diy slab leak repair; sewage and hot water

Discussion in 'Plumbing Forum, Professional & DIY Advice' started by carrotguy, Mar 26, 2007.

  1. carrotguy

    carrotguy New Member

    Messages:
    18
    Location:
    Texas
    I just want to say that I'm very impressed by this forum. I've spent a couple of weeks searching on the internet and this is the best resource I've found so far.

    I'm in Dallas, Tx., and a few years ago we bought a slab-foundation house here for my sister. She could no longer afford it so we decided to move into it - we have allstate insurance as a part of the mortgage. We had to fix a few minor shower leaks and we thought we were ready to turn the hot water on, but we've since learned that we have both a sewage leak and a hot water leak.

    We bought the house in 2000 - it had foundation problems and we had them repaired at that time. To further complicate matters, I think my sister's dead-beat husband poured caustic chemicals down the kitchen drain. One side of the sink has numerous dark spots that look like a bit of abrasion - the spots leak water once the sink fills. Also, when we try to auger out the drain pipe from the kitchen sink we get soil constantly. There were empty bottles of nitric acid and potassium hydroxide that we had to throw away while moving in.

    There is a cleanout on the side of the house very close to the kitchen drain. Interestingly, if we leave the auger in place from the kitchen drain, we can see the auger traveling down while looking into the cleanout from outside. The cleanout pipe seems to curve straight down as you auger but we can see clearly that the pipe wall has corroded or been eaten away. Repairing this will likely require removing part of the exterior wall.

    In addition to the cleanout/kitchen drain problems, we found that one of the two the toilet drains has a hole just a bit bigger than a silver dollar. It's at the part of the drain pipe where it begins to curve horizontally to go under the slab.

    Outside of the toilet drain problem mentioned above, the single working toilet seems to have issues as well. When we flush the toilet, air bubbles rise into the bowl. I'm unsure if that leak is as easily accessible as the toilet we have removed.

    Unfortunately we do not have the money to have the leaks repaired. My biggest concern is how tearing up the slab will affect the repaired foundation. I searched for a while before posting and someone seemed to imply that it may be possible to cut out the slab as you go, once you see the direction the pipe travels. This would be great if it's possible in a house that's had the foundation repaired.

    The hot water leak sounds loudest in the bathroom used by the master bedroom. It is in this area that the foundation was repaired in 2000. The grass is noticably more lush and greener in this corner. The kitchen/cleanout leak is over twenty feet away.

    We've already done a bit of remodeling so we're not complete newbies, but we're in the dark about details for this type of job.

    We intend to have a leak detector service find the hot water leak - the same company can use a sewer cam to give info. about the drain problems. When they look for hot water leaks, can they see more than one? We have copper piping and a few other threads implied that working with the pipe can weaken other sections - it would be nice to fix all of it at once but I'm not sure what would be necessary.

    Any suggestions are appreciated (outside of setting the house on fire).
  2. carrotguy

    carrotguy New Member

    Messages:
    18
    Location:
    Texas
    pics

    Here is the hole in the toilet drainpipe:

    [​IMG]




    Here is what we assume to be the affected hot water pipe. It's the one on the left. Similar to what has been posted in other slab leak threads, the sound appears to come from the area where the hot water pipe turns upward to supply the vanity.

    [​IMG]
  3. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,815
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    pipe

    That toilet pipe looks like a lead bend, and if so, there are many things that could have damaged it because it is both soft and thin. As for the other issues they are hard to diagnose based on second hand information. If we were there and made our own evaluation we would feel better about whether you have received the proper diagnosis. The problem with the water pipe appears to be that it was encased in concrete without a protective "sleeve" around it.
  4. carrotguy

    carrotguy New Member

    Messages:
    18
    Location:
    Texas
    thanks for the response

    I'm certain it's a slab leak. We've had a plumber out who offered to route the hot water through the attic, but unfortunately that doesn't fix the problem with the cleanout going into soil.

    The hot water leak is somewhat notable by the fact that when we first turn the hot water valve on, there is no sound of running water. Only after running the hot water for a minute will the sound start up. We've listened to the pipe with a stethoscope and we can definitely hear something on.

    My biggest questions are about how the repaired foundation would be affected by cutting out sections of the slab big enough to repipe both hot water and drainage. What would need to be considered before safely cutting out the floor once the leaks are detected?
  5. Terry

    Terry Administrator Staff Member

    Messages:
    15,119
    Location:
    Bothell, Washington
    Without seeing the foundation and slab, it would only be a guess.

    Most of the time, a foundation is not dependant on the interior slab.

    If you have a water meter, you can check to see if the meter moves or not.
    If you have one leak in the slab, then I'm guessing that more are to come. Pipes should not come in contact with concrete.
  6. carrotguy

    carrotguy New Member

    Messages:
    18
    Location:
    Texas
    Yes, the water meter moves even when everything is turned off.
  7. carrotguy

    carrotguy New Member

    Messages:
    18
    Location:
    Texas
    I'm trying to get a copy of the foundation repair engineer report. Are there any other pics of the foundation that you think may help? We'll need to start cutting shortly after having the leaks detected; that should be within the next 2 weeks.

    My father and I are in this together. His dad was a plastering contractor who build the house I grew up in. My dad had to dig the sewer line to connect to the city drain when it finally got installed near my house. He may be able to answer questions about the foundation but I cannot be certain.

    I've heard that the title company may have contractor information about who built this house. Are there any tips on getting that kind of information?

    I'm comfortable with advice in the form of keywords to search for on google.

    Thanks again for the information so far.
  8. Randyj

    Randyj Master Plumber

    Messages:
    1,047
    Location:
    Alabama
    hj and Terry are very correct about the concrete around the pipe. If it were me ... and I've done this before.. I wouldn't even consider "fixing" the existing pipes... they're probably trashed and you've only got a sample of what is to come. I'd just bite the bullet, save all the diagnosis, and re-pipe the whole thing for water. As for the drains... if plastic, fix it. If it's cast iron...replace with plastic. Concrete eats metal.
  9. carrotguy

    carrotguy New Member

    Messages:
    18
    Location:
    Texas
    My dad is focused on running the hot + cold water through the attic. When I mention that the drains will still need to be fixed, he mentions digging a hole from the side of the house to go under the pipe. I don't like this solution - I think that the distance between the cleanout leak and the toilet drain hole (~20') would result in a wide hole that won't reach very far under the house.

    We're certain of the leaks, it's just a question of how to repair them. I'll post more information when I have it. By the looks of things, that won't be until we have the leaks detected.

    What has been the most extensive residential single-floor repiping you guys have seen? If you need to cut out long sections of the slab, how much focus is given to affecting the foundation? I do not believe the slab is reinforced with steel... My dad is under the impression that the slab is 4"-6" deep.

    I asked for advice on another forum and someone mentioned sleeving the pipe. That is a method of removal, correct?
  10. hj

    hj Moderator & Master Plumber Staff Member

    Messages:
    26,815
    Location:
    Cave Creek, Arizona
    leaks

    1. Even if the title company, or building department had information about who did the piping, how would that help you? The contractor would probably not remember anything about it, and he does not have any liability either. I asked a plumber friend how he put the plumbing in my neighbor's house and he did not even remember that it was the only one he did that had the sewer coming out the back of the house.
  11. carrotguy

    carrotguy New Member

    Messages:
    18
    Location:
    Texas
    Hehe, I was under the impression that the city might have records about where the gas and water lines would run. My dad laughed at the idea but man that would be nice.
  12. carrotguy

    carrotguy New Member

    Messages:
    18
    Location:
    Texas
    This isn't to scale but perhaps it warrants comment. We've been on the roof and each drain has it's own vent. My dad states the main drain exits the living room area at the front of the house. I'm not certain where that is...

    I posted a pic earlier of a hole in a toilet drain - you can see a bit of standing water and that's from heavy use of the front bathroom sink. If enough water goes through, it will back up into the back bathroom toilet drain. I think there's a bad segment of drains in the master bedroom corner of the house... It's awfully close to the previous foundation repair.

    The main vent is adjacent to the back bathroom toilet drain. There is also an A/C condenser drain near the furnace above the garage.

    [​IMG]
  13. carrotguy

    carrotguy New Member

    Messages:
    18
    Location:
    Texas
    now we are ready

    we just refinanced a property and we have a bit of cash to get the plumbing problems fixed. we do not have enough cash to have a plumbing company do all of the work since part of the refinance needs to go to renovating the property that got us the cash.

    i am about to have the hot water leak and sewage leak detected. i called for leak detection estimates in the past and if i recall correctly, the sewer cam used is inserted into the cleanout only. since we have a toilet off as shown in the pics above, is it possible that a leak detection company would insert the camera into a toilet drain?

    also, the house had extensive slab foundation repair in 2000. i read another post on this forum stating that depending on the type of slab, the foundation could be affected by significant changes to the slab.

    i intend to have a structural engineer look at the house to determine if more foundation work is needed, and if so, would it be best done before or after cutting out parts of the slab. is that something you guys might recommend based on any experience with extensive slab repiping? i'll post pictures of the work along the way.

    thanks for any advice.
  14. carrotguy

    carrotguy New Member

    Messages:
    18
    Location:
    Texas
    also, based on the type of work being done, i suppose inspectors would need to review the work. does anyone have basic information on what to expect or what to read in preparation for this?
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