A slab leak can potentially be one of the most serious plumbing issues a home can experience. A slab leak refers to a leak in an underground water or drain line that sits underneath a concrete slab foundation. Although slab-on-grade foundations aren’t all that common for homes in Colorado, they are sometimes used for modular homes, especially pole barn buildings and some commercial buildings. Garages are also built on slab foundations and sometimes have water lines that run underneath them depending on the location of the garage in proximity to the rest of the home and the main water line. This article will explain why slab leaks are such a significant issue, provide tips for identifying potential these leaks, and explain how a plumber can detect and repair them.

Why Slab Leaks Are So Serious

All leaks have the potential to damage your home. However, most of the time, the damage is merely superficial. It can be easily repaired by replacing the sheetrock and insulation and refinishing the damaged area. A slab leak is a much bigger issue because it has the potential to cause major structural damage to a home.

When there is a slab leak, all the water leaking out underneath the foundation can cause the home to start settling or the foundation to shift. This can lead to cracks in the foundation or the wooden studs inside walls cracking or warping. Although rare, the worst-case scenario is that major foundation and structural issues could make the home unsafe since they create a potential for it to collapse.

As a foundation settles, it often forms large cracks in sheetrock walls and ceilings. There is also a chance that the settling can cause pipes to break or damage some of the wiring and parts of the electrical system.

Concrete is fairly porous, meaning water can start seeping through the foundation if the surrounding soil is waterlogged due to a slab leak. The water seeping through the foundation can then damage the carpets and flooring and start soaking into the bottom of the wall studs and sheetrock.

How to Spot the Signs of a Slab Leak

You will generally always need to hire a plumber to detect and repair any slab leak’s exact location. Nonetheless, several signs can indicate a slab leak and help you know when professional leak detection and repair is necessary.

The most obvious sign of a leak in any water line is a sudden increase in your water bill. If a water line in your home has even a pinhole leak, you may suddenly find that your water usage is several thousand gallons higher than normal. Another sure sign of a leak is if your water meter’s dial or leak indicator keeps spinning when no taps are on.

Other things to watch for are wet spots in your carpet or when flooring suddenly begins to warp or pull up from the subfloor. A hot water line that’s leaking may also make the floor in that area warmer than the other areas. Similarly, a slab leak in a cold water line can produce a noticeable cold spot on the floor.

Unfortunately, a leak in an underground drain line is often almost impossible to spot since it won’t lead to your water bill increasing and may not produce any surefire signs. This is why you also need to watch out for issues that could indicate your foundation is suddenly settling. These signs include cracks suddenly forming in walls or ceilings or windows or doors that suddenly won’t open and close properly.

How Professional Slab Leak Detection and Repair Works

Professional plumbers usually have a few different tools at their disposal that allow them to quickly identify a slab leak and nearly pinpoint its location. One option is acoustic leak detection, which involves using headphones and a highly sensitive type of microphone called a listening disc.

When checking for a slab leak, the plumber will move this disc along the floor to listen for the sound of running water. If none of your plumbing fixtures are open, there shouldn’t be any sounds of water flowing through the underground pipes. If the plumber does hear water running or moving through a pipe, it’s an immediate indication of a slab leak. They can then use the listening disc to try to hone in on the leak’s location. The sound will be louder when the disc is directly above the leaky pipe. The sound will also fade as the plumber moves away from the leak. These factors make it fairly easy to accurately determine the approximate location of the leak since water will only flow through the pipe up to where the leak is.

Thermal imaging can also be quite useful for detecting slab leaks. A thermal imaging camera can produce a colored image representing the different temperatures to reveal hot and cold spots. The camera can’t directly see through the concrete. Instead, it will reveal the concrete’s temperature differences or heat signatures. The concrete directly above a hot water line will be slightly warmer, and it will also typically be slightly cooler when directly above a cold water line. If the camera reveals a hot or cold spot that is spread out over a larger area, it usually indicates that there is a leak in that area.

The best option for detecting a slab leak in a drain line is to perform a camera inspection. This involves inserting a waterproof camera into the various drain lines and monitoring the camera feed to check the pipe for any signs of damage.

After determining the approximate location of the slab leak, the plumber can begin to repair it. Unfortunately, the only way to access the leaky pipe is to cut a hole in the concrete and tear it up. Luckily, the hole usually doesn’t need to be all that large since the leak detection methods we just discussed should allow the plumber to know where the leak is. They also won’t need to cut out all of the concrete above the pipe since the leak can usually be fixed just by cutting out the leaky section of the pipe and splicing a new pipe in.

Expert Leak Detection and Plumbing Services

High 5 Plumbing, Heating & Cooling is the company you can trust for all your leak detection and repair needs. We’ve been helping residents of the Denver Metro area with their plumbing, drain, sewer, and gas line needs since 2012. If you suspect your home has a slab leak or any other type of leak, our experienced plumbers can quickly find where it is and then repair it properly. A leak can suddenly occur at any time and quickly cause extensive damage if not fixed promptly. That’s why we’re available 24/7, so you can get the immediate help you need whenever a plumbing emergency arises. Contact us today to see what makes us the best choice for leak detection in Denver or if you need any other plumbing service.

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