We’ve recently had an increasing number of calls from customers asking us to check for a slab leak in their Ahwatukee home, using our electronic leak detection equipment (like Ron is doing in the bathroom of this home).
Slab leak incidents are, unfortunately, a common occurence in Ahwatukee, Az residences. But, while we see slab leaks year round, the calls for help with slab leak repair increase when the temperatures decrease.
You might ask why? Why are slab leaks so common in Ahwatukee; and why does the demand for slab leak repair increase with colder weather?
First, a few basics about what’s commonly called a slab leak.
A slab leak is a leak (usually a small, or “pin hole” leak) in the copper pipe that’s run under the cement slab (sometimes called a slab on grade foundation) of your house to bring potable water into the home. A typical water system installation is done using type L soft copper. Copper is the preferred pipe because of it’s durability, resistance to corrosion and resistance to bacterial contamination. Soft copper is typically used because of the ease of installation – soft copper can be bent easily to allow it to follow the twists and turns of your home’s plumbing system, avoiding obstacles along the way.
Slab leaks can occur for different reasons. Shoddy construction standards, such as a pipe that’s kinked during installation, or rocks left in the ditch in which the pipe is installed (and which the pipes are rubbing against), can and often do lead to eventual leaks. Also, copper pipe is resistant to corrosion, but not impervious to it, and highly aggressive soil conditions (elevated sulfate or chloride content, combined with poor drainage) can cause copper piping to corrode.
Likewise, (and this is what we see most frequently in Ahwatukee) aggressive water can cause corrosion of the copper pipe from within, resulting in a slab leak.
Aggressive (or corrosive) water is defined as “a condition of water quality which will dissolve metals from a home’s plumbing at an excessive rate.”1
Things that might contribute to the aggressiveness, or corrosiveness, of water are low pH, low alkalinity (dissolved inorganic carbon), high dissolved solids and/or high water temperatures.
So, in answer to our first question – Why would a slab leak be such a common problem in Ahwatukee homes? – we can point primarily to the fact that the water conditions are extremely aggressive in the area, causing corrosion and leaks in the water pipes after just a few years. We’ve actually seen leaks in homes that were only two or three years old!. (It has not been our experience that construction standards are at fault. And most of the corrosion is from the inside out, indicating that it’s the water, not the soil, that’s causing the corrosion.)
What about the second question – Why does the demand for slab leak repair increase with colder weather? The answer to this question is at least two-fold. For one thing, if there is a leak in the hot water system under the floor, you’re much more likely to feel the heat of the escaping water (what we call a “hot spot”) when the floors are cold, as in winter. Especially with tile or laminate floors. This is one of the most common complaints we hear. But, also, as mentioned above, higher water temperatures can contribute to the aggressiveness/corrosiveness of the water. So in colder weather, the fact that most people are drawing greater amounts of hot water through the pipes can exacerbate the corrosion problem. This also explains why most slab leaks (we guestimate as much as 90%) are in the hot side of your water system.
Okay, so now you understand what a slab leak is and why your Ahwatukee home, unfortunately, has a slab leak.
The next step is to find out what solutions are available to you. See our Slab Leak page for more information about the signs of a slab leak (How Do You Know If Your Home Has a Slab Leak?) and solutions.
Or give us a call. An experienced plumber is always available during business hours to answer your questions or schedule a time for us to visit your home and provide you with an estimate for slab leak repair.
Stevens Plumbing Heating & Air Conditioning
1 WHAT IS MEANT BY CORROSIVITY: http://126.96.36.199/prwa/html/ph__aggressive_water_.html