Homeowners often encounter various plumbing issues, and one of the most troublesome is the notorious slab leak. Slab leaks can lead to significant damage if not addressed promptly, making it crucial for homeowners to understand the root causes behind these issues. In this blog post, we will delve into what causes slab leaks, from faulty installation practices to the materials used and the impact of shifting soils beneath homes.
What Causes Slab Leaks?
Plumbing Materials Used During Installation
Understanding the materials used in plumbing systems is fundamental to identifying potential causes of slab leaks. The age of a home’s plumbing system often dictates the materials employed during construction; each material comes with its own advantages and vulnerabilities.
Cast iron pipes were prevalent in homes constructed before the 1960s. While cast iron offers durability and fire resistance, it is susceptible to corrosion when installed as underground service lines. Modern cast iron pipes address this issue by incorporating protective materials, improving their longevity compared to their outdated counterparts.
Galvanized steel pipes, standard in homes until the 1950s, are robust but prone to corrosion and clogging. As the protective coating inside these pipes wears off over time, rust and mineral buildup can obstruct the plumbing lines. The lifespan of galvanized steel plumbing pipes is typically around 50 years.
Rigid copper pipes, popular today for hot and cold water supply lines, boast durability and corrosion resistance. However, careful installation is crucial, as dents in the water line can lead to thinning and eventual leaks. Meanwhile, plastic pipes offer corrosion resistance and versatility, suitable for above and below-ground installations.
The choice of plumbing materials is only part of the equation; faulty installation practices can exacerbate the risk of slab leaks. With knowledge of the original plumbing work, homeowners may be aware of the lines’ locations, materials, and the quality of the installation. A minor error during installation, such as a dent in a copper pipe or improper sealing, can escalate over time, resulting in leaks.
While faulty installation and materials contribute to slab leaks, the primary culprit is often the shifting of expansive soils beneath homes. According to the American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE), approximately 25% of all homes in the United States experience damage due to expansive soils. This staggering statistic underscores the significant impact of soil movement on residential structures.
Expansive soils create hydraulic pressure beneath the home, leading to soil expansion and damage to the slab. The ASCE estimates that the annual cost of damage caused by expansive soils in the U.S. surpasses $2.3 billion, exceeding the combined expenses of property damage from floods, earthquakes, hurricanes, and tornadoes. The slow, persistent nature of slab leaks continuously adds water to the soil beneath a home, exacerbating soil expansion and increasing the likelihood of substantial damage.
In some instances, the upward pressure finds weaknesses or cracks in the slab, resulting in wet spots in the flooring. In severe cases, the pressure causes the floor to erupt, resembling a geyser and flooding the home.
Need A Slab Leak Plumber?
If you find yourself facing the daunting prospect of a slab leak and wonder, “what causes slab leaks,” fear not—Custom Plumbing of Arizona is here to help. Operating 24/7 throughout the year, our dedicated team prioritizes your plumbing emergencies with a swift and efficient response. Serving various areas, including Scottsdale, Phoenix, Glendale, Buckeye, Cave Creek, Chandler, Avondale, Gilbert, Peoria, Surprise, El Mirage, Apache Junction, Mesa, Tempe, and Goodyear. Custom Plumbing of Arizona is your reliable partner for plumbing solutions. Contact us at 602-866-2665 to safeguard your home from slab leaks.