Slab foundations are common in many parts of the country that don't experience harsh winters. These foundations are relatively cost-effective and useful, but they have one significant downside: plumbing access. Spotting a leak is usually straightforward in a crawlspace or basement, but it can be far more challenging when dealing with supply plumbing embedded in a concrete slab.
Since these leaks are so much harder to detect, they can often go unnoticed for days, weeks, months, or even longer. If you own a home with a slab foundation, it's important that you learn to recognize the signs of a leak and understand why you should take immediate action.
How Do You Know If You Have a Slab Leak?
There's no single symptom that's universal to all slab leaks. A pipe in your slab may leak in a way that causes water to saturate the surface, creating a soggy mess on your floor. On the other hand, you may experience a leak that mostly drains out below the slab. In these cases, the symptoms may initially only include very subtle signs, such as increased water utility bills.
Since there's no simple way to recognize a slab leak, it's a good idea to pay close attention to how the plumbing in your home behaves. Do you hear running water, even with the faucets turned off? Are your water bills unexpectedly high? Don't assume that small signs like these are a problem you can easily ignore or that they'll go away on their own.
How Long Can You Ignore a Slab Leak?
The simple answer is that you can't afford to ignore a slab leak for any period. Slab leaks may go unnoticed, but you must contact a plumber as soon as you know (or suspect) that you have one. Water leaking beneath your home's foundation can damage your flooring, create moisture and mold issues, and, most significantly, cause the soil supporting your foundation to shift.
Once you notice a leak, there's no easy way to understand how long it's been there. The ground may already be saturated, putting your foundation at risk. Waiting any longer to act risks causing more damage to your home or creating long-term issues, such as mold damage or reduced foundation stability.
How Will a Professional Find Your Leak?
Suspecting that you have a slab leak is only a small part of the problem. A professional must confirm the leak's presence and locate it within your home. Pinpointing the position of the leak is critical to minimize the disruption necessary to repair the problem and ascertain whether water from the leak has already caused more substantial damage.
Plumbers usually start with relatively low-tech methods to confirm the leak, such as performing pressure tests or checking your water meter. More advanced thermal and acoustic equipment can then help them locate the leak once they know it's there. These methods can find the exact position of the break in your pipes, removing the need to dig through more concrete than necessary.
Contact a plumber to learn more about under slab leak detection.