how common are slab leaks?Slab leaks are major inconvenience and can potentially be dangerous. But is concern about them overblown? How common are slab leaks? And how worried should you be about them?

According to the Insurance Information Institute, about one in fifty homes has an insurance claim for water damage or freezing each year. That’s about thirty percent of all homeowner’s insurance claims made. While claims for minor leaks are more common than slab leaks, slab leaks are still common. This is especially true in California, where seismic activity and earthquakes move the soil beneath homes and makes slab leaks much more common than in geologically stable areas of the country.

Plus, a slab leak is such a major inconvenience that it is wise to be prepared to spot one and resolve it quickly if it happens to occur in your home. Here is what you need to know about the possibility you get a slab leak.

What is a Slab Leak?

Your home sits on a foundation, which is typically a concrete slab. This lends stability to the rest of the structure. Plumbing needs to run under and through the slab to deliver water to your home. If this area of the plumbing gets a leak, it’s a slab leak.

Slab leaks are particularly troubling for a few reasons. You can’t see them, so they often build up undetected. The pressure of the slab on the water will force it up through the home to damage it from the bottom up. Water can erode your foundation and make it unstable, and also seep into the other structural components of the home.

Slab leaks are expensive to repair themselves, may cause expensive damage, and may also greatly increase your water bill until they are fixed.

How Do I Know If I Have a Slab Leak?

While common, most homeowners will not know the sign of a slab leak, even if they have had one before. They are usually discovered only when they have done serious damage. Before it gets to that point, take a look for these signs of a slab leak:

  • Water usage: Compare your water bill to the same time period last year. If it is significantly higher and you don’t know why, it is worth discussing with a plumber. There could be a slab leak, or there could be something else going on. Either way, getting to the bottom of the problem will save you money on the water bill and protect your home.
  • Signs of water: The weight of the slab on the water will push it up into the house. You might notice that the lowest floor in your home has damp spots, swelling, mold growth, or other signs of water damage.
  • The sound of water: Don’t ignore the sound of running water, especially on the lower levels of your home. Unless an appliance is running or there is some kind of explanation for the sound, running water means a leak. It could be beneath the slab, or it could be in the walls.

If you discover any of these issues in your home, it is wise to reach out to a plumber to see for sure if you have a slab leak.