Plumbing leaks are a common cause of home foundation problems. This is especially true here in Texas, where many foundations are concrete slab foundations. The plumbing lines run right below the concrete surface. Newer homes are more likely to be built with a moisture barrier that protects the concrete slab. But if a home was built prior to the 1980’s, it’s less likely to have a moisture barrier and is more susceptible to foundation problems caused by plumbing leaks from faulty or decaying pipes.
A plumbing leak can cause foundation problems in 2 ways:
If a big, fast leak below the concrete slab occurs, the water quickly saturates the soil beneath the foundation. As soil becomes waterlogged it can be washed away, essentially leaving holes in the ground below the foundation. Since the foundation isn’t evenly supported, it becomes stressed and can crack and drop.
Over time, a slow leak can cause just as much trouble. As the soil becomes moist, it shifts and the foundation shifts along with it.
Because the pipes are located underneath the concrete slab, it can be difficult to, first, diagnose the problem and second, fix the problem. This is why it’s important to be proactive and keep an eye out for plumbing leaks that could result in home foundation problems. Some common signs of a plumbing leak include:
- Unusually high water bills
- Water meter activity, even when the water is shut off
- Noticeable water: It might be obvious that there is a leak if there is pooling water near plumbing fixtures indoors, but keep an eye out for excess water outside of the home near bathrooms and the kitchen. Patches of very green grass or excessive weed growth that stands out from the rest of the yard could be a hint that there’s a leak.
- Smell: A leak can cause mold and mildew, and the distinct smell that comes along with it.
- Soft spots on the floor
It’s also worth noting that just as plumbing leaks can cause house foundation problems, house foundation problems can cause plumbing problems. If a concrete slab foundation shifts, it can cause the pipes underneath it to bend and possibly break or leak.
If you think your house has a plumbing leak, it’s important to contact a plumber right away. If the leak is affecting the foundation, it’s a good idea to bring a foundation repair contractor in too.