I thought my slab leaks were bad until I recently saw pictures on Facebook of my neighbor’s problems. Her hardwood floor was ruined. She has twin 5-year-old boys and couldn’t stay in the house while the damage was being repaired and her floor replaced. Her family was in rented accommodation for a month. No two leaks are alike and before you can consider repair options, you have to find the wretched thing!
The actual leak in the pipe is not necessarily next to the area where the damage is evident. Detecting slab leaks has become more scientific and there are companies that specialize in this. They use sensitive listening equipment to locate exactly where the water lines run under the concrete slab, and to pinpoint the location of the leak. I would highly recommend this before any digging or repairs take place.
NOW YOU’VE FOUND IT, HOW DO YOU REPAIR IT?
Once the precise location of the leak has been established, the plumber should go through the options available to you for repair.
TRADITIONAL ACCESS METHOD
This usually means jackhammering the floor! We had recently installed new Travertine flooring to match existing Travertine in our great room when I discovered our first slab leak. I was freaking out at the thought of it being ripped up. Luckily in our case it was not necessary.
This involves opening up a hole in the flooring, breaking through the concrete foundation, cutting out the damaged pipe, installing new piping, pouring new concrete and replacing the floor. This looks very neat in the photo but this assumes the leak has been accurately located, and there is only one leak. Your decision to go ahead with this type of repair will depend on the location of the leak and whether your flooring can easily be replaced.
Rerouting pipes involves locating and uncovering the nearest manifold, closing off the leaking line and running new pipes through an alternative location, such as the attic. This will usually involve cutting into the drywall and may cause damage to ceilings in order to run the new piping. This is the repair option we chose.
EPOXY PIPE COATING
This solution is usually prescribed for a system that has a series of small leaks, or if it is too inconvenient to dig up the slab. Demolition can be kept to a minimum and the plumber needs to make only two holes about 12” square to access the leak for repair. The leaking line is exposed where it enters the floor on both ends and is disconnected from the system. Air hoses are connected to the isolated pipe, which is cleaned, sandblasted and dried to prepare for the adhesion of the epoxy lining. The epoxy is blown through the pipes in a liquid state. It forms a new pipe within the old pipe. When it has hardened, it is tested to confirm that the repair is successful. The repaired line is then reconnected to the system and returned to service.
There are mixed reviews on the success of this method and research is advised before committing.
This is a thorough and longer-term solution and should be considered when there are multiple leaks, but it is an expensive option. I have already experienced three slab leaks in my present home, but they didn’t happen all at once, so each time I have had them repaired. I have to admit there is a nagging little voice in my head that wonders whether I should be putting money aside to redo all the piping.