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Slab Leaks: It doesn’t have to happen to you

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POSTED February 14, 2009 5:39 a.m.
By MONICA CANE


Les Hammond, owner of Rooter Pro/Knight’s Plumbing and Drain in Manteca , has been noticing what he calls a “plumbing epidemic” taking place in some of the tri-valley neighborhoods. What exactly is the plumbing epidemic? A not-so-little thing called slab leaks.

A “slab leak” is a term used by plumbers for broken or ruptured water pipes found underneath a house or building with a concrete floor which can be caused by improper installation of pipes, acidic soil, or a problem known as erosion corrosion which is the effect aggressive, heated water has on a metallic pipe as it flows through it.

In the last year, along with clearing clogged drains, repairing water heaters and replacing shower heads, Hammond and his plumbing crew have responded to a growing number of emergency repair calls having to do with slab leaks in similar neighborhoods.

When asked how slab leaks develop, Hammond says, “slab leaks happen in homes with concrete floors. While homes with crawl spaces and basements, or houses that are piped with “PEX” piping (a newer style of plastic pipes installed though the walls and ceilings) are unlikely to have slab leak issues, homes built on slabs (which may be done to ease cost and labor) have their pipes located beneath the slab itself, leaving home owners vulnerable to a potential slab leak.”

Slab leaks can also occur when there is a chemical interaction between copper water pipes or the water running though them, a poor design or installation, or a significant change in the moisture of the ground causing pipes to pull apart. Other causes are leaks forming at points where the pipes bend or change direction, bad craftsmanship, inferior plumbing supplies and materials or simply a plumber that rushes through the job or isn’t experienced.

While most leaks can be avoided by pre-emptive construction methods, all too often slab leaks are not discovered until it is too late. When left undiagnosed, a slab leak not only can cause severe structural damage, but can also move the foundation.

One of the first and most obvious signs to look for in regards to slab leaks is water flooding the house.  However, because water from a slab leak does not always flood directly into a house and in fact can go undetected for months, a few other good indicators says Hammond, would be “a higher than average water or gas bill, a lack of hot water, excess water around the perimeter of your home, a hot spot on your floor that does not go away or cold water turning hot temporarily.”

Whether it is incompatible soil, improper piping, or poor workmanship, one thing is for sure, slab leaks can be a homeowner’s nightmare if not dealt with properly and in a timely manner.

Be cautious selecting plumber to do work
If you think you might have a slab leak, Hammond offers a few suggestions. “In order to prevent further damage, homeowners should not attempt to repair slab leaks themselves.  Instead, a professional plumber needs to be called.  Asking friends and neighbors for a good recommendation and checking with the state licensing board to verify that the company is licensed, insured and complaint free is highly recommended.

When seeking a qualified plumber for the job, homeowners should be very cautious in choosing a highly experienced plumber for this type of repair. Due to the pipes being inaccessible, “slab leaks are one of the most difficult problems to diagnose and repair in a cost effective manner” therefore, homeowners should always ask about guarantees and city permits.”

While Rooter Pro/Knight’s Plumbing and Drain prides itself on obtaining proper permits for all necessary jobs, not all companies are the same, thus homeowners should beware of plumbers who avoid having permits. A quick fix on a slab leak could result in your home fully flooding and with no permit any claim made to your homeowners insurance could be subject to denial.

Hammond hopes that by informing homeowners what to look for in regards to potential plumbing issues now, he can help them avoid major plumbing problems in the future.

For more plumbing tips and information visit www.rooterproplumbing.com or if you are in question about a possible slab leak in your home and need a qualified plumbers opinion call (209) 823-1717.

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