Preventing Slab Leaks: How to Safeguard Your Plumbing System

Slab leaks are luckily fairly rare in homes with a basement or crawl space foundation as the only part of the plumbing system that is typically underneath the foundation is part of the main sewer line and possibly the main water line. Homes that are built on a concrete slab foundation are much more prone to slab leaks since the majority of the water lines and drain lines are located underneath the foundation.

A slab leak is when a water line or drain line underneath the home’s foundation leaks, and it is potentially one of the worst plumbing problems you can experience. Slab leaks are not only difficult to detect, but they can do severe structural damage if not taken care of promptly. If your home does have a concrete slab foundation, it is essential that you take some steps to reduce the risk of a slab leak forming. In this article, we’ll explain the most common causes of slab leaks and what you can do to prevent them.

Have Your Plumbing Inspected Regularly

No matter what type of foundation your home has, you should always have your entire plumbing and sewer system professionally inspected at least once a year. Regular plumbing maintenance and inspections are always the best line of defense for preventing slab leaks and other plumbing issues. During the inspection, the plumber will look for issues like abrasion and corrosion that could put your pipes at risk of leaking. If any issues are detected, the plumber can then take steps to overcome them before a leak forms. 

Plumbers can also use specialized tools and equipment to make sure that no slab leaks are present. This includes visually inspecting all of the drain lines and main sewer line for damage or leaks using a fiber-optic camera. They can also check for slab leaks in the water lines by using thermal imaging cameras to look for hot or cold spots and using a highly sensitive microphone to listen for the sound of water dripping or running underneath the foundation. 

Manage Your Water Pressure

High water pressure is one of the more common causes of slab leaks as it puts lots of extra strain on the water lines. The high pressure can eventually cause the joints in the pipe to loosen and start to leak, and it can also weaken copper pipes to where pinhole leaks develop. The water pressure in your home should be between 40 and 60 psi, but many homes have issues where the water pressure is often much higher than this. The issue is that the water pressure is often well over 80 psi since it takes lots of pressure to move the water through the municipal water mains. This is why many homes require a pressure regulator valve, which works to reduce the pressure where the water enters the house before it flows out into the various water lines. 

There are several signs that you should watch out for that can indicate your home has issues with high water pressure. One obvious sign is a “water hammer,” which is when the pipes make a loud clanking or banging noise when you turn off a faucet or other plumbing fixture. Another sign is if the water spits or sprays out of your faucet instead of flowing smoothly. High water pressure can also cause faucets and showers to leak whenever you’re running the dishwasher, doing laundry or using other plumbing fixtures. 

If you suspect your water pressure is too high, a plumber can test it by attaching a water pressure gauge to your outdoor hose bib. The only way to overcome high water pressure is to install a regulator valve. Pressure regulator valves can sometimes get stuck open or fail so you may also need to have a plumber test to see if an existing valve is still working correctly. 

Overcome Hard Water Issues

The calcium and magnesium ions in hard water are corrosive and can slowly eat through copper pipes causing them to eventually leak. This is a somewhat common problem in the Harrisburg area since our water is fairly hard and contains a high concentration of minerals. Installing a water softener will help to prevent hard water issues by removing all of the minerals. In this way, you can protect your pipes from corrosion and also prevent mineral deposits from damaging your appliances, pipes and plumbing fixtures. 

Prevent Chlorine From Corroding Copper Pipes

Municipal water treatment plants use chlorine to kill any bacteria in the water supply to ensure it is safe to drink. The only issue is that chlorine and chloramine are also corrosive and will slowly damage copper pipes over time. This is also something you can prevent by installing a whole-home water filtration system, as this type of system will remove chlorine to protect your pipes against corrosion. A filtration system will also remove any other impurities, which will help to make your water taste better and ensure it is clean and pure. 

Make Sure There Is Proper Drainage Around Your Home

Having proper drainage around your home is also important for preventing slab leaks. If there isn’t sufficient drainage, the soil around and under the foundation will often become water-logged. This leads to the soil expanding, which puts more pressure on the underground pipes potentially leading to damage. The pressure can also cause the pipes to shift and start leaking. 

Making sure your downspouts drain far away from your foundation is important in this regard. If you live in the city, be sure your downspouts connect to your municipal stormwater system. If you live in a more rural or suburban area, you may need to install a drainage system around the home. 

Avoid Chemical Drain Cleaners

Chemical drain cleaners are extremely effective for breaking up clogs. The only problem is that they are highly corrosive and can severely weaken PVC drain pipes causing them to start leaking. Many drain cleaners also work by producing a chemical reaction that creates an extreme amount of heat, which can cause the pipes to warp and the joints to come loose. In some cases, clogged drains just require cleaning a p-trap or pulling hair from the drain. For deeper clogs, a plumber can use a snake or water jet to address the clog.

Watch for Tree Roots

Tree roots are a major cause of sewer line leaks. They can also eventually start growing underneath a slab foundation and putting extra pressure on the pipes or even break through the pipes. This is why you shouldn’t plant large trees too close to your home or anywhere near your main water line or sewer line. It is also best to only plant shallow-rooted trees and shrubs. Cutting down large trees may be necessary if the roots have started growing too close to the home or are causing damage to any of the pipes. 

Ready & Able Plumbing, Heating & Air is a great choice if you need any plumbing, heating or air conditioning service in the Harrisburg area. Our licensed plumbers can help with leak detection and other types of plumbing repairs. We can also help if you’re looking to install a water softener or water filtration system or if you need any other type of plumbing installation. Contact us today to schedule a plumbing inspection or for more information on preventing slab leaks.

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