Every now and again, leaks can occur in the home. It can happen to even the most diligent homeowner. Thankfully, most of the common leaks occur in relatively easy-to-reach areas such as below the sink or in the shower or toilet of the bathroom.
Unfortunately, some leaks can happen where they are hard to detect, let alone fix. When a pipe underneath a home's slab foundation has a leak (also referred to as slab leaks), most homeowners may not notice they have a problem at all for a long time.
For many homeowners, the existence of a slab leak may go completely unnoticed until they get a utility bill with a much higher than normal water cost. After this event, a homeowner will check for all of the usual suspects in water leak issues, such as the faucets, toilets, showers, and hoses in and around the home to see if they can locate the leak. The dreaded slab leak will often continue to escape a homeowner's notice during and after this inspection process.
Detecting A Slab Leak
- Warm spots on the floor. If the hot water line in your home is the one with the leak, then you may be able to find the location of the leak by checking for abnormally warm spots on your floor. If you have a carpeted floor, or really thin linoleum floors, this can be fairly easy. For tile floor, this may not be so easy unless the leak is severe enough to cause water to flow into the space between the adhesive and the tiles. In such an instance you may have other warning signs for water damage in your tile flooring. Hardwood floors may also increase the difficulty of finding a warm spot in the floor.
- Raised "dome" in the floor. If a leak is severe enough and lasts for a long while, then you may notice damage to your flooring in the form of warps in the shape of the floor. A common phenomenon in severe water damage is the formation of a "dome," or raised area in the floor. While the presence of a dome in your floor can give you a good indication of the leak's location, it also means that there is severe damage occurring to your home's foundation.
- Foundation heaving. If your foundation slab experiences swelling to an extreme degree, it can actually lift the building slightly. This occurrence is called heaving. If your home has undergone heaving because of a leak underneath the slab foundation, it is critical that you seek expert assistance in the repair.
If a sudden, significant shift occurs in the building's foundation, it can cause severe, sometimes irreparable damage to the home. This damage can manifest as cracks on the interior and exterior walls as well as the slab itself. As settling in the building’s foundation can also cause these signs of damage, it is important to consult an experienced repair technician who can identify the differences.
- A sharp, sudden increase in water utility costs despite a minimization of water expenses. If your water bill experiences a sudden spike without an attendant increase in the basic cost of service or use of water by your family, that can often be an early indication that you have a severe leak.
If you cannot locate a leak through the above methods, however, it may be worth investing in specialized equipment to detect a leak. Professional plumbers will often drain the water from a building's water lines and then pump in air to identify leaks. The plumber will usually employ special sound equipment to aid in detecting the precise location of a leak.
While it is recommended that you employ an experienced plumbing professional, it is possible to obtain the equipment for detecting the leak yourself.
Now that you have located your slab leak, how do you go about repairing the problem? For the average person, this process is going be a difficult, messy endeavor.
Fixing A Slab Leak
- Being absolutely certain of the location of your leak. Before you even consider ripping up your concrete slab, you have to be absolutely sure about the location of your slab leak. If you are the least bit uncertain, do not start destroying your home in an attempt to fix the leak. Once you are absolutely sure of the leak's location, then you can begin breaking up your floor.
- Preparing for hazardous conditions. Before starting to rip up your floor, make sure you have cleared the room of any furnishings. This means relocating any furniture, paintings, rugs, electronics, and valuables from the room. Once you start ripping up the floor, there is going to be an abundance of dust particles floating throughout the room, so the best protection you can give your possessions is to remove them from the room where you will be making repairs.
You should also wear protective gear including gloves, goggles, a breathing mask, heavy-duty clothes, steel-toe boots, and, if possible, a second person providing assistance who also has safety gear.
- If you have access to and considerable training and experience with the use of a jackhammer, you will want to use this tool to aid you in reaching the area underneath the slab so you can perform the repair. If you lack experience and training in the use of this incredibly dangerous heavy-duty power tool, do not attempt to use it. In the hands of an untrained operator, a jackhammer can cause grievous bodily harm to the operator and innocent bystanders.
Also, you can end up causing unnecessary extra damage to your home's foundation or the pipes while excavating a hole with a power tool. If youare not experienced with the handling of slab foundation excavation, it is important to seek expert assistance in the excavation process.
If you successfully excavate your under the slab pipes and can identify the source of the leak, you can then begin to repair the leak. If, however, the leak is from a sewage line, you will want to contact a professional service to deal with the potentially biologically-hazardous waste products involved in sewage disposal and repair.
If you need further advice about how to detect, service, and clean up after a major leak in your home, please do not hesitate to contact an expert for more help.