Dealing with leaky plumbing on your commercial property can be a frustrating experience. Now imagine it being a leak you can't detect or get to easily. A water leak within your slab foundation is just one of those types of leaks that can be difficult to detect and expensive to deal with, especially if it's not caught early on.
The following goes in-depth about slab leaks and how they form. You'll also get a few pointers on spotting signs of a potential slab leak, which could help you detect a problem early enough to have it fixed affordably.
To get to the bottom of a slab leak, it's important to understand some of the common causes behind this issue. Slab leaks often occur due to a shifting foundation, especially if the ground underneath has shifted or the foundation itself was improperly constructed. The shifting slab puts tremendous pressure on the piping embedded within the slab, causing it to eventually crack or completely split apart.
Vibrations and problems caused by water hammer can also cause your piping to fail, exposing the surrounding concrete to moisture that erodes and eventually destroys the foundation. Copper pipes can also face internal or external corrosion due to electrolysis or a pH imbalance within the soil or concrete.
With your building's foundation in the way, you won't be able to actually see the leaky pipe that's at the center of your slab leak. However, you may see other problems that can be caused by a slab leak. For instance, you may see wet carpeting, cracked tiles or buckled hardware flooring without seeing any obvious signs of a leak. You may also see damp baseboards or mold growth near the source of the leak.
You may also experience low water pressure throughout your building, as well as an unexplainable increase in your monthly water bills. In some cases, you may even see puddles forming near the source of the leak or hear the sound of running water. You may even see the actual foundation shift upward or downward near the leak source, resulting in visible cracks and elevation changes in your flooring.
Your plumbing contractor may be able to detect a leak, but only through the use of a sewer inspection video camera that captures footage of the pipe's interior. Your contractor may also have other tools that offer better assistance when it comes to spotting slab leaks.
There are several approaches your plumbing contractor can take towards fixing a slab leak, depending on the severity of the leak and your budget. The most straightforward approach involves cutting the foundation open at the source of the leak and repairing the damaged section of pipe. However, any work involving the demolition of your foundation is bound to be expensive.
Your contractor may also choose to reroute your plumbing through the walls and ceilings. This will allow your plumbing to bypass the foundation altogether. Your contractor will most likely use PEX tubing to reduce labor costs and improve overall longevity. If your building's pipes are old and constantly suffer leaks and other plumbing issues, your contractor may recommend a re-piping of your entire plumbing system.
Another, less intrusive option involves coating the interior of the affected pipe with a specially formulated epoxy. The epoxy is mixed and then blown into the pipe, coating the walls of the pipe as it's forced through. Epoxy coating can be cost effective for those who want to leave their slab foundations untouched.
Ignoring a slab leak should never be an option, as it can cause more damage to your plumbing and your foundation the longer it goes on.