Of all the types of plumbing leaks a house can experience, none strikes more dread into the heart of a homeowner than a slab leak. This is a pipe leak under the concrete foundation of a home, either in the cold water or hot water lines. About 80% of slab leaks occur in the hot water lines. Insidious and expensive to repair, a slab leak can easily progress undetected to the point of damaging the foundation, floors, carpeting and walls – as well as setting up conditions for the growth of dangerous mold.
As covered in our May 2018 blog post, slab leaks occur mainly due to a fault in the underlying foundation piping. There is a network of pipes under your foundation, which eventually either deteriorates or bursts. In some homes, the pipes are encased within the concrete foundation. The older your house, the greater the chances of a pipe failure.
What causes a slab leak?
Corrosion, pressure, negligence, normal wear-and-tear and construction defects are some of the conditions that can result in a slab leak. It can be caused by bad plumbing – in which case it endangers your foundation – or it’s a symptom of foundation damage caused by something else.
What are the signs of a slab leak?
While a slab leak can’t be directly observed without a professional leak detection company using specialized precision equipment, there are red flags to look for.
A sudden increase in your water bill – Higher-than-usual water bills without an increase in your water use typically indicates a plumbing leak. While the cause may be a leak other than a slab leak, it needs repair a.s.a.p., nevertheless. Don’t wait to see what happens next.
Water pooling where it shouldn’t – With a slab leak, water will accumulate under the foundation until it finds a way to escape. Look for water that seems to be pouring out from the slab foundation on the outside of your house. If there are no hoses in the vicinity or any other explanation for water in that area, you most likely have a slab leak. Water can also pool inside your home, such as the kitchen or bathroom floor. If you can eliminate appliances or plumbing fixtures as the source, a slab leak is the likely reason.
Damp carpet or warped hard flooring – This is one of the most common signs of a slab leak. If leaking water has no other route from under the foundation, it can rise – eventually reaching your flooring. If you have carpet throughout your home, look for damp areas or spots that appear darker. For hardwood or laminate flooring, check for warping.
Mold or mildew (visible or just the odor) – Once water soaks into your carpeting, mold and mildew will soon grow. Water wicking into drywall will also spur mold growth. You’ll be more likely to smell it before you see it, so if you do, look for the other signs of a slab leak.
Decreased water pressure – This is a typical indicator of any type of piping leak. Again, look for additional evidence of a slab leak.
A constantly running water heater – Your water heater doesn’t know the difference between a leaking pipe and a hot water faucet being left on. A leak on the hot water side tells the water heater to keep heating the water, even when it isn’t in use.
“Hot” areas of the floor – Thanks to Central Florida’s typically warm year ‘round temperatures, we often go barefoot indoors. Areas of the floor that are significantly warmer than the rest of the room could signify a slab leak on the hot water side.
A shift in the foundation – A major leak can quickly saturate the soil beneath your foundation. This waterlogged soil gets washed away and leaves a large void. The part of your foundation above this void then lacks support, which stresses the foundation and causes it to crack and drop.
How can a slab leak be repaired?
If you’ve experienced one or more of the signs of a slab leak listed above, call a professional leak detection specialist to find the location and take the necessary steps for repair. Neither detection nor repair is a DIY job.
Today’s technology allows for accurate, non-destructive slab leak detection. Most companies equipped to detect and repair slab leaks use sonic equipment, such as ground mics and acoustic systems. These pick up on the noise made when a leaky section of pipe vibrates due to water leaving it at a high speed. They may also use sonic location systems to pinpoint non-metal pipes, and video pipe inspection equipment.
There are three basic approaches to slab leak repair. The option that’s best for your home depends on the extent of the leak, as well as the condition of the pipe and the rest of your plumbing system.
Repair the damaged section – If the leak is minor and the pipe is in otherwise good condition, this is generally the most practical option. The leaking section of pipe and related fittings can simply be replaced. Epoxy pipe lining is another option. This involves lining the interior of the pipe with epoxy to seal the leak, and doesn’t require breaking the foundation.
Reroute the pipe – If the leaking pipe is old or in poor condition, repairing a leak in one spot could cause a leak to spring somewhere else on the pipe. The best option may be to shut off the pipe at the closest manifold and re-route it. The pipe will typically be rerouted above ground.
Repipe the house – In an old house where the entire pipe system is deteriorating, a slab leak is often a sign that you’ll soon be seeing leaks in other areas of the system. Repiping will prevent future leaks – as well as damage and expense.
How much does slab leak repair cost?
The cost of detection and repair depend upon many factors, which can vary greatly. National averages for repair range from $300 on the very low side to $8,000. There’s no way to sugar-coat the fact that this is a major repair, and your cost will likely be substantial. The longer you wait, however, the more extensive the damage to your foundation and home – and, consequently, the more expensive it will be to repair and replace.
Choosing a reputable leak detection specialist will ensure you get the most accurate diagnosis of the location of the trouble spot, and the best repair at a fair price.
Will homeowners insurance cover slab leak repair?
Because each homeowners policy is different, we can’t make a blanket statement. Review your policy carefully, and contact your insurance agent if you have questions about your policy’s specific coverage.
However, for general information purposes, here is what Esurance has to say.
“If a slab leak is the result of a covered peril, causing further damage to your home, dwelling protection and personal property insurance on your homeowners policy may offer financial protection. That means coverage will probably kick in for your home’s structure as well as personal belongings such as furniture, clothing, electronics, and more, if a peril like fire results in slab leak damage to your place.
“In addition, standard homeowners insurance will often cover the cost of tearing out and replacing the slab so that the plumbing system can be repaired — but most policies won’t pay to repair or replace the plumbing system itself.
“If plumbing fails due to normal wear-and-tear, tree root interference, or any negligence on your behalf, you may have to pay for repairs on your own.
“It’s also important to note that your home must have suffered damage from the slab leak. If you feel a warm spot on your floor when you walk into your bedroom, say, it’s possible that a hot water pipeline has broken. But if you pull back the carpet to find no damage – just a warm slab – most homeowners policies won’t pay for inspection or repairs.”
The take-home message on slab leak repair
Should you suspect trouble, Certified Leak Detection is experienced in leak detection and repair for Orlando, Longwood, Lake Mary, Sanford, Kissimmee, Clermont and Winter Springs. Trusted by homeowners and business owners throughout Central Florida, our team is ready to answer your call. Contact us for quick, reliable service.