Slab Leaks 101: A Homeowner’s Guide

A typical Phoenix home sits on top of a concrete slab that serves as its foundation. Unfortunately, this slab can play host to some serious problems, including plumbing leaks that allow water to accumulate in or under them. A slab leak can make your home feel uncomfortably humid and can cause major structural damage.

Since you can’t afford to let a neglected or undiagnosed slab leak wreck your residence, you can benefit tremendously from a basic understanding of this worrying problem and its potential solutions. Check out this introductory homeowner’s guide on the subject.

Why Slab Leaks Occur

A home’s plumbing pipes extend both through the walls and beneath the foundation. Leaks in these pipes can occur at any point in the plumbing system, including this difficult-to-access subterranean area.

Slab leaks may occur for a variety of reasons. In the majority of cases, copper or galvanized steel pipes have simply worn out due to age and corrosion. Underground pipes may face an elevated risk of premature wear due to the extra stresses and pressures they must endure, including the expansion and contraction of surrounding clay.

Corrosion may occur more rapidly if your slab pipes carry unusually alkaline or acidic water. These extremes can cause chemical reactions that damage metal pipes, not only underground but throughout your plumbing system.

Slab pipes also wear out due to abrasion. Pipes tend to move, especially when hot water courses through them and causes them to expand. When the pipes rub against other underground materials and structures, they can thin out and develop weak spots.

When to Suspect a Slab Leak

Slab leaks can prove hard to notice, but close observation may reveal certain telltale clues of their presence. Moisture in the home should always alert you to a potential plumbing problem, including a slab leak. Wet carpeting, damp floorboards, and unexplained mold growth merit immediate evaluation.

Your ears may also warn you of a slab leak. If you hear a faint sound of running water whose source you can’t identify, you may have discovered an underground plumbing problem. Other changes to watch out for include elevated water bills (without a corresponding increase in water usage) and low water pressure.

How Plumbers Fix Slab Leaks

Experienced plumbers equipped with the right tools can locate even the most elusive slab leaks. In the simplest cases, a specific area of dampness may point directly to the leak’s location. If necessary, plumbers can use sonar, infrared, or helium detection devices to pinpoint invisible leaks.

A leaky pipe underneath a concrete slab might require the plumber to go through the floor (with the aid of a jackhammer) to access the pipe in question. Another alternative would be to cap the leaking line and run a new line through the attic and walls with PEX pipe. It usually makes more sense to replace sections of aging, corroded pipes than to try patching them. The replacements can help ensure many years of trouble-free service.

Your original slab pipe layout may have contributed to your current problem. A slab pipe routed next to abrasive structures or through unstable ground may face continuing vulnerability to leaks. If this is the case, your plumber can put a stop to this issue simply by rerouting the new slab piping.

How to Prevent Future Slab Leaks

You can’t control every possible factor in slab leak development, such as ground shifting that affects your foundation and the pipes underneath it. However, you can take certain steps to reduce the risk of future leaks.

Measure the pH level of your household water periodically, using a home testing kit. If you get a pH reading lower than 7 or higher than 8, you may need to install a water softener or other corrective device. Blue or reddish stains on your plumbing fixtures can also alert you to a pH imbalance.

Have the water pressure tested on your home. If you pressure is over 60 consider having a pressure reducing valve installed on your home. This will help to protect both your appliances and pipes for surges in pressure.

If you believe that you might have a slab leak, act immediately to get the problem evaluated and corrected. Contact Moon Valley Plumbing and Rooter today to get the help you need from our skilled technicians.