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Top 5 Signs Your Plumbing Problem is Foundation Related

You are wondering how your plumbing problem started and how this could be happening to you right now. Of course, you are about to have friends over and the toilet isn’t flushing right AGAIN! The plumber has come out a few times and fixed things but the problem always seems to come back. What is going on?

Recurring drain line problems can be an indicator of a foundation related plumbing issue. Several typical plumbing problems are possible signs that you might also have a foundation issue. These plumbing problems might also worry you and make you *think* you have a foundation issue too, but it’s really just an isolated plumbing problem.

We will list the top plumbing problems that could relate to a foundation issue and help you figure out what might be done to fix them – no matter who you ultimately choose to do the repairs.

Anchor Foundation Repair Logo

Top plumbing problems that might also lead to a foundation problem include:

  1. Recurring toilet flush strength issues and other slow draining problems
  2. Continual toilet flush strength issues and slow draining problems that are worse when it rains
  3. Draining fixtures that may also gurgle
  4. Wet floors where water is coming through the slab
  5. Higher water bill with no visible signs of dripping faucets or fixtures

Having inspected tens of thousands of homes and completed repairs on many of those, we know that your slab and the plumbing underneath are closely related because the systems are intertwined. When one system is failing, it can cause the other system to fail as well. 

More often than not, both problems need to be addressed for the long-term strength, stability, and functionality of your home. 

Knowing what is causing your home problems can put you in the driver’s seat. You won’t feel at the mercy of a contractor telling you the problem and completely relying on them for all assessments and solutions. 

We want you to feel a sense of trust that you are getting good advice. That means giving you honest 100% transparent information when you need it, not keeping it a contractor’s secret. Let’s take a closer look at these common signs that your plumbing problem could be related to a need for foundation repair.

Drain Line Symptoms that Could Indicate a Foundation Problem

There are two different types of plumbing lines: lines or pipes that bring clean water into your home and lines or pipes that take used water away from your home. Drain lines take used water from your sinks, tubs and showers, toilets, and washing machines and carry it away. Thank you very much, drain lines! Naturally, it’s very important to want your drain lines working properly, right?

We will talk about drain line indicators first because these problems are more commonly related to possible foundation problems.

Sewer lines needing repair

1. Recurring toilet flush strength issues and other slow draining problems

The symptoms you might see in your home include a toilet that doesn’t flush strongly, your shower fills up and drains slowly, your dishwasher tries to drain and fills up your sink for a while instead. 

The plumber comes out and uses a “roto-rooter” or some other type of drain line cleaning system to clear out the drain lines and make them flow properly and all is well for a while.

Then it happens again, and the plumber comes out again and uses the “roto-rooter”. Did the problem get solved this time? Not really, because then it happens again.

Sometimes drain lines are compromised, broken, or disintegrating underneath your foundation. When the line has a break in it that is letting some water out into the soil beneath your home, trees get really happy when they find that delicious water complete with fertilizer. Yummy!

Trees can continually intrude upon your drain lines clogging the flow, then get “roto-rooted” away, all is well for a while, but guess what? They grow back and do it again. 

Broken cast iron drain line
A degraded cast iron drain line

So the trees are a problem, but the real problem is that the drain lines are leaking and creating a nice water source for them. Well, how did that happen? 

When a foundation shifts, breaks, or sags, it can pull the drain lines with it creating a break in the line. The break causes a leak, the leak causes a tree to intrude over and over again and sometimes very quickly into the drain line.

Now, sometimes drain lines are just old and begin to deteriorate all by themselves without the help of a foundation shift because they are made out of cast iron. Cast-iron drain lines were commonly used in homes built in the early 1970s and before and are now beginning to fail due to rust and degradation.

So what we are really trying to say here is that this type of plumbing symptom could be a result of a foundation problem, but it could also just be an independent drain line failure possibly due to cast iron degradation.

2. Continual toilet flush strength issues and slow draining problems that are worse when it rains

The symptoms you might see in your home are the same as above and include a toilet that doesn’t flush strongly, your shower fills up and drains slowly, your dishwasher tries to drain and fills up your sink for a while instead. 

Another unique symptom you might see is only having a backup problem when it rains. Or even worse, your toilet doesn’t drain and backs up pushing water onto the floor between your toilet and floor or even into the tub. Ack!

The plumber comes out and tries to use a “roto-rooter” to clear out the drain lines and make them flow properly but it doesn’t work. The “roto-rooter” will only go so far and then it gets stuck or pulls out mud. The presence of mud in the drain lines indicates that the lines are trashed and have been leaking for a while.

Sometimes drain lines are misaligned or have become separated underneath your foundation. In the case of the problem only happening when it rains, rainwater saturates the ground where the separation is and more water cannot drain out of your home because the area is already full of water. 

Mud in a drain line
Mud in a broken drain line

So the drain lines are a problem and need to be put back together. Well, how did that happen? 

A shifted or broken foundation can pull the drain lines with it creating a misalignment or complete separation of the line. The misalignment or separation causes your drain lines to drain slowly or back up into the home. 

In professional terms, this is “not good”. You would definitely want your drain lines put back together and sealed so that used water can flow freely away from your home and all stay inside the pipes. The “staying inside the pipes” part is nice.

If a problem like this goes on for a long time, you can find yourself with not only a plumbing problem but also a developing foundation problem. Also, the trees will start coming as well to drink that yummy water and causing more problems.

3. Draining fixtures that may also gurgle

The symptoms you might see in your home are the same as above and include a toilet that doesn’t flush strongly, your shower fills up and drains slowly, your dishwasher tries to drain and fills up your sink for a while instead. Only this time, there is also a gurgling noise when things finally drain away.

Cooler showing air venting concept
Air vent on beverage dispenser

Slow, gurgling drains mean that there is a water flow problem but also an airflow or venting problem.

Normally, plumbing drains are vented up through the ceiling of a home with vent pipes that come out through the roof. The air helps the liquid in the drain to flow, it’s a physics thing. 

Think of a beverage dispenser with a push button at the bottom to fill your glass, either at a party or on the sidelines of an athletic event. Those dispensers have to have an air outlet at the top to help the liquid flow and the liquid doesn’t flow well when there is no air helping the situation.

When air from somewhere else besides the vent pipe gets into the drain line, like from a break in the line, the drain might gurgle due to the air coming up from below rather than coming down from above. Well, how did that happen?

Drain lines get pulled when foundations shift and can create a misalignment, separation, or break in the line allowing air into the pipes. The misalignment, separation, or break in the line causes your drain lines to flow away slowly and also make a gurgling noise when draining because the air is now coming from the wrong place. 

Supply Line Symptoms that Could Indicate a Foundation Problem

There are two different types of plumbing lines: lines or pipes that bring clean water into your home and lines or pipes that take used water away from your home. Supply lines bring nice pretty water for your sinks, showers, dishwashers, and washing machines to use and for you to drink. Here’s looking at you, supply lines! Naturally, it’s very important to want your supply lines to bring water to the right places, rather than the wrong places.

Supply line problems are also issues that may lead to foundation movement and foundation problems. These supply line indicators for foundation repair are much less common, but can certainly still happen.

4. Wet floors where water is coming through the slab

The symptoms you might see in your home are dampness or water saturating an area of the floor. This could be near where supply lines come up through the foundation heading to a fixture or in a very random place nowhere near a plumbing fixture. 

Water on Floor - possible supply line problem
Water on the floor – Ack!

You might pull back the carpet and see a crack in your slab foundation and water coming through. What in the world is going on here?

Water supply lines made of copper in older homes run all around underneath your foundation bringing water to different plumbing fixture points. If there is a broken supply line or leak in the supply line in the vicinity of an opening in the foundation due to a crack, water could come up into the home from below. 

Settling foundations can slowly compromise supply lines along with it creating a leak or water saturation in a strange location.

5. Higher water bill with no visible signs of dripping faucets or fixtures

Sometimes, you might not see a symptom inside your home at all, it comes in your mailbox instead, in the form of a high water bill. You don’t have any dripping faucets or toilets, you don’t even see any outside faucets or your irrigation system leaking with a soggy lawn as evidence. What is going on here?

Unexplained water bill increases can point to a supply line leak or break that may lead to foundation issues. Especially if you can’t see any evidence of it around your plumbing fixtures inside your home or even around the outside of your home. Unfortunately, then it might be under your home. Well, dang it how did that happen?

Foundation problems can compromise or bend supply lines with it creating a small or not so small leak under your home where you can’t even see it.

Ways to Reach your Plumbing Issues for Repair

Sudden or extremely inconvenient plumbing problems are probably the #1 reason a foundation repair job moves quickly from a “might do sometime” to a “need to do right away” kind of thing. Whether the water is clean and coming in or dirty and going out, you still want it to go where it’s supposed to go and not go where it’s not supposed to go.

Whether the problem has been identified as a drain line or a supply line issue, plumbers need to be able to reach the break, misalignment, or separation point in the line to put it back together and repair it right. This can be done in a couple of ways.

Breaking through the foundation from above

This might be a biased opinion, okay . . . it’s definitely biased. Breaking through the foundation from above is messy and intrusive to your home. Jackhammers, dirt, concrete debris and dust, and workers, all inside your home making a pretty big mess frankly. Not that it can’t be done this way, but just know that it might result in some major disruption inside your home, unfortunately.

Tunneling under the foundation to access from below

Repaired PVC drain lines

The major advantage to tunneling under the home to access plumbing repair locations is that disruption to your home is minimal and repairs are all done underneath and outside. The cost of tunneling can be significant, and the longer the tunnel needs to be, the more it can cost.

Get More Information to Figure Out the Root Causes of Your Plumbing Issue

Plumbers are the first call when you see or even think you have a plumbing issue. This article is by no means a reason to replace your favorite plumber and their expertise. You will want the plumber to fix your immediate repair needs, but then ask some questions to see if you can get more information about the root cause of your problem.

It might not be immediately apparent that your plumbing issue is being caused by an underlying (pun intended) foundation problem, especially if it’s their first time out for repairs. A plumber is trying to focus on the particular immediate repair, but asking them for more information about what they did and what they found could help you get to the bigger picture of understanding and ultimately fixing the whole problem.

Drain working well
Keep your drains flowing free!

It may be a good idea to also have someone look at your foundation at this point to see if something else is going on that is contributing to your plumbing problems.

At Anchor Foundation Repair, we have assessed thousands of home problems in our 35+ year history. We have fixed many of those homes with foundation repair needs as well as helped to facilitate needed plumbing repairs. 

About 35 to 40% of the homes we work on for foundation repair also have plumbing issues that we gain access to for your plumber through our tunneling services. We have plumbers that we would certainly recommend as highly experienced in working under foundations through a tunnel.

If your plumbing problem is looking like it is tied to a foundation issue, we would be happy to take a look and help you navigate this stressful situation. With our years of experience and a strong desire to help clear your confusion, we want to make sure you feel great about your home repair choices. 

We promise transparency and open discussion of the pros and cons in the timing of foundation versus plumbing repairs. If you feel like you want a foundation repair specialist to give their opinion on the matter, fill out our Contact Form to get the ball rolling.

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