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Al’s Plumbing, Heating & A/C in Plano, Texas provides maintenance & repairs for all brands of Central A/C, Gas & Electric Furnace, and Heat Pumps.  Additionally we sell and install new HVAC Systems from American Standard (same company as Trane), Ameristar (same company as American Standard) and Coleman HVAC (same company as York HVAC).

Al’s also provides full service plumbing maintenance, repairs and replacements for every plumbing component in your home.  Al’s sells and installs Rheem Professional Series gas & electric water heaters, and tankless water heaters.  Al’s is near your home in Plano, Allen, Frisco, and McKinney.  We service all homes in southern Collin and Denton Counties with no additional travel-charges.

Call Al’s today to discuss any concerns or problems you have with your HVAC System or Plumbing.  We will arrange an appointment at your convenience and offer 24/7 Emergency Service

18 Signs You Have A Slab Leak

photo of underground water leak

Shown: Large Under Slab Water Pipe Leak

Image Source: Flikr  Photographer: Scott Durnell

A Slab Leak Is Typically Due To A Leaking Water Supply Pipe Under Your Home.

Your DFW Slab Home’s Water Pipes Are In The Soil Under Your Home. 

 

The Fastest & Easiest Way To Know If You Have A Slab Leak

  • Be Sure Every Water Outlet In The Home + Outside Faucets Are Turned Off.
  • Watch Water Meter To See If It’s Recording Water Usage.
  • Nearly All Water Meters Have A Rotating Gauge (may be an arrow or “gear”).  It Shows Even The Slightest Water Usage (see “gear” below).
  • If you see movement, watch to see if it continues for 1 minute. You could have a ice-maker filling with water.
  • If dial is moving (and all water sources are off) you have a slab leak.

water meter

Photo Source: Dreamstime ID: 00126239

For This Meter, The Black “Gear” Will Turn With Even The Slightest Water Usage

 

The Term Slab Leak Is Commonly Heard In DFW,  It can be caused by either a leaking Water-Supply Pipe, or a leaking Sewer Pipe under the home’s slab foundation.  This article addresses only leaking Water-Supply pipes.

This type of slab leak is caused by a cracked or damaged Water-Supply Pipe.  As with most components within a home, Water-Supply Lines are subject to deterioration due to aging and can wear out or fail.  Often though, Water-Supply Line Slab Leaks are caused by a cracked water pipe due to Slab Movement in DFW area homes (due to DFW’s expansive-clay soil).

Your DFW area home almost always has a concrete slab foundation.  During construction the Water-Supply Pipes and Sewer Pipes are put into place at or just below ground level.  Cement is poured and dries to a very strong concrete slab with supports the weight of the house.

home slab foundation under constrction - water pipes showing(Photo Source: Dreamstime ID 98604079

Shown: Slab Foundation Under Constrction.  Water Pipes Coming Upward From Slab (Inside Black Foam Wrap)

Water-Supply Pipe Slab-Leaks Are Caused By:

  • Water Supply-Line needing replacement — due to water-supply pipes that are starting to fail due to age.
  • Water Supply-Line needing repair — due to damage caused by Slab-Movement.

Here Are Signs You May Have a Water-Supply Pipe Slab Leak

  • Water bill will suddenly spike above your typical usage.
  • Water pressure appears to have dropped.
  • Damp or molded carpet.
  • Recent cracks in tile floor covering.
  • Bucked or cupped laminate or hardwood floors.

Wood Floor That Has Buckled Due To Excessive Moisture

warped wood floor due to moisture

Photo Source: Dreamstime ID: 42657777

Shown:  Warped Wood Floor Due To Moisture Coming Through Slab from Slab Leak

  • Drywall Cracks caused by slab movement (due to expansive-clay soil under the slab getting more & more wet and expanding in size.
  • Interior doors that stop closing right, stick or bind.
  • A musty odor (it’s likely mold or mildew caused by excessive moisture).
  • There is a visibly damp area in the concrete floor.

damp concrete and molded drywall due to slab leak

Photo Source: Dreamstime ID 1130844

Shown: Damp Concrete Floor And Molded Drywall Due To Slab Leak

  • A puddle of water on the floor inside the home.
  • A puddle of water in the lawn against an exterior wall.
  • You might be able to hear water movement sounds or hissing.

If The Slab Leak Is On A Hot Water Line:

  • You suddenly start running out of hot water when consumption has not changed.
  • Water heater is running more than usual or always running.
  • Somewhat increased energy bills.
  • Warm spots in the floor.  These can be spotted with a thermal-image device
  • In winter, a cat or dog is spending time in a new location (they found the warm spot).

 

Slab Leaks Must Be Repaired To Prevent Slab Foundation Damage 

Slab leaks are not something to be ignored or left until a later time.  The water added under your DFW home (from the leak) will cause the expansive-clay soil under the house to increase in size as it soaks up water.  As this occurs, the soil below your home will exert more and more upward pressure on the slab. Over time, the increasing upward pressure can heave the slab upward.

The concrete is likely to crack along the heaved area.   It’s common that one side of the cracked slab will be higher than the other side.  The higher side is where the soil has expanded due to the slab leak.

cracked and heaved concrete

Photo Source: Dreamstime ID 63049019

Shown: Heaved and Cracked Concrete At The Location Of A Slab Leak

How Water-Supply Pipe Slab Leaks Are Repaired

Find The Leaking Water-Supply Pipe

Different plumbers will use difference methods to determine the presence and location of a slab leak

  • Electrical equipment sends a small current through water pipes so a “listening” device can locate where water is leaking.
  • Force air into your water-supply pipe to remove any remaining water.  Then only air is escaping through the crack in the pipe.
  • The location of the leaking pipe may be found by using a sensitive “listening” device.  It locates where air is flowing out of the break in the pipe.

There Are 2 Ways To Gain Access Under A Slab

Busting Through The Slab From Inside The House

hole cut through slab foundation

Image Source: Dreamstime ID 7780291

Show: A Hole Cut Through The Slab To Gain Access To The Leaking Water Pipe.

(The “Grid” You See Is The Steel Reinforcement Inside The Concrete)

A hole is cut through the slab from inside the house.  Jack-hammers break away the cement and soil is set aside.  Once the work is done, the soil is returned and a cement patch is poured to seal the opening. to the open area.

Problems With Busting Through A Slab

  • In most cases, residents must move out of the room, or the entire house.
  • If the work can be contained to one room, there are still times when a resident likely won’t want to be there, such as when jack-hammers are operating.
  • Glued down floor coverings are damaged or destroyed.
  • The home is exposed to any mold spores or gasses trapped under the slab.  For a sewer pipe slab leak, the home is exposed to bacteria and germs in sewage.
  • A slab was designed & constructed to be 1 piece, it was never intended to cut through.

 

Newer DFW Homes Have Post-Tension Slabs

These Homes Have A Warning (Stamped Into The Concrete) Telling Not To Cut Or Drill

Home Builders Stamp This Warning Into The Concrete So They Are Not Held Liable For:

  • Damage to the home’s interior if a cable is severed
  • Possible structural-integrity issues with the slab due to having a cable severed
  • Injury or death of a person in the area where the cable was severed
  • If cutting through a post-tension slab, extreme care must be taken to avoid & not cut the high-tension cables inside the slab.
  • If a cable is severed, it retracts violently toward the center of the slab (the cable was stressed with tremendous outward-pressure).
  • Severed cables have been known to create damage inside the home during contraction.
  • There are also documented cases of injuries or death caused a violently contracting cable.

The Western Group, a company that performs post-tension tendon & concrete repairs, said “When one the cables snaps it’s like a .44 Magnum going off.  These tendons carry over 30,000 psi.  Source: Read The Entire Article Here:  ReevesHournal.com “Defusing The Bomb”

photo of post tension slab foundation before cement is poured

Image Source: Dreamstime 17314786

Shown:  This Post-Tension Slab (see criss-crossed cables) Is Ready For Cement To Be Poured

Tunneling Under The Slab From Outside The House

tunnel under home slab foundation

Image Source: Dreamstime 80454143-1

Shown:  Tunnels Dug Under The Home For Water & Sewer Pipe Repair Or Replacement

Benefits Of Tunneling Under The Slab

  • Residents can typically live in the house while the work is done.
  • There is no mess inside the house.
  • The home is not exposed to anything toxic under the slab (such as mold or gasses).
  • No floor-coverings are destroyed.
  • The slab is never cut.  It remains in one piece, just as it was: designed, built, and intended to always be.

Why You Must Minimize Your Home’s Slab Foundation’s Movement

In Many Cases, Slab Leak Could Have Been Avoided If The Soil Moisture-Level Around The Edges Of Home Was Kept Fairly Consistent

This Also Reduces The Risk Of Needing Foundation Repairs 

DFW is built on expansive-clay soil.  When the clay in the soil gets wet, it increases in size.  This creates an upward pressure underneath your home’s slab, causing the slab to move upward primarily along the edges and corners.  When the soil

  • When the soil is too wet, upward force occurs mostly at the edges and corners of the slab (caused by the soil around the edges of the house swelling due to moisture).
  • When the soil is too dry, the soil shrinks (it can turn into dust if it gets dry enough).
  • When the soil is too dry, there is insufficient support from the soil around the edges of the home, and the slab can experience uneven downward pressure (from the home’s weight).
  • The slab does not move evenly.   The movement is mostly at the edges and corners of the slab.  The slab moves very little at the center.

 

This occurs when the soil around the home becomes too wet and expands -or- becomes too dry and becomes smaller.  The closer to the center of the slab, the less the soil moisture-level varies.  Since the majority of the changes in moisture-level occur at the corners and outside edges of the slab, the slab’s movement is greater at the edges and corners.

Why slab movement can break water supply-lines or waste lines. The horizontal waste pipes are under the slab and run through the soil under the house.  The vertical pipes go up through the slab where they are connected to plumbing fixtures above the slab.

When the slab moves up or down (due to soil moisture-level changes):

  • The vertical pipes (attached to plumbing fixtures inside the home) move up and down with the slab.
  • The horizontal pipes don’t move (because they are located within soil).
  • If the slab movement is enough, the pipes can crack due to the upward or downward pressure the slab-movement creates on the pipes.  The older the pipes become, the more likely they are to fail under slab-movement pressure
  • NOTE: This same movement is also what creates the need for many foundation repairs in DFW.

 

One Of The Most Important Maintenance Tasks For Your DFW Home Is To Ensure The Moisture-Level At The Edges Of Your Home’s Foundation Stays Fairly Consistent

The less change in moisture level, the less slab movement, and the less likely you will have: cracked water supply-lines (slab leak), cracked waste lines or foundation damage.

To Minimize Slab Movement Due to Soil Moisture-Level Changes

1. Eliminate Rain Water Falling Near The Edges Of The Foundation (to minimize large increases in soil moisture-level).

  • This is accomplished with Rain Gutters to catch and move the water away from the foundation.  Allowing rainwater to fall right at the foundation causes tremendous changes in soil moisture-level. The more the moisture-level changes, the more the slab moves.
  • It’s equally important to have Gutter Downspout-Extensions to carry the water at least 3 feet away from the foundation.

2. Provide “Foundation Watering” During Periods Of Hot & Dry Weather (to reduce large decreases in soil moisture-level). 

It’s important to “water” your DFW home’s foundation when the soil around the home is too dry (this is mostly during summer).   This reduces the chances of damage to the foundation and water supply lines & waste lines due to slab-movement caused by low soil-moisture around the edges of your home.   Many automatic irrigation (lawn sprinkling) systems are designed to water the foundation (if it was part of the original installation).

 

For Those Without An Automatic Lawn-Watering System

These 3 Items Can Create A Foundation-Watering System

  • Weeper-Hoses                                                Click Here To See or Purchase A Weeper Hose on Amazon.com:Amazon.com Weeper Hose
  • Automatic Garden-Hose Timers             Click Here To See or Purchase A Garden Hose Timer: Amazon.com: Garden-Hose Timer
  • Soil-Moisture Meter                                     Click Here To See or Purchase A Soil Moisture Meter:  Amazon.com Soil Moisture Meter

 

How Much Do You Water The Foundation?

The Easiest & Fastest Way To Monitor Soil-Moisture Is A  Soil-Moisture Meters With “Wet — Dry” Gauge Makers

soil moisture meter

Image Source: Dreamstime 68358633

Shown: Soil Moisture Meter

 

  • If you see a gap between the foundation and the soil, you need to water it.  The ground around your foundation until the soil swells and closes the gap.
  • Place soaker-hoses 18 inches away from the foundation.
  • Start by setting the water-timer for 2 hours each day.
  • Monitor soil moisture using soil moisture meters.
  • As the weather gets hotter and drier during the summer, you will likely need to increase the amount of time you water.
  • The best time to water is at night as there is no sun, and cooler temps reduce the amount of evaporation.
  • Most (if not all) municipalities allow foundation-watering at any time on any day.  Check your City’s website to ensure you are in compliance if foundation-watering restrictions apply.

 

This information is found in the article “Foundation Watering Tips, Texas A & M University”.  Author: Dotty Woodson, Water Resource Program Specialist, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service This link takes you to the article:  Foundation Watering Tips, Texas A & M University

Summary:

This article addresses slab leaks caused by a damaged water-supply pipe.  The two primary reasons a crack occurs in a water-supply pipe are 1. movement of the slab foundation and 2. pipes failing due to age.

The article also describes how water-supply pipes slab leaks are located and repaired.  Also, access to the pipes needing repair is discussed as 1: busting through the slab for access or 2: tunneling under the slab to gain access to the pipes where they are in need of repair or replacement.

Also discussed are Post-Tension Slabs.  This style of slab construction has been the standard in DFW for new homes built since the 198o’s.  Building a post-tension slab is not typically dictated by Building Code, rather a choice for home builders because they are less expensive to build and post-tension slab strength is notably increased due to the inward compression (in all four directions) of the cables inside the slab.

Post tensioning compresses concrete, enabling it to resist both shrinkage cracks plus cracks caused by difficult soil conditions. Steel strands are run through the concrete in a grid pattern. Each strand is housed inside plastic tube that allows the steel cable to move during the stressing (tightening) operation.  The combination of the steel strand and anchorages is called a tendon. As each tendon is pulled tight, the steel stretches and is held in place by the anchorage on the outside edge of the slab.  The tight tendons help the slab resist forces that act to pull it apart.

Post tension slabs are not designed to be cut through.  If during the cutting a cable is cut, the results can be damaging to the slab, and the notable chance of bodily injury or death is present due to the violent contraction of the cable toward the outside edges of the slab.  Post-Tension Slab homes have a warning stamped into the concrete not to cut or drill into it.  It is possible to cut through a post-tension slab — by first locating the tendons and cutting between them.  The photo below shows and example of this being done successfully.

Lastly, the article details how to minimize slab movement due to changes in moisture level.  It’s a simple and tremendously important home-maintenance task for DFW area homes, due to DFW being built on expansive-clay soil.  This clay increases and decreases in size with changes in soil-moisture level.  This causes the slab to move up or down due to pressures created by the soil underneath the home.

DFW homes are built on what is called “floating slabs”.  These slabs are designed to accommodate minimal movement without damage.  The only water to minimize slab movement is to keep soil moisture levels consistent at the outside edges of the slab (moisture level stays increasing consistent father toward the center of the house).

 

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Al’s Plumbing, Heating & A/C in Plano, Texas provides maintenance & repairs for all brands of Central A/C, Gas & Electric Furnace, and Heat Pumps.  Additionally we sell and install new HVAC Systems from American Standard (same company as Trane), Ameristar (same company as American Standard) and Coleman HVAC (same company as York HVAC).

Al’s also provides full service plumbing maintenance, repairs and replacements for every plumbing component in your home.  Al’s sells and installs Rheem Professional Series gas & electric water heaters, and tankless water heaters.  Al’s is near your home in Plano, Garland, Richardson & Rowlette.  We service all homes in southern Collin and Denton Counties with no additional travel-charges.

Call Al’s today to discuss any concerns or problems you have with your HVAC System or Plumbing.  We will arrange an appointment at your convenience and offer 24/7 Emergency Service