What to Do When a Pipe Bursts in Your Home

Tom Hartelby Tom Hartel
Plumber repairing burst water pipe in home

Careful planning comes in handy, particularly in a situation where a home emergency occurs. For example, a water pipe bursts – what are your first, second, third and fourth steps to remediate the problem? A little planning ahead of time can mean all the difference in the world.

First off, let’s look at what causes pipes to burst. It basically comes down to a few simple things, and they include water pressure problems, corrosion, frozen pipes and pipes that move or have been involved in a collision.

Freezing weather

Extremely cold temperatures, which people in Northern Illinois and Indiana can attest to, can be the most common source of a burst pipe, because when water freezes it expands. Expansion is not something most pipes can handle, so they will split and burst.

To prevent your pipes from freezing this winter, make sure that your home’s heating system is up to the task and is getting hot air to areas that are usually drafty. If you haven’t insulated pipes in these drafty areas, that’s a highly recommended precaution to take. Furthermore, professional plumbers can install special equipment to keep your pipes in drafty areas from freezing.

Corroded pipes

If you live in an older home, you’ve probably got some pipes that are corroding on the inside. If you live in an area where the pH is out of balance, you’re pipes will corrode at a faster rate.

Galvanized pipes are prone to corrosion, which happens after the galvanized coating is eroded away and the iron in the pipe is exposed to water, and the pipe begins to rust. The diameter of the pipe will eventually thin out and you’ll be at risk of a major leak.

Moving pipes

Have you ever turned off the water in your home and heard/felt a bang? That’s called water hammer, and it occurs when pipes aren’t secured. Movement is not good on your pipes, particularly in the joints connecting one pipe to the next.

In some cases, it’s a home improvement project gone wrong that will lead to a burst pipe. For example, you’re putting in new drywall in the bathroom and when you hammer in a nail or use your drill to put in a drywall screw, it hits a hidden pipe.

Those are some of the most common ways in which pipes burst, but regardless of how it happens, you need to act fast. It’s recommended to take the following steps:

1) Stop the flow

The only way a burst pipe is going to stop leaking is for the water main supply valve to be turned to the off position. Find out exactly where your water main is and rehearse the steps you need to take to get there and whether you’ll need a tool to turn off the water.

One caveat to this is that you want to make sure you’re not risking electrocution on the way to turn off the valve. For example, if your basement has flooded as a result of the broken pipe, standing water can represent a shock risk, so avoid a situation like that and simply call your plumber to handle the situation.

2) Stay clear of appliances

Again, floods are an electrical hazard, which means you don’t want your feet in water and then touch something with amperage going to it.

For example, don’t touch any appliances and avoid flipping light switches or plugging/unplugging appliances in to the outlet when you’re in contact with water. Also, if your basement if flooded and your breaker box is located there, don’t stand in water and try to turn off the power to your home – that’s a huge risk.

3) Mop up the mess

Water can cause considerable damage to a home, which is why as soon as you’re able to cease the flow, you need to start cleaning up.

Water can cause warping in your subfloor, which might take a while to present itself, but it will eventually be an issue, which is why the sooner you can get your interiors dry, the better off you’ll be.

If the flood is substantial, it’s worth your money to hire a professional crew to dry out your interiors.

4) Locate the leak

You probably already have a fairly decent idea about where the leak originates by tracing the water back to the source. However, broken pipes located behind walls or in the ceiling can be tougher to trace back.

In most cases, a burst pipe will require the services of a plumber, so once you’ve got the water contained, call the emergency number and they’ll help you locate the leak and make the appropriate repairs.

5) Make repairs

With water supply shut down, you can now access the affected area, remove the broke pipe and replace it. Not all homeowners are comfortable doing this, especially if it’s copper, because copper requires a torch to melt solder and form a solid joint, which can be a fire hazard and takes skill to use. Furthermore, if you’re repairing a section of galvanized pipe, you will need special tools that are generally only in the possession of professional plumbers.

6) Call a professional

Don’t take the risk of getting it wrong and reliving another flood related to a burst pipe – call in a professional to get you back on track.

At Old World Plumbing, we specialize in assisting homeowners with their burst pipes. Not only do we have preventative tips for you to follow to keep your pipes from freezing, we’re available for emergency situations. When the worst happens and you’ve got a pipe that has sprung a leak, call us and we’ll be there to make sure your home doesn’t suffer any more damage than it already has. Keep our number handy.

Tom Hartel
President/Author
Tom Hartel

I acquired my expertise by directing day-to-day operations of the business for over 20 years. Continuous hard work helped me become a nationally recognized speaker and expert on plumbing and fire protection systems. In this blog, I share my knowledge that will hopefully help you make better decisions for your homes.

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