Slab leaks can be devastating to the value of your home and can severely harm the foundation underneath your dwelling.

It is essential to know exactly what you are dealing with when a slab leak occurs so that you can take proper action and notify a licensed plumber. These leaks can be quickly repaired by a professional, but if they are allowed to exist unabated they can cause massive headaches for homeowners.

What is a slab leak?

A slab leak is actually a term used primarily by those in the plumbing industry to describe a pinhole leak in a subterranean copper water line. These water pipes criss-cross each other under the concrete floor of your house, and when one springs a leak, water can pool underneath the "slab" of the house's foundation.

This constant stream of unchecked water can cause serious problems, such as insulation damage, crawlspace damage, dangerous mold mats behind the walls of the home, and structural issues in the foundation. The cost of repairing the leak rises the longer it is allowed to exist, and the foundation damage that the slab leak causes could have a tremendous negative impact on the terms of your homeowners insurance policy.

What are the signs and symptoms of a slab leak?

Pinhole leaks are difficult to detect without contacting a professional leak detection company, but it is relatively easy to spot something wrong with the water pipes in your house. Hearing the sound of running water while all appliances are off is a telltale sign, as is an inexplicably high water bill. Unexplained moisture in planter beds outside the house, in base boards along the floor of your home, or on your floor and carpet are all serious signs that something is amiss with your pipes. More rarely, you may feel hot spots on the floor when you are walking with bare feet -- this could predict the presence of a slab leak directly below you.

What are the causes of slab leaks?

Slab leaks can occur for a variety of reasons, but they are most often the result of a negative reaction between the home's fluoridated drinking water and the copper pipes that carry it to your home from the source. They also may be the result of more serious plumbing problems that manifest themselves in the leak, such as old or rusting pipes or poor connections in the home's piping system. Poor workmanship in home repairs can also cause slab leaks: inexperienced insulation installers may interfere with current piping, or lousy plumbers may use non-reamed piping in installations. In addition, sediment buildup in pipes or inappropriate contact with concrete or rocks may lead to pinhole leaks that affect the foundation slab.

Does your homeowners insurance cover slab leaks?

Obviously the answer to this question varies tremendously between insurance companies, but as a general rule, basic homeowners insurance policies will typically cover leak detection services, line access and repair, and property restoration. However, this may change if your insurance company determines that the slab was damaged as the result of personal negligence on the part of the homeowner. Advanced slab leaks can lead to incredibly high repair costs, which insurance companies are obviously reluctant to cover.

Insurance companies tend to only cover sudden leaks that cause catastrophic damage; leaks that cause damage over the course of a long time can be blamed on the homeowner more easily than sudden ones can. If the water from the leak hollows out the ground beneath the foundation, causing the foundation to crack or lean to one side, you will have a difficult time persuading your insurance company to cover the repair bill. It is always a good idea to talk to your agent to see what coverage you are personally entitled to.

Why is it Important to Hire a Professional for the Repairs?

Detecting and then repairing an advanced slab leak is not an easy task, and it should not be undertaken by a homeowner with limited experience. Professional companies have complete electronic leak detection technology that enables them to be able to test individual pipes for the presence of a leak. Leak detectors will also often perform a visual inspection and a pressure test to further confirm their suspicions.

Plumbers have several different techniques that they use to repair slab leaks. Direct access repairs, during which the floor is jack-hammered to pieces and the pipe is repaired from above, is the simplest but also the most destructive repair style. Pipe re-routing, which involves running a new water line through the home's walls and ceilings in order to replace the leaking line, is effective and recommended by many insurance companies but can cause extensive damage to the interior of the home.

Epoxy restoration fixes the leak at its source and only involves a small amount of concentrated work at two access points. The final possible solution is to re-pipe your entire system with non-metallic piping. This solution is comprehensive, but unfortunately costs much more and takes longer than the rest of the repair options.

Most professional plumbers choose epoxy restoration due to its relatively low cost and high success rate. Most of these restorations feature a ten year warranty and over a 95 percent success rate, which is an excellent percentage for such an invasive repair procedure.

What should I do moving forward?

Catching a leak early and quickly repairing it is important in terms of containing your repair costs and maintaining the terms of your homeowners insurance policy. If you have any suspicions of a slab leak, make sure to contact a professional plumbing organization and a leak detection company. Your homeowners insurance should pay for the full inspection, and you could save yourself a boatload of money and time if the plumber finds a problem. Don't let a slab leak ruin your foundation and your life -- contact a professional today!