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Why Do Slab Leaks Happen in the First Place?

Posted on: February 6, 2017

Plumbing leaks of any kind present big problems for a house. Perhaps the number one problem is that they are difficult to find in the first place. It often requires a number of concerning signs before a homeowner even recognizes that leaks are happening somewhere, and even then it will take the work of licensed professional plumbers to actually detect the leak location and repair it.

All of this is doubly true for the slab leak. This is a leak that occurs down in the concrete foundation of a home. There are a few signs you can watch for that will indicate a slab leak is happening in your house: odd behavior from the water heater, the sound of running water in the basement, noticeable cracks along the basement floor, and skyrocketing water bills. You can always test to see if a leak is happening by writing down the readings on the water meter, and then stopping all water use for an hour. If the reading changes in that time… there’s a leak.

The Reason That Slab Leaks Happen

Pipes buried down in the foundation of a home sound like they’re secure. How can they start to leak? There are three main causes.

  • Pressure: Shifting in the ground can cause the foundation block to shift as well. It doesn’t take much to place pressure along the pipes in the foundation and cause breaks. Earthquakes are rare here in Durham (we haven’t experienced one since 1931), but soil can shift for other reasons, like massive rains or construction. The older your home, the more likely a problem like this will occur.
  • Corrosion: Corroding pipes is a huge problem for homes built before 1970. Instead of plastic CPVC and PEX pipes, which can’t corrode, they have copper or even galvanized steel pipes in place. You’ve heard that copper is corrosion-resistant. But that doesn’t mean it is corrosion-proof. Chemical in the water or electricity from nearby wires can cause copper to corrode over time, leading to leaks.
  • Abrasions: If you’ve ever watched exposed pipes, you might notice that they can move slightly when water passes through them. Sometimes you’ll even be able to hear pipes clanking. This isn’t just the force of the water; it’s the pipe expanding and contracting from temperature changes. This movement in pipes down in the foundation will cause abrasion against the concrete. Given enough time, this will turn into leaks. Because hot water pipes expand more, they’re at a higher risk of leaking. (Around 80% of slab leaks happen in the hot water pipes, which is why paying attention to the water heater is a good way to find out that they’re happening.)

Slab Leak Detection and Repairs

You can’t handle a slab leak yourself—that’s why you have professional plumbers. Our leak detection experts will pinpoint where you have a slab leak and then find the best way to fix it. Often, we can make the repairs without needing to use a jackhammer to rip open the basement.

Bud Matthews Services is here for all your home service needs in Durham, NC.

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