A sudden jump in your water bill is alarming. Even more alarming? Not knowing where all of that water is going. Damage from slab leaks is expensive, often causing a disruption to your operations during recovery and repair. Your best defense is to detect a slab leak before it causes damage.
Out of sight, a slab leak occurs in the plumbing in your building’s foundation. Shifting foundations are often the cause. You find this in places like in Texas, where clay soil causes shifts that damage both foundations and the pipes underneath and through them.
Proactively detecting slab leaks will save you frustration and money
Four signs you have a slab leak:
- Your water bills have increased dramatically.
- You notice wet spots in flooring.
- You can hear running water when no water should be running.
- You notice physical shifts to the building, such as cracks in walls, which often come from breaks in the slab.
If you detect these signs, some damage may have already occurred, but acting fast can stem the damage and water loss. A better, more proactive solution is a flow monitoring solution that tells you there is an issue before the usual indicators do.
Confirming the Leak
If you suspect a slab leak, investigate further by isolating and evaluating the various water systems on your property. Bring a friend or colleague and have them monitor the water meter while you do this.
- First, if possible, turn off all running water on the property and see if your meter is still moving. If it is, you have a leak. If your property is too large to turn off all running water, then it’s a good idea to proceed to the next step.
- Your next task is to determine where the leak is located or immediately call a professional to do so for you.
- If you’re going to explore on your own, the first system to check is the mainline water supply to the property. Turn that system off. If the water meter stops moving, then you know that the leak is not on your mainline between the street and your building.
- Next, determine where the shutoffs are located for your irrigation system and other water systems. Turn the mainline back on, and one at a time shut off water to each of your water systems. The meter will keep moving until you shut off the one with the leak. If you shut off a system and the meter stops moving, you have found the system that is leaking.
- For large properties, this may involve cutting off water to various buildings or areas of the property in order to find the leak. Talk to your maintenance manager to be sure that you’re testing the right systems and haven’t missed any.
When you find the leak, by all means, keep the water shut off in that area and call a professional. Pinpointing the exact location can often be done without tearing apart your property. Modern electronic amplification equipment and electromagnetic pipeline locators help identify a leak location before you start taking apart flooring or pools.
If expensive remediation is prescribed, you might want to get a second opinion. It may cost a little more to have several professionals out, but if someone needs to go through the foundation of your building, it’s a good idea to find the least invasive option possible.
Some repair options are more invasive than others. The best solution may depend on your circumstances, but here is an overview of your options:
- Spot Repair – Find the location of the leak, open the slab at that spot and repair the pipe at that spot. If you have a generally newer system where the leak is an isolated event, this can be effective.
- Pipe Coating (Epoxy) – At times, a water system will have a number of small leaks. In that case, it may make sense to apply epoxy coating through the inside of a pipe.
- Re-Routing – A new pipe is run through a different area in the building (sometimes through ceilings or walls) to replace the one that is leaking under the foundation. This can be a long-term solution but is often very disruptive depending on where the new pipe needs to be run.
- Re-piping – For older systems where more leaks are likely to occur, this is the option that will probably make the most sense long-term. This means replacing the entire line that was leaking. It may mean more digging and slab repair than you had hoped for, but may be your best chance of avoiding future leaks.
Property damage and disruption are the unfortunate cost of slab leaks. Pain upon pain, some insurance policies don’t cover the full cost of recovery. Check your system regularly to catch a leak sooner than checking your water bills. Lightweight monthly tests such as checking your water meter for increased activity can tip you off before you would otherwise see evidence of a leak.
Want to make real change? Install a flow-monitoring system with regular or real-time reporting. Save money by detecting leaks weeks or months before you would have located it otherwise. Proactive monitoring is the best way to quickly detect and curb slab leak damage on your property.