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Slab Leak Testing, Location & Repair

Detect, Locate, & Repair Slab Leaks in Your Frisco Home

Slab leaks are one of the most dreaded problems that homeowners face. Affecting the copper pipes that run underneath the concrete slab foundation of many homes in Frisco, McKinney, and Plano, these leaks can quickly lead to trouble. Beyond a dip in water pressure, slab leaks can lead to water damage, mold and mildew growth, and even foundation repair. That’s why finding and fixing the leak as quickly as possible is crucial.

At Earl’s Plumbing, we do our own leak detection and locating work instead of relying on 3rd party providers. We purchased our own water leak detection and location equipment—over $10,000 worth—so that our customers would not have to wait two to three weeks while the problem worsens. In many instances, we can do the leak detection testing and leak locating on the same day you call or the next.

Schedule Your Plumbing Service Today!

If you’re in Frisco, McKinney, Plano, or any of the surrounding communities, give us a call today.

Have You Been Told Or Do You Suspect You May Have a Slab Leak?

Slab leak repair can be one of the more expensive plumbing repairs in our industry. Because of that, some companies only do slab leaks (and the other big one, sewer line breaks). But that’s not necessarily a good thing. Just because they fix slab leaks or sewer line breaks is all they do does not necessarily make them good at it. It just makes them the plumbing industry’s version of the personal injury ambulance-chasing lawyer.

At Earl’s Plumbing, we are unapologetically unfiltered, and we call it as we see it. Think about it like this: these plumbers are not willing to do small repairs and installations. Why? They don’t want to “waste their time” handling the jobs that makeup 95% of the work but only 30% of the revenue. Is that really who you want to do your plumbing repairs?

At Earl’s Plumbing, we’ve seen and done it all when it comes to slab and plumbing leaks. We’re here to answer the most common questions we receive from our customers—and prepare you for what to expect before you call us. We highly recommend reviewing this information at your convenience.

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Answers to Your Frequently Asked Questions

At Earl’s Plumbing, we’ve seen and done it all when it comes to slab leaks. We’re here to answer the most common questions we receive from our customers—and prepare you for what to expect before you call us. We highly recommend reviewing this information at your convenience.

The important part that you need to ask your insurance company TODAY before you have any foundation or structural-related issues is:

“Does my homeowner’s insurance policy have the required endorsement for coverage of slab and foundation-related damages caused by water leaks from BOTH water lines and sewer breaks?”

Surprisingly, about 35-40% of the homeowners that we work for do NOT have this important policy endorsement. In most cases, you can call and have the endorsement added for less than $80 per year. This could cover tens of thousands of dollars in excavation or what they call “access work.” Interior home damage to flooring or furnishings may be covered by your regular homeowner’s policy. But it does not cover the “access to” OR “the repair of” the broken pipe (water line or sewer line).

Here is what we see: the bigger insurance companies with all of the TV commercials and big-name actors and sports personalities seem to be the worst ones. That’s because they don’t tell you to consider the “slab leak or foundation endorsement” or how little it will cost on an annual basis.

We also see that they pay out less (per damage line) and/or cover significantly less than some of the other companies. These insurance providers also seem to issue denial letters at a much more frequent rate than others.

To be fair, these major big-name companies do dominate the insurance landscape and have a lot more policies or exposure than some of the other lesser-known companies. But to our knowledge and recollection, none of the smaller insurance companies have ever denied a homeowners claim.

Typically, people shop for insurance by price. That endorsement that only adds $75 a year to the policy could be a deciding factor for some if you do not know the questions to ask. We are guessing it is often just left off or not mentioned unless asked for.

Ultimately, we do not know why insurance companies make half of the decisions they make other than it’s a business and they’re trying to make a profit. The important takeaway here is that before you have a major problem and/or significant out-of-pocket expense, get yourself covered.

Given an extended period of time and complete saturation, water will eventually migrate into the interior of the home. Different soil types (clay vs. sand) and concrete footer depths can affect the problem. Or it may arise when the water has no place to go but through the path of least resistance.

The obvious signs of a leak are water coming up through your floor, from a wall, or under a cabinet. But there are other, more common signs and symptoms that might help you identify the possibility of a slab leak or some other kind of structural leak. Those include:

  • High Usage Utility Notice: If your normal water usage jumps considerably, you will likely get a notice on your door or in the mail. This notice has a fairly low threshold, so it could be something as simple as a leaking toilet. No need to hit the panic button just yet.
  • Water Bill: If you have no “high usage notice,” but your normal water bill jumps up considerably, this is a warning sign. Sometimes higher water bills are the first sign. We’re not talking about $50 to $100 higher but more like $300 to $800 higher than the previous 2-3 month average. Factor in seasonal changes for irrigation and pools before hitting the panic button.
  • Hot Spot on Floor: Most slab leaks (70%) occur on the hot side water lines. An unusual hot spot radiating through the floor that was not there before is a telling sign. This is more noticeable in the colder months and on tile and wood floors versus carpet. Oddly enough, pets seem to congregate and lay on these spots, which can confuse matters—unless the entire room feels like a sauna.
  • Running Water Sounds: Listen out for faint sounds of running water, hissing, or spraying when no fixtures are being used. This is usually more noticeable in the evening as things quiet down. Usually, these sounds can be heard in the walls behind tubs & showers but also under cabinets through the shutoff valves. If you have a tankless water heater and/or a hot water recirculation system, be aware that these sounds could be the system working during its programmed times.
  • Water Meter Dial: If your water meter is registering usage but you aren’t using any fixtures, this could be a sign of a slab leak. If your water meter’s dial is spinning or the digital meter is counting up, do not be overly alarmed. The meter could be registering other leak-related items that are far simpler to repair, such as leaking toilets, irrigation, or your pressure-reducing valve (PRV).
  • Flooring Damage & Differences: Wood flooring boards will start to swell and/or lift up, becoming uneven and exposing the sharp edges. You will also see cupping and peaking as the wood boards expand with moisture absorption. Tile floors might be damp, water may start puddling, and/or the grout will be darker than normal.
  • Exterior Observations: Another fairly obvious sign is standing water or muddy spots, usually near the edge of the home or in low spots of the yard that never seem to dry. Sometimes, the leak will progress to the point where visible water might wick over the edge of the slab directly under the bottom row of bricks.

Some of the most common are:

  • Leaking toilets due to age or lower-end brands: This is especially common with builder-grade toilets such as ProFlo, Mansfield, Gerber, Western, Vortens, etc.
  • Irrigation valves stuck open: This is common with aged builder-grade systems of more than 5 years.Pressure Reducing Valve and/or Home Shut-Off Valve: Issues with these valves are common in older homes and homes over 10+ years old in Frisco, McKinney, Prosper, and Little Elm.
  • Failed T&P valve on the water heater: Though uncommon, we see this problem in builder-grade water heaters after 8 years and big box retail store water heaters at around 6 years old (due to inferior parts).
  • Hose spigot is leaking OR water is left on to an attached water hose: Both are easily correctable issues.

Pool autofill valve malfunctioning. We do not see a lot of these, but it is worth noting.

There are typically two types of water shut-off valves used in this area of Texas. Those are:

  • Gate Valves: These are older-style valves. They are also less expensive and therefore often used in the new construction process. They look and operate very much like a hose spigot in that they require you to turn the handle multiple revolutions to fully open or close. The problem with these is that they have a fairly short life span and rely on a rubber gasket that seals the water off as it is tightened. This rubber gasket deteriorates over time and ceases to fully or properly function. This is compounded when the valves are in the ground and exposed to groundwater, mud, and various minerals in the soil. The handles and stems tend to rust off, disintegrate, and/or eventually collapse or form a water leak.
  • Ball Valves: These are not new, but the engineering has changed to make them better. These types of valves are far superior to a standard gate valve and the only type Earl’s Plumbing will ever use. You will not find a gate valve on any of our trucks or in our shop unless it is part of the replacement hose spigot. Because of the slightly more expensive price, these are not as common as the standard gate valves. A ball valve usually operates by using a single handle lever that turns only one way and only turns a quarter turn open or close. There is no tightening required. The quarter turn lever stops at full open and stops at full close. Pretty simple, yet superior.

Your various shut-off valves must be accessible and functioning properly. Below, these various valves are listed in order of importance:

  • Main Water Shut-Off Valve: Most homeowners think they know what this is, but they do not! The water meter is NOT where you turn the water off to your home. The water meter shut-off valve is for the city, utility providers, and licensed plumbers. That is why it is locked and requires a special key and meter wrench to operate. Every single home has a “Main Water Shut Off Valve” in place. This should be working and easily accessible—it is specifically designed for the homeowner to access in case of an emergency. Most homeowners do not know this device’s location or that it even exists. In that case, it has most likely been ignored, neglected, and will NOT be functioning or usable. If you fall into this group and your home was built before 2012, the likelihood that this device is accessible and in good working order is remote. It is also most likely a gate valve (described above). We strongly suggest NOT attempting to use this shut-off before having it inspected, as it could create a bigger leak issue. Depending on the city in which you live and the age of the home, your main shut-off valve should be located in one of the following places: Flower beds, flower bed valve boxes, garage or utility rooms, and main water manifold closet.
  • Irrigation Double Check Valve: This valve is usually (but not always) in a valve box near the street and/or near the main water meter. The lid is usually green and rectangular and measures about 12” x 17”. This valve must be in good working order because it has two shut-off valves (sometimes three) that allow us to isolate the irrigation system from the main water supply. “Isolating” allows us to ensure that the potential water leak is not on the irrigation side of the system. This valve also serves a second important purpose: it operates as a water supply backflow protection device. That means it prevents soil contaminants, fertilizers, pet & rodent waste, and chemicals from entering into the irrigation head openings (or breaks) and leaching back into the main drinking water supply. So, you definitely want this to be functioning properly!
  • Water Heater Shut-Off Valve: It’s pretty self-explanatory, but this valve shuts off the water going to the water heater(s). It is usually easily accessed but not always functioning. And if it is an older multi-turn gate valve (defined above), then the likelihood of it completely shutting the water off is remote. It will slow the water down in the case of an emergency water heater rupture, but it will not allow us to fully isolate to test for a slab leak.
  • Toilet Supply Shut-Off Valves: The toilet shut-off valves are important. In our industry, it is also commonly referred to as an “angle stop.” We have seen a lot of situations where houses have been flooded because they cannot get the toilet to stop running and the shut-off valve does not work. If the toilet is leaking through, this shut-off either needs to fully operate or the guts in the toilet need to be replaced—possibly both. The builder-grade angle stops are cheaper, usually inferior, usually made of plastic, and have a very limited livelihood. They work similarly to a gate valve, but they’re usually plastic and break very easily with age. We always recommend replacing and upgrading to an all-metal, corrosion-resistant, quarter-turn angle stop (similar to a ball valve but smaller) when replacing the toilet. Of course, this is just a suggestion and not a requirement with Earl’s Plumbing.
  • Hose Spigot or Hose Bib: To be clear, this valve is on the outside of your home: it’s what you connect your water hose to. Some people not from Texas call this a water faucet, but the technical term that we use here is “hose spigot” or “hose bib.” For testing purposes, this must be free of leaks or drips both when off and when on. The reason for this is that at least one hose spigot must be properly functioning for us to attach our pressure gauges to the domestic water supply system.

About 99% of the time, our techs are going to start by checking the potential sources of water loss that are the most likely and easiest to identify. This will usually begin with visual observations of the water meter, toilets, toilet tanks, interior faucets, water heater(s), and hose spigots. At this time, they will also take a quick assessment of any shut-offs that may be problematic for a full test to be performed.

Once the basic visual inspection is done, the next step is to isolate the irrigation system from the main line. To perform this part of the initial testing, the double-check valve must be in good working order with working shut-offs. Once the irrigation is shut off, if we still have meter movement, we proceed to the next step.

Next, the main water shut-off valve needs to be operational. This is so that we can separate and isolate everything in and under the house from the main water line that comes from the meter. This water line is commonly referred to as the “yard line.” If continued meter movement is observed after closing the main water shut-off valve, that would indicate a yard line leak and repair situation.

Even if the yard line isolation still has meter movement, we would likely still move forward with the next step in the process. That step is a complete “static pressure test” of the entire domestic water system in and under the house. Using a pressure gauge at a fully functioning hose spigot, we allow the home to fill with water. This may require us to turn shut-offs off inside the home.

Then, using the main water shut-off valve again, the house would become isolated and any drop in pressure on the gauge would indicate a leak. A true slab leak typically starts falling immediately and steadily decreases until it reaches zero.

The test is typically performed for 15-20 minutes. Sometimes, we perform it multiple times in combination with using the water heater shut-off valve to isolate the hot water lines from the cold water lines. If there is no pressure drop after performing a subsequent pressure test with the water heater shut-off valve closed, then we would assume that the leak is on a hot water line and not a cold line.

From there, we use acoustic leak detection equipment to listen through the slab. The best way to describe this is an amplified stethoscope. We have some controls to adjust sensitivities and a measurement meter that allows us to gauge the loudest spots. The accuracy is largely based on the operators’ skills and experience but also on how directly we can get our devices over the buried water line.

If the leak happens to be located inside a concrete beam and/or spraying in a different direction, it can be harder to pinpoint. Many factors can interfere with getting an exact location: the size of the leak, the volume of water, the flooring type, cabinets, walls, and fixtures (tubs and showers). Our goal is to be exact, but as long as we are within three feet, we can make it work.

Earl’s Plumbing uses the same leak detection equipment and processes as a well-known nationwide franchise that specializes in leak location. In our early years, we used that franchise to do our leak locations. But it took 3 weeks to get on their schedule, which was not ideal for our customers.

So, we watched and learned their techniques, asked a lot of questions, and purchased identical equipment with manufacturer training. It is a difficult task and skill to master, but we have invested thousands of dollars and countless hours perfecting the craft.

We will occasionally use other devices and methods to pinpoint the location as well. The most common are:

  • Compressed nitrogen: which produces a different sound than spraying water.
  • Infrared thermometers: used to get temperature readings and differences.
  • FLIR thermal imaging: used to see heat & cold differences behind structures.

Occasionally there is a second smaller leak in the plumbing system that doesn’t present itself until the first leak is repaired. This is very rare—so rare that it’s only happened a handful of times since 2020. Still, the initial repair quotes will always have some language that allows for additional repair steps and pricing flexibility.

In order of commonality and prevalence, these methods are:

  • Tunnel Excavation to Point of Leak: Tunneling is used in about 85% of the slab leak repairs that we complete. The reason that this is the preferred method is because it is usually the fastest method from start to finish, is somewhat seamless, involves reduced exposure for unintended damages, and requires far less mess and cleanup.
  • Concrete Slab Penetration and Excavation: The second most likely option for a slab leak repair is a slab penetration. These account for less than 15% of the repairs we make due to the many inconveniences that go along with this type of repair. Slab penetration requires the removal of the flooring in that area (which may already be damaged) along with jackhammering a hole through the concrete slab. Once the slab is removed and hauled away, excavation is usually required to get to the pipe that is leaking. Of course, that all depends on the location of the leak and the entry hole. It is rare that excavation work is not required. That is especially true if the leak is under a wall, under a cabinet, or on one side of the beam when we are trying not to damage the flooring. Slab penetration repairs typically take longer to complete. Depending on numerous factors, a slab penetration takes at least 3 days and sometimes 4-5 days that are spread out over a week.  Factor in the flooring repairs and you could be in for a very intrusive couple of weeks.
  • Water Line Reroute: Water line reroutes are the least common option in the DFW area and are really only realistic in single-story homes. Even then, much consideration must be given to how many fixtures could be affected and/or need to be included in the reroute option. Reroutes are done through the attic. Every new fixture drop requires at least two to three drywall patches (tape, bed, texture, and paint by a 3rd party). Of course, this adds significant additional costs and other logistical work on your behalf. There are also situations when bathroom wall tile will need to be removed. That type of invasive repair may require an entire bath or shower remodel by a 3rd party to make it look seamless.

See What Frisco is Saying About Our Slab Leak Services

“Great service as usual. They’ve done 5 different jobs for me and all have been outstanding. I won’t use anyone other than Earl’s.”

Terry D

“Earl’s is 100% professional grade. Prompt, communicative service, absolute high quality work, and their leader – Brant was outstanding. I strongly recommend Earl’s, enthusiastically.”

Richard M

“I called Brant on Friday and he quickly responded with a quote after he physically checked the front yard leakage. He also set the right expectation on possible leaks under the driveway which could cost more. The day he sent technicians over to do the repair and they spent hours digging under the driveway and identified the source of the leak without the need to cut the concrete which saved a lot of money for me. They charged me at a fair price even with a day’s long hard work. I highly recommend Earl’s Plumbing for their professionalism and consideration for their customers. Will call them again for any plumbing needs I may have in the future.”

Frank Y.
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Choose Earl’s Plumbing for Your Leak Detection and Slab Leak Repair Needs

At Earl’s Plumbing, we have extensive experience in finding out the source of your leak. But if we do confirm a slab leak, we’ll be ready to find the least invasive, least disruptive, and most reasonable solution possible for your home. Let us put our skills to work for you!

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