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Question DetailsAsked on 6/21/2017

I have a slab leak from copper pipes. Is the whole slab compromised?

We found a leak in our home. The home was built late 80s. We were told the house needs to be reit with PVC. But what about the remainder of the copper pipes. Will they corrode and cause a foundation collapse.?

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Presuming this is fresh water, not groundwater coming in - then you have a pipe leak, not a slab leak, and no the slab itself is not damaged - neither copper pipes or a leak will significantly affect a foundation (unless one of those abomination all-wood foundations), though a continuing leak can sometimes erode enough fines out of the soil to cause foundation issues so you definitely need to fix it.

Might be a spot failure in a pipe which ballpark $500 commonly (for underslab pipes) will take care of if in an accessible area, or could be an indication of significant general corrosion indicating time to change out pipes - though corroded below-grade pipes would not necessarily mean the rest of the household piping needs replacement.

If you have had a lot of leaks, then maybe you do need repiping (fair number of previous questions about that with answers can be found in the Home > Plumbing link under Browse Projects, at lower left) - but just one leak does not mean your whole house needs replumbing in a home of that age - copper pipes commonly last around 40-100 years (depending mostly on water corrosivity) before the number of leaks gets excessive (say one every year or two or so).

If the pipe leaked at a point in contact with concrete that is likely the cause - not only does direct concrete contact cause almost constant moisture due to condensation on the cold pipe, but concrete is corrosive to copper pipe - it should have been encapsulated in anti-corrosion pipe wrap. Also, an unwrapped concrete penetration can wear through in a decade or two due to thermal movement of the pipe as it changes temperature with the water flowing through it, then returning to ambient temperature.

Assuming a plumber told you that your house needs replumbing, ask him WHY - unless he can show you heavy corrosion (and not just a few greenish spots on the pipe unless you are also getting either HEAVY green corrosion product or white lime buildup on the pipes a number of places) or showed you a piece or two of pipe where it is heavily eroded or scaling with corrosion inside (or largely blocked with mineral or algae buildup), then replacement might not be needed - you might want to get another plumber's opinion before sinking several thousand (for a typical house) into replacing your water pipes. [Light green corrosion on the pipes, especially in dampish areas like crawlspace or basement, is not by itself an indication of failure - I have seen lots of homes with pipes pretty much all green or green spotted which had been like that and still were totally or almost totally leak free for decades.

Of course, if you are getting frequent or periodic leaks in the pipe itself (as opposed to at faucets or hose connections or such), then your tolerance for periodic leaks, whether you are enough of a DIY'er to repair them yourself or at least put on temporary repair clamps to stop the leaks till they can be fixed, how much fancy or collectible or such stuff you have which makes leaks more than normally objectionable, etc will commonly factor into a decision whether to replace or just do repairs on older pipes - but unless you are having leaks due to corrosion from inside-out and have generally signfiicantly degraded pipes with a lot of thinning, your age pipes would not normally need general replacement.

[A caveat on that - you can google for defective copper pipe - there was a decade or so there in the late 780's into the 80's where a lot of defective pipe was installed, so if you have been having leaks you might google for the brands and check against the labelling on your pipes.]

A few related questions with answers on the replacement cost issue:

Answered 3 years ago by LCD

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