tunneling for under-slab leaks

What Is & Why Use Under-Slab Tunneling for Leaks Under a Foundation?

You have just been informed that there is a leak in or under your slab foundation that requires plumbing repair. *Super* . . .  *Now what?*

Before you let your plumber start busting up your slab, you’re wondering if there’s a better way . . . there is, and it’s called under-slab tunneling.

Anchor Foundation Repair

At Anchor Foundation Repair, under-slab tunneling is one of our primary services and we regularly tunnel under homes both during foundation repair projects and independently from them. Because we do this quite a bit, we can tell you about it. 

We admit it, we are fans of under-slab tunneling, not just because it’s one of our services, but because we see how much nicer and less intrusive it is for homeowners faced with under-slab leaks. We will contain our pride in this service and give you just the facts so that you can decide if under-slab tunneling is a workable option to handle your needed plumbing repair.

In this article, we will define under-slab tunneling, discuss a bit about how long it takes and how a path is chosen, and outline its benefits to homeowners.

What Is Under-Slab Tunneling?

It sounds complicated or like there’s a bunch of heavy machinery involved. But it’s pretty straightforward and only simple tools are used. A crew would dig with shovels underneath the concrete slab foundation of your home to reach the point where plumbing repairs need to be made. 

Now you might be thinking that any ol’ dude can dig in the dirt with a shovel. But I assure you that this is *not the funnest* work imaginable. Anyone that tries to DIY this sort of thing or has no experience will quickly give up. Digging in the expansive clay soils in our Central Texas area is no cakewalk.

shovels for under-slab tunneling

The crew uses long-handled shovels first, then “electric shovels” plus tons of hard dirty work to dig a 3-foot by 3-foot square tunnel under your home. A team that does this kind of work all the time, has developed the skill to do it quickly and efficiently. 

You will also be amazed by the neatness and precision of these tunnels done by an experienced team.

How Long Does It Take to Dig an Under-Slab Tunnel?

under-slab tunneling to repair under-slab leaks
See that dude back there? He’s in an under-slab tunnel.

Speaking of quickness and efficiency, you might wonder what kind of timeframe we are talking about to dig your typical tunnel for a home plumbing repair. 

A  tunneling crew can dig about 5 to 8 feet per day. An average under-slab tunneling job could be around 10 to 15 feet long, taking two to three days to complete. 

The excavated tunnel allows a plumber to crawl in to access and repair the plumbing lines underneath the home from the outside rather than inside. The most common issue needing repair is drain lines leaking underneath the slab foundation.

The amount of time a tunnel takes depends on where the under-slab plumbing leak is located, how large the home is in the first place, how many leaks there are if more than one, and ultimately the total distance needing to be covered. 

How Do You Decide Where to Dig the Under-Slab Tunnel?

A plumber experienced with repairing under-slab problems and a tunneling team will develop a plan together that reaches the needed location(s) using the shortest length of tunnel possible. Keeping the tunnel as short as possible ensures the lowest cost as well as the fastest, most efficient route. 

The quickest way from one place to another is the shortest, straightest line without obstructions. Things like patios, sidewalks, decks, or other hardscaping are examples of obstructions that can cause a different starting point in some cases. 

planning the tunnel location

Or maybe if there is a tree or air conditioning unit that would be in the way or somehow be compromised by the digging, the starting location might be moved farther out. But the goal is always the shortest and fastest tunnel length. 

Since tunneling costs are determined by the number of feet to dig, you would definitely appreciate the shortest distance.

Why Use Under-Slab Tunneling?

The #1 massive benefit of using under-slab tunneling is that there is no mess inside the home when repairing a plumbing issue. Having under-slab plumbing fixed without tunneling can be intrusive to your daily life in many ways.

What The Alternative is Like: Breaking Up Your Slab

If you don’t use under-slab tunneling, a disaster zone best describes what a home looks like while having portions of the foundation torn up for under-slab plumbing repair. A crew would jackhammer through the concrete inside your home, producing excessive noise, dust, and debris.

breaking through the slab
Pile of dirt in bathroom, #nope

Dirt will be piled somewhere inside your home near the access point and you would likely need to avoid the area during the process . . . you know, since there will be a hole in your floor and random dirt piles. It could be smelly. There could be bugs. It’s the underside of your house being opened up, so you don’t know what’s under there.

Since we know that this repair is to address plumbing issues, the area you have to avoid in your home is probably a kitchen, bathroom, or laundry room. Having holes in your floor and dirt piled up in your kitchen or one of your bathrooms is a big obstacle to work around for most people and especially for families with children.

Not to mention all the people that will be coming in and out of your home to do all this work. Sounds fun, right?

On top of having the mess in your home, how long the repair takes will be how long you have to live with that hole or holes in your floor. You might even consider moving out temporarily to avoid living in the situation. That is an added cost or inconvenience as well.

What Under-Slab Tunneling is Like

Using under-slab tunneling prevents all the “breaking up your slab from above” problems and keeps all the mess outside and away from your living spaces. Under-slab tunneling avoids compromising your floor and slab by making a hole or holes in them.

dirt pile from under-slab tunneling
Keep the dirt outside your house with tunneling

Under-slab tunneling moves the mess and disaster zone outside. Under-slab tunneling allows the plumber to move freely underneath the foundation of a home to make the needed repairs. 

Meanwhile, you can be inside the house living normally: cooking, bathing, and experiencing little disruption to the inside of your home. Free from both excess debris and workers making repairs. Sounds pretty good, huh?

Anchor Does Under-Slab Tunneling All the Time

Anchor Foundation Repair does under-slab tunneling

Does tunneling sound like the way you want to handle your under-slab leaks? Our team of professional under-slab tunneling experts knows the proper techniques to remove and then replace the dirt under your home with future stability in mind at all times.

About 35 to 40% of our home foundation repairs include the need for tunneling. Other times, homes just need tunneling only, to help a plumber gain access to the repair point. Either way, we have a great deal of experience creating and filling proper tunnels—making under-slab tunneling one of our specialties.

Although Anchor Foundation Repair does not fix the plumbing problem under your slab, we clear the way to make it easy for your plumber to reach. We also keep the proper care of your home as our highest priority.