Here at In-House Plumbing, we get a number of calls everyday from homeowners worried they might have slab leaks in their foundation.
With all the incorrect information online, it’s easy to understand why it’s hard to determine what is going on when you find something like a wet spot on your floor—or worse. So we’d like to help you figure out what might be happening.
One misconception we’d like to clear up first, though, is there are no pipes IN the concrete slab. And this means there can’t be a leak within the foundation.
In most cases, the pipes are under the slab. So you if you do have a leak, it is under the foundation. While there are exception to this (a home built with fresh water pipes in the walls), it is highly unlikely any pipes—fresh water or sewer—are in the actual slab.
Below are some of the most common signs and symptoms of the different types of plumbing problems you might be experiencing.
Signs of Sewer Problems
An important thing to note is the only time there is water in your sewer lines is when you run water or flush the toilet. Your sewer system is designed to run on gravity meaning the pipes are installed at a slight decline.
Anytime you run water in your house or flush the toilet, the water drains with gravity’s help down through the system, out to the main sewer line, and eventually to the city lines.
Sewer Clog or Blockage
Backups or Overflows – If water backs up or overflows when you flush the toilet or turn on and run water, it’s most likely you have a clog somewhere in in your sewer system. Because a sewer system is designed to run on gravity, if there is something blocking or clogging a sewer pipe, there’s nowhere for the water to go but back up and overflow out of your drain or toilet.
Slow Drains – If a sink, tub, or shower is slow to drain, you might have a partial clog which, if not addressed, could turn into a full stoppage or clog.
Cracks in Walls and Foundation – If you have a sewer leak or a broken sewer pipe, whenever water runs through the pipe, some of it escapes into the soil surrounding the pipes and under your foundation. Because the soil in North Texas expands as it gets wet and contracts as it dries, water soaks into the soil like a sponge.
As a result, the expanding soil can cause your foundation’s slab to heave or push up. However, if the leak is severe enough and present for long enough, it is possible the soil could erode very slowly by leaching back into the broken sewer line causing the slab to drop.
Either of these can cause foundation issues/problems resulting in cracks in your walls or foundation. It could also show up as any of the following:
- Uneven or sloping floors
- Cracks in exterior or interior brick
- Displaced or cracked moldings
- Wall rotation
- Bowing of walls
- Cracks in floor or floor tiles
- Doors and windows won’t open or close properly
- Separation of doors, windows, and garage doors
- Spaces between wall and ceiling or floor
- Walls separating from house
Signs of Fresh Water Leaks
Unlike a sewer system, fresh water lines are always full of water.
Your cold water lines run on a pressurized system and connects to the city’s water line. That cold water line connects to your water heater which heats and runs water through the hot water lines. And it’s the stops in your faucets which keep the water from running until you turn on your faucet.
Higher than normal water bills
Because there is always water running in the system, having a leak is the same as turning on a faucet and letting the water run. This results in high water bills.
Higher than normal gas or electric bills
With a leak in your hot water line, your hot water heater is continually using gas or electricity to heat your water.
Little or no hot water
Along the same vein, if you find you can’t get any hot water or are getting very little hot water, you might have a leak in the hot water lines running from the water heater. It could be the water heater but it’s important to rule out any leaks before replacing your water heater. Or if you have replaced your water heater but continue to have problems getting enough hot water, then it’s most likely a leak in your hot water line.
The sound of running water
If you don’t have the water turned on anywhere in the house but still hear running water, it’s a possible sign of a leak.
Standing water in the yard
If you rule out leaking water from a hose or a sprinkler system, it’s possible this is a sign of a freshwater leak in your system. It does not necessarily mean the leak is underground in your yard. It could be under the slab of your home’s foundation that found a path from the leak to your yard.
Water or wet spots on the floor
If you find a certain spot on the floor is consistently wet or you have puddles, it could be a water leak. However, if it’s a problem in an entire room or your whole home, it’s possible it’s a flooring problem, not a plumbing issue.
Warm or hot spots on the floor
If the leak is in your hot water line, hot water continually escaping from the pipe heats the slab causing a spot on your floor to feel abnormally warm/hot.
Fixing the Problem
As soon as you notice any of the above signs or symptoms, give us a call. The earlier we catch something, the better. Letting these problems go will result in an even bigger problem.