What are slab leaks? Generally, a slab leak is simply when a water pipe or water line has sprung a leak under a concrete slab. It can be a pinhole leak, losing just a small amount of fluid or it can be a gusher, which means a lot of water is pouring out of the pipe under the slab. Homeowners usually get a hint of a slab leak when their water bill is higher than normal or when they hear water running when all the faucets and appliances that use water are turned off. Also, hot spots felt through the floor can be a real sign that hot water is leaking under that particular part of the floor or slab.
One of the common causes of slab leaks is the type of soil the pipe and concrete slab was laid in. Depending on location, some soils have ingredients that cause electrolysis. This is a chemical reaction of the copper piping with certain materials in the earth. This electrolysis eventually disintegrates the metal pipe and a leak springs forth.
Water lines, especially hot water lines, tend to contract and expand with hot and cold temperatures. This kind of movement will take its toll on the copper line and the friction and the movement can cause the water conduit to wear down and eventually leak.
Sometimes the water itself that passes through the copper pipes can be “hard” and the minerals and elements carried by the water can damage the pipes from the inside, causing leaks. Another factor in slab leaks can happen during the construction phase, when the pipe and slab are initially laid. Since the copper is relatively soft, dents and bruising can occur while the workmen handle the pipe and pour the concrete. These injuries can weaken the pipe and contribute to future leaks years later.
Once the homeowner suspects a slab leak, what should they do? There are several approaches for this common problem. First, the location of the leak must be pin pointed. After that, the homeowner can choose from basically three options.
- If there is only one leak, some people decide on the jackhammer method. This is simply removing the furniture and carpeting from the designated area and digging out that portion of concrete with a jackhammer. Once the concrete is removed, the pipe is repaired and new concrete poured to cover that area.
- Another method is the tunnel method. This is a very highly regarded technique for repairing a slab leak and it causes no damage to the interior of the home. This procedure is done by digging or tunneling under the concrete slab until the damaged part of the pipe is reached. Usually a better warranty is given when the pipe is fully replaced as opposed to a spot repair. Hangers are also used to hang the pipe, which insures proper fall and zero movement when the dirt is replaced.
- The third method is to re-pipe or just reroute the water pipe so that it is not under the slab.
Slab leaks can be repaired, and the methods used are generally chosen because of budget and urgency concerns.