Does Your Home Have a Slab Leak | Dallas | North Texas
Underneath the concrete foundation of your home, builders run water and sewer lines from the street to serve your house (sinks, toilets, showers etc). This concrete foundation is known as a “slab”, constructed of heavy concrete and reinforced steel rebar.
The soil in Dallas and most of north Texas has a high clay content, and is very susceptible to slight expansion movements when we experience heavy rains, or shrinking during periods of drought –as we saw in 2014. As the soil expands and contracts, the heavy concrete slab moves around, applying stress to the water and sewer lines that come up through the foundation.
With this movement, over time, the pipes and the joints can be prone to breaking. In addition, if the underside of the concrete is very close to a section of pipe, a concrete piece can rub up against the pipe and even pierce the pipe. The underside of a concrete slab is not smooth. Concrete fills in the gaps and holes of the soil. It does not take much pressure from a concrete slab to bend and crack a water or sewer line.
Once you have a leak underneath the foundation, water makes its way up through microscopic cracks in the slab. Water will make its way through the path of least resistance. Up, down or sideways.
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If your home shows signs of a water leak, contact Staggs Plumbing for slab leak detection.
A leak in your foundation can come from one of three types of plumbing lines:
- Cold water supply lines (from the city water utilities)
- Hot water from your water heater. If your hot water unit is in the attic, chances are you do not have hot water lines under the slab.
- The sewer or drain lines. Waste from the kitchen, bathrooms and washing machines is expelled through the sewer lines back out to the street for processing by the city.
Does Your Home have a Slab Leak?
Homeowners might not know if there is a slab leak until several weeks or months after it happens and it starts to show up inside the house.
Here are some signs of having a leak in the pipes under the slab:
- Warm areas on the floor (leak in the hot water lines)
- You hear your hot water heater filling back up when here has been no usage for some time.
- Dampness on the floor.
- Moldy smells from a damp area that has gone unnoticed.
- The sound of running water through the pipes when all faucets and toilets are turned off.
- The water meter moves when water shouldn’t be running.
- An unexpected increase in your water bill. This might be caused by something other than a slab leak – for example a sprinkler pipe leak. To check if you have a leak in your sprinkler system, shut off the sprinkler water supply at the street side valve box and see if the leak indicator still moved. Sprinklers are cheaper and easier to fix!
You should also walk around and inspect the perimeter of your home, looking for any unusual wet areas.
If you have any doubt, call the expert plumbers to perform a full leak test on your home.
If you see the water meter moving, it does not necessarily mean there is a slab leak. It may be also be caused by a running toilet, a dripping faucet, a dishwasher leak or a leak in a pipe in the walls or attic. To be on the safe side, call Staggs Plumbing for an accurate diagnosis.
In this image, the leak indicator is a red triangle. Even with a small drip from a faucet, you should be able to see a slight movement in this indicator.
If you do see this indicator moving, check all of the faucets inside and outside your home for any drips, as well as toilets that may be leaking water into the bowl. If you are unable to locate the source of the water leak, then you should call out an experienced plumber that is experienced in locating and fixing water leaks.
Can a Slab Leak be Ignored?
If gone unchecked, leaks under the foundation of your home will cause significant structural damage, affecting the value of your home and potentially exposing your family to health risks from mold.
A delay in detection and repair will eventually end up costing more as the leak causes more damage. Many of our customers are shocked just how much damage was caused by one small leak.
The short answer, obviously, is to have it fixed ASAP by calling the expert plumbers at Staggs Plumbing.
Locating and Fixing a Slab Leak
How do you detect the source of a leak?
Slab leak detection devices are used to locate the break in the water supply lines. Usually the water supply to the house is turned off and the plumber will pump air into the lines to force out the water from the lines through some of the faucets. Once water has been removed from the supply lines, air will escape from the crack in the water line. Using the detection device, the plumber will listen for the sound of escaping air, eventually zeroing in on the exact area of the leak or leaks.
It is important to use a plumbing company that is experienced in locating a leaky water pipe under the slab. If they are unable to accurately detect the source of the leak, then more foundation will need to be either excavated or a larger area of slab needs to be dug up.
Staggs Plumbing has been repairing slab leaks since 1990 and has received numerous consumer awards for their expert work. When you want the job done right, and done right the first time, remember that slab leak detection and repair is not a job for amateurs or part-time plumbing companies.
Fixing a Slab Leak
Once the source of the leak has been located, there are normally two options to access the broken pipe.
This method requires digging a tunnel under your house large enough for the plumber to crawl through and access the broken pipe(s). The plumbing company will normally find the closet outside wall to the source of the leak and tunnel directly to the source of the leak. Tunneling is a labor intensive process and can take several hours to complete depending on the distance. Once the tunnel has reached the leaking pipe, it is normally a quick process to repair or replace the offending water pipe.
Dig up the Concrete Slab
This method involves jack hammering through the concrete of your home’s foundation. Since the concrete can be 8 to 15 inches thick, a commercial grade jack hammer is required to break through the material.
Repairing the Water Line
Water supply lines and sewer lines can be made of different materials: PVC, copper or even iron in some older homes. If there is significant corrosion in the copper or iron pipes, Staggs Plumbing will replace sections of pipes to avoid any further degradation.
Repairs to a simple break in the water line usually involve cutting out and replacing the damaged section of pipe. If copper is being replaced, it will be “sweated” on with a torch and solder. PVC pipe fixes will need to use the appropriate type of PVC glue used for high pressure water lines.
Cost to fix a slab leak
The majority of the project is spent detecting the location of the leak and then excavating to expose the broken pipe. Tunneling is a time intensive task as you can imagine. Utilizing a jackhammer is quicker but creates disruption inside your home with noise and some dust, though we try to limit the amount of dust created.
Will insurance pay for a slab leak repair?
Slab leak repair is often covered by a homeowner’s insurance policy, but you may be responsible for the deductible plus an amount to actually fix the broken pipe. Check your insurance policy and ask your insurance agent for clarification. The majority of the cost is in the detection and excavation work. The actual repair is usually a few hundred dollars.
Choosing the Right Plumber for Slab Leaks
- Ask for referrals from previous customers.
- Inquire how long they have been fixing a slab leaks and what do they do to minimize damage and mess inside your home.
- Do they have an A+ rating from the Better Business Bureau?
- Are they a master plumber (vs. a tradesman plumber)? A master plumber has advanced education and experience.
Staggs Plumbing has built a reputation by word of mouth. The consistent work we receive from referrals is one of the biggest compliments we get.
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