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What Causes Plumbing Leaks in a Concrete Slab?

It's a pipe embedded within concrete. What could possibly go wrong? As it turns out, a lot of things can happen within the waterline and slab foundation that result in leaks.

Slab leaks can go undetected for a long time, wasting untold amounts of water and causing significant damage.

Here Are the Most Common Causes of Slab Leaks

Pipe Failure

Some pipe materials are more prone to failure than others.

Cast iron: Homes built before 1960 typically have cast iron plumbing lines. For aboveground applications, cast iron is fine. It's more insulated, muffling the sound of rushing water, and it reverberates less. However, cast iron pipes are prone to problems underground where water and minerals cause corrosion. Cast iron pipes are still used today, but they have a protective coating, making them more durable.

Galvanized steel: Galvanized steel pipes are strong but have a limited lifespan. After about 50 years, the pipe's protective coating wears away, leaving the pipe vulnerable to rust and mineral build-up.

Copper: Copper is exceptionally strong, durable, and corrosion-resistant. Underground copper pipes have thicker walls to hold up more effectively against the elements, but even copper can fail over time. Commonly, this is a result of faulty installation. (More on that later.)

Plastic: Plastic pipes -- PVC, ABS, PEX, etc. -- are very durable, able to withstand high water pressure and temperatures. If a plastic pipe fails, it's likely due to a disconnected joint.

Improper Installation

Some plumbers don't take proper precautions when laying water line pipes. Problems occur when pebbles and rocks create dimples in the copper. Rushing water will eventually erode those little protrusions inside the pipe, resulting in pinhole leaks.

Ideally, a plumber will first lay a bed of soft sand to prevent anything hard from butting up against the pipe.

Pipes should be sleeved properly, too. Copper pipes expand and contract with temperature changes. Without a protective sleeve, those micro-adjustments will cause the concrete to wear through the pipe.

Poor Water Quality

Water quality can affect your plumbing's performance a great deal, especially if your pipes are made of copper. High acidity corrodes metal pipes, leading to leaks. It's a real health concern, too. Trace amounts of metal can leach into your water. Likewise, hard water -- that's water with high concentrations of minerals -- can develop scale inside the pipes, restricting flow. This accumulation can also corrode the pipe.

A water softening and filtration system balances your water and removes impurities, protecting your health and your plumbing.

High Water Pressure

High water pressure can cause undue stress on joints and connections. You know the result: Leaks. Your home's water pressure shouldn't exceed 60 pounds per square inch. A plumbing inspection can determine if your water pressure is within the appropriate range.

Signs of a Slab Leak

Watch for these red flags that suggest you may have leaks beneath your feet:

  • A sudden spike in your water bill
  • A drop in water pressure
  • Hot or cold spots on the floor
  • An odor of mold or mildew
  • Pooling water

To determine if you have a leak, note the reading on the water meter and then turn off the main water supply. Recheck it an hour later. Did the numbers change? If so, you have a leak somewhere. Whether or not it's a slab leak will be impossible for most homeowners to determine. That's why plumbers use advanced leak detection equipment to pinpoint the leak and determine the cause.

Turn to the Slab Leak Experts at Courtesy Plumbers

If you suspect you have a slab leak, turn to the pros at Courtesy Plumbing. Using our state-of-the-art equipment, we'll find the leak's location and determine the best course of action for a quick and effective repair. To schedule your appointment, call (626) 774-7167.