Slab Leaks are a problem for Phoenix homeowners.

by stevensplumbingac on May 10, 2013

Slab leak repair requires specialized knowledge and experience.
                       

slab leak repair and slab leak cost in Phoenix AzStevens Plumbing Heating & Air Conditioning has the knowledge and the experience needed when it comes to slab leak repair.  And, our slab leak repair cost is very affordable!

In our recent blog about our history with repiping in Phoenix, we talked about our early days, when the majority of the homes we repiped had old galvanized pipes that had rusted and begun to leak.  The preferred methodology for repiping these homes was to replace the old, rusty galvanized steel pipes with new copper pipe, and Stevens Plumbing Heating & Air Conditioning perfected a process that allowed us to do this pipe replacement in just one day for most homes (our One-Day Repipe), with a minimum of damage to the home (walls and ceilings) and at a cost far less than that charged by most repiping plumbers.  Our repipe method was faster, better, and less expensive, and as a result, we were kept very busy doing repipes nearly every working day.

But, the era of repiping was waning, being replaced by slab leak plumbing.  Even while we were doing thousands of repipes over the years, replacing leaking galvanized steel pipes with copper pipe, home builders had come to the realization that copper pipe was superior to galvanized steel, and, starting in the 1970s, new homes were being constructed with copper water piping.  But for the most part, these pipes were being installed underground, under the slab, or foundation, of the home rather than through the attic.  No doubt this was a design intended to eliminate flooding of a home should an overhead pipe leak or burst.  Underground installation of the pipes, combined with the use of copper – a strong, durable metal that resists corrosion – was thought to be a marked improvement in residential plumbing by the construction industry.  And, for awhile it seemed this new approach to the installation of plumbing in new homes would be a good solution.

Before long, however, problems began with these underground installations – we were getting frequent call about leaks in the copper pipe under the slab.  Copper, even though it’s resistant to corrosion, is not impervious to it.  Under certain conditions, copper can and will corrode, and leaks in the pipe will result.  Local soil conditions, for instance, can be problematic.  High levels of chloride or sulfite in the soil, such as is common in many parts of the Phoenix Arizona metro area, can cause copper pipes to corrode and leak.Phoenix slab leak

Shoddy installation practices can also result in problems with your copper water pipes.  If the copper pipe is kinked (twisted or bent) during installation there’s a high probability a leak will develop.  If the underground trenches in which copper piping is installed aren’t backfilled with clean fill dirt (which is free of rocks) or sand, and rocks are left in the soil surrounding the pipes, the rock can wear the pipe and this may also cause a leak over time.

Another problem that can occur with copper piping is corrosion of the pipe from within caused by aggressive water.  The term “aggressive water” refers to the chemical characteristics of the water, including the PH balance, or acidity, of the water; highly acidic water corrodes copper.  (There are other factors as well, like levels of dissolved solids, but the primary cause of copper pipe corrosion is highly acidic water.)

Unfortunately for Phoenix homeowners, the water in most parts of the valley is highly acidic and therefore, highly corrosive.  In fact, the water in this part of Arizona has become more aggressive (more acidic) over the years.  As a result, we often now see slab leaks in homes that were built back in the 1970s; piping that held up just fine for decades is now failing as our water quality changes.

With so many possibilities for leaks in the copper pipes installed underground, it was inevitable that the plumbing industry would be called on to find solutions to what came to be called a “slab leak” – a term used to describe a leak in a water pipe beneath the slab (foundation) of a home.

slab leak repair in Phoenix AZLocating the leak is the first challenge when you suspect an underground slab leak.

The most reliable and accurate way to locate a leak in an underground pipe is to use electronic leak detection equipment. This equipment is costly, and it requires special training to use it properly.  Many plumbing companies don’t have their own leak detecting equipment for these reasons, but rely on leak locating services to pinpoint the location of the leak.  This is not the most convenient solution for the homeowner, however, as it means they have to deal with more than one company to coordinate the repair.  Stevens Plumbing Heating & Air Conditioning has state-of-the-art leak detection equipment, and our technicians are all fully trained in its use, which means our customers only have to make one call for locating and repair of a slab leak – we can handle the job from start to finish.

Once a leak under the slab has been located, the homeowner has several options. 

Usually, the least expensive option is to jackhammer the slab to expose the pipe and replace the leaking pipe.  This is commonly referred to as a “slab leak repair”.    This may not be the best option, however, depending on what caused the leak.  For instance, if the cause is aggressive water, you can be sure there will be more than one leak in those underground copper pipes!  In that case, the cost can skyrocket if there are several leaks, and the potential destruction to the house from jackhammering up the slab is just too significant to be reasonable.

In a situation where multiple leaks are suspected, alternative solutions such as rerouting a portion of the home’s plumbing, or repiping the entire house, may be a better option.  And, the homeowner will also need to consider whether to use copper piping again for the reroute or repipe, or if PEX pipe may be a better choice.

Which brings us to the next development in home plumbing in the Phoenix area.  It become fairly obvious to everyone in the plumbing and construction industries that installing copper pipes under the slab was not problem-free.  In addition, the rising cost of copper had builders looking for a less expensive alternative.  That alternative was polybutylene (poly) pipe, which besides being less expensive than copper was also faster (and, consequently cheaper) to install.  By the mid-1980s, most new homes were being built with poly pipes, which were installed overhead (in the attic and/or through the trusses).

We’ll go into the problems with polybutylene pipe (including a major class action lawsuit!) and when and why PEX pipe came to be preferred, in another installation.

In the meantime, if you have a home with copper piping under the slab, and you think you may have a slab leak, give us a call.  We can locate and repair your leak quickly, accurately and affordably.  And, we guarantee every job we do!

Questions?  Give us a call!  An experienced Plumber is always available during business hours to answer your questions.

Stevens Plumbing Heating & Air Conditioning
(602) 273-7473

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