under slab water leak

topic posted Thu, September 7, 2006 - 8:42 PM by  Marpa
Just learned something today when a plumber can over to investigate why there was little or no hot water in our house. The water heater appeared to be working fine. But the plumber could hear water running. He called out the leak detector guys. They found, apparently, an under slab water leak. So now we apparently have to jackhammer through the foundation to find the leak and repair it. Apparently no records are kept of where pipes are at when they build residential houses these days (this house was built in 2000). We hear rumor that it's no longer covered by insurance in Texas. There is no damage to the house. The water is apparently going into the limestone underneath the house.

I don't even know what I'm asking here. Just looking for some advise, support, etc, since it's bound to be a horrendous and expensive experience.
posted by:
  • Unsu...
    You have my sympathy. That's definitely not a DIY project. (Unless you are as hardcore as the lady that was here a couple years ago and lifted her entire house up and installed a full size basement underneath, all by herself.) You may want to check your homeowner's policy to see if it covers anything like this.
  • Unsu...
    Did you buy the house new? If so, you should set up an appointment for a consulation with that rare breed of Texas lawyer who will still take on homebuilders in this state. If the house was built in 2000 and already has a slab leak, there may be some builder negligence involved and with these kinds of losses, I think it is not being litigious or greedy to expect the builder to be held responsible. And in Texas, in such cases, you just break even, you know, you just get your losses covered. Despite all the hype you may hear about lawsuit abuse, plaintiffs don't profit from these cases.

    Also consult a lawyer on insurance coverage. Don't take rumor or your agent's word for it that it is not covered.

    Get out your policy and read it cover to cover, then consult with a knowledgeable lawyer.
    • Unsu...
      On the go up suggestion... it might be cheaper if it isn't against codes. Reroute the pipes where they come into the house to go up the wall, accross the ceiling and down into the water tank. That way you don't have to rip up your slab. I have a basement, my pipes come in at ground level, which is about halfway up the basement wall, and then are routed along the basement ceiling and drop down to the water heater.
  • Unsu...
    Thetre are a few options.
    #1 The first is to snatch the old pipe. This often works. You attach a nice hefty length of polypipe to the old pipe then from the other end you gtab the old piupe and pull. This is best done wiht a set of good snatch blocks and an anchor. Usually the anchor is the 7000 pound back hoe that you got because you have no faith in the snatch.

    I did a snatch of over 60 feet of old decomposing 1" copper line the pipe broke but I had anticipated that it would. I had prior run a length of half inch steel cable through the pipe with enough slack on the other end to run more than the length of the underground run. When the pipe broke I used the cable to pull the poly pipe through. I tossed the snatch blocks aside and just pulled with the backhoe as the cable was not going to break no how.

    The old pipe can break at any time during the pull. If it doesn't you are golden.
    If it does and you diodn't pre run a cable you are at option #2.

    #2 Dig. You'll need an extendahoe.

    #3 Or you can simply place your main inlet somewhere else so you don't have to go under the slab & don't have to snatch.
    In that case you can just dig the trench yourself keeping the frost depth in mind.

  • I had this happen to me before with both hot and cold water.... Hot water Electric bill for that month was $480 ...YAY !

    When it happened with a cold water pipe I found out (eventually) due to the sound and a $200 dollar water bill YAY Again! With my cold water leak (it was going out to seom outdoor sprinklers) I just capped it and will deal with it at some undisclosed time in the future when I have the time. Is this a supply line leak or jsuta break in some accessory line like mine?

    If so... you might want to consider the cheap procrastintors solution.
  • Unsu...
    In Texas, going overhead iwith pipes is considered less desireable and may diminish the value of your home. Builders who screw up the slab pipes and end up having to retrofit for overhead pipes get themselvers sued for that here. Try to fix the original slab pipe if you can. Don't believe it if someone tells you an overhead pipe is just as good a solution. It may be your only solution, but it is not what you paid for when you bought the house.

    If they leak or burst, they ruin everything below. And even in Texas, pipes up in the ceiling or attic can freeze and crack during a cold snap if not properly insulated. I've seen it happen in some of the old Victorian homes here in Austin.

    Having said that, you can live with overhead pipes. You just have to make sure they are well made, well maintained and well insulated. And have a working shut off valve installed at a handy location if they do fail.
    • To keep y'all updated on the ongoing saga, the leak detector guy came out yesterday. Hell, I didn't even know there was such a profession. He brought two pieces of equipment that sent radio waves down the pipe which he could then listen for to locate where the pipe ran and where the leak was. It was fascinating. He had to firstcut into the cabinet so he could "ground" the signal-generating device in the concrete of the slab.

      Now we have a dotted line of tape where the hot water pipe runs. And it looks like the solution might indeed be to go up in the kitchen where the break seems to be. It's either that or tear up an irreplaceable wood floor...
      • I am in the same boat but in San Diego, CA...our kitchen tile is warm to our feet. We are not noticing any other problem. It is hard to tell if power and water bills went up due to this problem or the problem of "hot" summer that we had. Our home is 30 y/o and on concrete slab.

        How expensive is going overhead with pipes?

        Is there recourse on a home that was built in 1974?

        Insurance coverage?

        There is no damage to anything I can see as there is no water apparent anywhere. The floor started to feel hot along where the pipe probably runs...just yesterday I noticed that it is migrating further in the kitchen, away from where the pipe runs.

        Can this damage the slab?

        Also, we have very high water pressure that we just recently put a regulator was 117 rather than 60 so now the only area that isn't regulated is the sprinklers in the yard.

        Any help would be appreciated. and Marpa...let us know what you do. Good luck and a prayer to you!

        • Unsu...

          Look up California Code of Civil Procedure §337.15 on the web. There is a statute of limitations.

          You can send me a PM if you still have questions.
        • Hi Sherri, I'm sorry to hear about your water leak. I'm actually going through the exact same situation. My hallway tiles is hot, right next to the bathroom. I'm also from San Diego and my house is built on a concrete slab in 1976.

          The adjuster comes next week to see if it will be covered by my home insurance. However, my agent said it's probably not going to be covered since it's considered wear and tear, and not catastrophic. Ouch. You would think the home insurance would cover something like this after all those years of feeding them money.. and just when you need their help.. they're not there. :/

          Your post was dated back in 2006 and I guess I'm just wishfully hoping you're still on this thread. May you share your experiences on what you did to resolve your problem? Any tips/recommendations? I'm hurt just thinking about the bill.
          • you can make the repairs yourself, its just a lot of work
            to stop this from happening again you have 2 choices
            run your new pipes overhead, this is probly the cheapest sollution
            run 6 inch pvc pipes below your slab and run flexible water pipes inside these
            larger pipes, you can fit several in there
            then when a pipe gives out, you hook a new length of pipe to the old
            pull out the old pulling the new piece into position
  • I live in Seattle and have the same problem. So far, we've spent roughly $1200 (new water heater, 3 different plumber calls, leak detector, renting a jackhammer). The leak was found, but the hot water pipe they tried to tap into was also failing. Does this mean that our whole system is deteriorating? Our house was built in 1974. The floors are all brick which is set into the foundation, so getting to the pipes means destruction of the continuous brick in our open floor-plan house. Does insurance do anything about the destruction of interiors when this happens? What kind of attorney would I contact for advice? This is truly a nightmare!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    • Well, here's my 2 cents, as if you need it. Last fall I completely replumbed a house. I did not have the slab problem you are talking about, I just had old galvanized pipes. I used these new flexible plastic pipes. This might help you if you are going to reroute through wall and ceilings. This flexible plastic pipe is about as easy as pulling electrical wire and the best part is NO joints.
      • One solution I was told about a few years ago.
        A friend had a under slab leek, He used flex pipe and pulled it through his old pipe. He said it was not easy to do, but it was the cheapist.
        • PEX is awesome. The problem with pulling the pex is the you will get a smalll diameter, and can't make a 90 degree turn inside a pipe. Otherwise, all my new fix-it jobs are done with pex.
          • I have a question though.... I know that limestone dissolves in water. Just how quickly does it do that? I recall that there is a hotwater leak into a limestone foundation. In Anchorage there isn't much need for that kind of concern, permafrost, yes, sinkholes, no.
  • I'm late to the party, but here are my 2 cents:
    Your first step is to confirm you have a leak, the second is to locate the leak and determine the size, and the third is to determine the best source of repair: excavating, epoxy lining or rerouting. If you do have a leak underground an alternative to repairing it would be to reroute the line and abandon the pipe underground -if you’re able to. You would need to know what the pipe is serving and then be able to reconnect all of the affected fixtures. This would mean having to find a new route, but it’s not always possible to find a suitable path for a new line. Epoxy lining, for example, could save you the time and cost of having someone come in and jackhammer and dig through your foundation to try to find your leak(s). They can come out and do some tests to assess your problem: whether you have leaks or more seriously, cracks. If you just have leaks, they can hook up to fixtures and valves above ground and blow epoxy through to take care of them -you won't need to find out where exactly they are.


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