe water damage and major foundation problems.
Use the above tips on how to fix a slab leak and consult a professional if you feel you’re in over your head.
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