Most homeowners take their plumbing for granted, except when it leaks or it’s clogged. Leaks can occur just about anywhere – under the slab foundation, in the ceiling, outdoor faucets, or in the water heater. Leaks in walls and ceilings are relatively easy to fix. Leaks under the slab are a different matter. The pipe repair is the easy part. Finding the leak and getting to it involve much more work. Shifting soil from our extreme weather usually causes pipes to break and leak, but old pipes can also fail. Slight damage during construction may also have weakened the pipe or coupling. Leaks under the home can cause extensive damage if it’s not repaired. In addition to backed-up drain lines or broken supply lines, your foundation can be severely damaged. Leaks underneath the slab can erode the soil and cause the slab or foundation to collapse. This can break even more pipes and flood your home.
Why are water pipes installed under slabs in the first place? The first is the cost. It is much cheaper to install soft copper pipes from the meter to the fixtures, than to run them above ground in an attic or between floors. Less material is used and no drilling, strapping, or protection is needed. The second reason is noise. Overhead pipes can be heard when water is being used and some people find it annoying. Little can be done to eliminate the noise factor without soundproofing walls and ceilings. The third reason is water temperature. Water lines that are installed in attics are exposed to extreme temperatures, especially heat. A cold water line that runs several feet to an isolated fixture might take several minutes to deliver reasonably cold water. Hot water lines are usually insulated to reduce heat loss. It is more difficult to maintain cold temperature levels in cold water pipes. Insulation has little effect on a water line baking in the 140-degree heat of the attic.
Obviously, you’ll know if you have a leak under the slab if there is water or damp spots on your floor. But, there are less noticeable indications of a leak. Leaky hot water lines can create warm spots and walking around inside your home barefooted may expose the location of a leaking hot water line. Another giveaway is the sound of rushing water underneath your floor. You may also notice a wet, marshy area outside next to your foundation. Finally, you might receive a significantly higher water bill than you expect.
Once you suspect that you may have a leak, your certified plumber can locate the leak, especially those hard to find leaks, using specialized equipment. Locating leaks non-destructively requires the use of modern tools, like pressure gauges, electronic amplification equipment, or electromagnetic pipeline locators. After locating the leak, your certified plumber will have to gain access to it so that they can repair it. Sometimes, this means breaking a hole in the slab with a jackhammer. Usually, the hole is rather small, but this does create a lot of dust. If the leak is under the bathtub or other difficult location, your certified plumber may even tunnel under your house, repair the damaged pipes, and fill in the tunnel. You can watch a video of how they do it on our website, www.abacusplumbing.net.
Depending on the pipe that is leaking, your certified plumber may use a couple of different techniques to make the repair. If a water supply line is the culprit, your certified plumber may replace the damaged area with copper tubing and a new piece of tubing combined with copper couplings is soldered into place. The types of pipes used for sewer lines are different because of health-related issues (involving exposure to human waste, etc.). They may be cast iron, clay or PVC. If an entire line is leaking, it might be less expensive to install an entirely new pipe somewhere other than under the slab. This is most effective for older plumbing systems that have a history of leaking.
For more information about slab leaks and repair, call your certified HVAC technician or visit their website. They may have service plans, like The Abacus Club, that can help save you money on service calls and provide plumbing tune-ups. Ask about discounts or rebates. Your certified technician may also have additional suggestions and may have additional specials on equipment or other services.
You can call Abacus Plumbing & Air Conditioning in Houston 24/7 at 713-766-3605 or visit www.abacusplumbing.net for questions and scheduling information or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/abacusplumbing.xz.