Wet spots underfoot? Weeping cracks in your foundation? An unexpected jump in your water bill? These can be signs of a plumbing leak. If you have a slab foundation home, you may have serious trouble.
Plumbing problems can be difficult to solve when your plumbing runs beneath your home’s concrete slab foundation. Cutting through concrete, as you may imagine, adds significant time and cost to a job.
There are simpler ways of repairing slab foundation plumbing problems besides blasting through the concrete base of your home.
What is a concrete slab foundation?
A concrete slab foundation is constructed by pouring concrete — a mixture of gravel or broken stone, sand, cement and water — within a mold to cure. Homes with this a concrete slab foundation rest atop this rock-solid block. There is no crawlspace or basement beneath.
Concrete slab foundations that encase the home's plumbing lines (also called underslab plumbing) could have pipes made of copper, cast iron or galvanized steel and these materials are prone to decay over time. The plumbing pipes are buried in gravel or sand beneath the slab and are (obviously) difficult to access.
Modern homes are more likely to have a moisture barrier that protects a concrete slab. Many municipalities began to require them because a wet concrete slab foundation is unable to dry itself (your home covers the surface through which the moisture would normally evaporate) and will eventually fail. It's likely that your home does not have a moisture barrier if it was built prior to the 1980s.
Symptoms of slab foundation plumbing problems
What are some of the red flags indicating a leak in a pipe beneath your concrete slab foundation?
- Water spots on your floor
- Soft spots on your floor
- Spots of hot or cold temperature on your floor
- A sudden, unexpected increase in water bills
- Low water pressure
- Foul odors
- Visible foundation damage
- Pooling water or depressions in your yard
- Cracks in the walls of your home
A leaky pipe can cause wet spots on your floor because concrete is a porous material. You may have a problem with the pipes in your concrete slab foundation if you’re walking around your home and find your socks suddenly wet from some mysterious moisture.
Foul odors can result from mold growth or a breach in the sewer line and landscape damage may occur as water seeps under your yard. Cracks in your walls indicate a foundation shift that could also be the result of a leak.
Find a plumber who can use leak detection devices to discover the location of the break.
Pay attention! Ignoring the signs of a leak can lead to additional (and almost certainly expensive) foundation repairs. Water seeping through your foundation can create mold and mildew under your carpet or other floor coverings while attracting pests. Your nice home can be compromised quickly.
Concrete slab foundation risks and problems
If you do have pipes under your concrete slab foundation, these common conditions may put them at risk for damage:
- Age, or the presence of old pipes made of copper, cast iron or galvanized steel
- Penetration from tree roots
- Shifting within your foundation, or shifting ground around the foundation itself
- Adjustments or repairs to the foundation
Solving plumbing problems in a concrete slab foundation
If your home's plumbing is submerged beneath a concrete slab foundation, one of the best ways to avoid dealing with the problem twice is by rerouting your piping around the slab. Again, accessing pipes and repairing plumbing in a concrete slab foundation can make for a complex, messy and time-consuming project that involves a jackhammer or a concrete saw, or at least drilling holes in your foundation. The project can be done — just expect to pay for the labor.
A professional plumber can isolate the leaky area and reposition your pipes in a more accessible location behind your home’s walls or ceilings if you decide to reroute your pipes. You have some options, like trenchless repair, when your leak is beneath your yard.
Do you need a plumber?
Suspect you have a leaky pipe hiding in your concrete slab foundation? Call a licensed plumbing expert right away. John C. Flood can help determine the source of your leak and repair plumbing problems in the foundation of your home in the metro D.C. area, including the District, Northern Virginia and Maryland. Schedule service online now or call