Water damage from a leaky pipe below a home’s foundation

Posted by Matt Buchanan

Regular readers of our blog know that we spend a lot of time teaching people about the ways water can attack your home and what can happen if its successful. And we’ve spent a lot of time talking about all the things that can go wrong when water is unleashed on a property…we’ve talked about dishwasher leaks, trees damaging your foundation, kitchen sink leaks, toilet overflows, and many other attacks. But one particularly insipid type of water damage we haven’t discussed is when pipes under your home’s foundation leak. If you have a pier and beam house, you don’t need to read any further. All of your pipe’s should be exposed in your home’s crawlspace. But if you do have a slab foundation, you’d be wise to read further just so you know what to look for should you find yourself dealing with a difficult problem.


Why do slabs leak?


Technically, slabs don’t leak. They’re concrete. So when we say a slab leak, what we really are talking about is the plumbing supply lines or drainage pipes in the soil below your slab leaking. So why do these leak? Pretty much the same reason any pipe leaks: overtime pressure can wreak havoc on pipes and cause corrosion. Eventually, whether it’s due from hot water in the pipes or minerals that cause erosion, the pipes give out and leak.


While poor craftsmanship might go a ways in explaining a small percentage of slab leaks, the reality is that time and pressure along with natural elements are more likely to be the cause of the problem. All things you really can’t do anything about and just have to deal with. Unfortunately when you are talking about repairs under a slab, you are usually talking about very expensive repairs!


How to spot slab foundation leaks


Foundation slab leaks can sometimes be difficult to spot if you don’t know what you are looking for. Luckily, you don’t have to be a plumber to know the biggest sign: your water bill shoots up dramatically one month! If you notice this happen, and you can’t actually find a leak somewhere, it may be happening below your home. Do yourself a favor and read this previous blog post:

How to find a leak in your home!

If you check your mail and find a huge invoice for your water bill and are unable to spot any noticeable signs of a leak, it may be time to call in a leak detection company to see if the issue if below your slab foundation.

If the leak has gone on long enough, though, you should start to see some tell-tale signs of water damage. Most notably, you might start to see water spots in the foundation. Or if you flooring or baseboards and drywall, you may notice those start to discolor or warp and bubble. At that point, it’s fair to say the water has had enough time to travel a decent distance and you may have situation where you have a considerable amount of hidden water damage that will require the expertise of a certified water damage restoration contractor to identify (and repair obviously).


Repairing slab foundation leaks


slab-leak-repairOnce a leak’s location has been identified, there are usually a couple of options in terms of repairing it. One is where you drill a couple of holes that allow you to use an epoxy applicator to cover the leaking area. Once the epoxy is dry it will provide a water-tight seal and ‘fix’ the problem. The other is much more intrusive and resource intensive, but ultimately provides a lasting solution to the problem. Unfortunately it is really expensive. You jackhammer the concrete foundation until you’ve created a large enough hole in it to be able to access the pipes below. You then replace the section causing the leak and test to make sure you’ve done that process correctly. And by you, we mean you should really hire a plumber for this entire process. You need to know that it’s done right and that you’ll never have to worry about it again!

But what about the actual water damage? That’s when you call us! Don’t assume that everything will dry out over time. Even if the only surfaces affected are concrete, you need to make sure the area is properly dried so you don’t end up with black mold. And that’s especially true if you have other surfaces on top of the slab that might be affected. Whether it’s tile floors, wood, or wood baseboards, it takes experts to properly dry out these areas without over-drying!

So give us a call today and we would be happy to provide you with a free cost estimate to repair water damage from a foundation slab leak!

About Matt Buchanan

I grew up in Irving, TX and left for Nashville, TN for college. After college I lived in Washington, DC and then in Cairo, Egypt. After coming back to the states, I spent a couple of years back in Dallas before moving with my wife to Denver!
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