A burst pipe is one of the most disruptive and potentially destructive issues a homeowner can face. The rush of water can cause significant damage, and the subsequent repair costs can be steep.
Exposed pipes and frozen pipes are prone to bursting. If you have a burst pipe at home, you need to turn off the water supply, move to a safe location, and contact professionals as soon as possible. Learn more about how a frozen pipe can lead to a pipe burst below, and make sure you take steps to prevent a pipe from bursting in your home.
Burst Pipes: Why Do They Happen?
Understanding the reasons why pipes burst at home can give homeowners invaluable insights to mitigate these emergencies. What are a few of the reasons why pipes might burst or rupture?
The phenomenon of pipes bursting due to freezing temperatures is a common yet complex issue faced particularly in colder climates. As the temperature drops, the water inside the pipes can freeze. When water turns into ice, it expands by approximately 9%. This expansion causes an increase in water pressure between the ice blockage and the closed faucet. It’s this increase in pressure, rather than the ice expansion itself, that ultimately causes the pipe to burst.
Interestingly, the area of the pipe that freezes first doesn’t typically burst. Instead, the pipe usually ruptures somewhere between the blockage and the faucet due to the immense pressure build-up.
Aging and Wear
Like every other component in your home, your pipes have a lifespan. The longevity of pipes depends on the material they are made from. Brass, copper, and galvanized steel pipes can last between 70-100 years, while PVC pipes usually last about 25-40 years. Over time, however, pipes may weaken due to several factors.
Pipe corrosion, which is the gradual destruction of materials by chemical reactions with their environment, is one such factor. As pipes corrode, they thin out, reducing their ability to withstand the pressure of the water they carry. This thinning can lead to leaks or, in severe cases, a complete pipe rupture.
High Water Pressure
It may come as a surprise that high water pressure, which can feel great in a shower, can actually be damaging to your pipes and appliances. Your water pressure should be between 40 to 60 pounds per square inch (psi). If the pressure exceeds this range, it can put a lot of stress on your home’s plumbing system, leading to potential damage.
Consistently high water pressure forces the water to move more forcefully through your pipes, which accelerates the wear and tear on the pipe walls and joints. Over time, this can weaken the plumbing system, leading to small leaks that can eventually escalate into a burst pipe if left unattended.
A Burst Pipe at Home: What To Do
The scenario of a pipe bursting at home can be quite stressful. The sudden outpour of water can not only cause immediate panic but also lead to substantial damage. What should you do if there is a pipe that bursts in your home?
- Turn Off the Water Supply
Your immediate priority when dealing with a burst pipe should be to stop the flow of water. Locate your home’s main water shut-off valve, which might be in the basement, crawl space, or near the water heater, and turn it off. If you’re unsure where your water main is located, now is the time to find it – not when a crisis is unfolding. Knowledge of this location is vital for every homeowner. Remember, the sooner you shut off the water, the less severe the damage will be.
- Drain the System
After you’ve turned off the main water supply, it’s important to drain the remaining water from the system to prevent further leakage. This is done by opening all cold water taps and flushing every toilet in the house multiple times. Draining the system can reduce the chance of any additional water escaping from the burst pipe, which could otherwise continue to cause damage.
- Turn Off Electrical Power
Water and electricity are a dangerous combination. If the water leak from the burst pipe is near any electrical appliances, outlets, or fuse box, it’s critical to cut the electricity supply at the main breaker box to prevent electrocution or electrical fires. If this happens, avoid touching any electrical appliances or switches until you’re sure they’re not in contact with the water.
- Document the Damage
Before you start cleaning up, document the extent of the water damage for insurance purposes. Take pictures or videos of the affected area, making sure to capture any damaged belongings clearly. This documentation can serve as crucial evidence when filing an insurance claim for water damage, helping ensure that you’re adequately compensated.
- Contact Professionals
Dealing with a burst pipe might not be a DIY job. Once you’ve controlled the immediate situation, call a professional plumber to assess the damage and repair or replace the burst pipe. It’s important not to delay this step as a temporary fix may not hold for long, and you might risk a recurrence.
How To Prevent Pipes From Bursting at Home
Burst pipes can be a homeowner’s nightmare, but there are several proactive measures you can take to prevent this from happening. A few ways you can prevent a pipe from bursting in your home include:
A fundamental step to prevent pipes from freezing and eventually bursting is to insulate them. This step is particularly crucial for pipes located in unheated or vulnerable areas such as attics, garages, and basements. Pipe insulation, available at most hardware stores, is a cost-effective way to keep your pipes warm and reduce the risk of freezing. It’s important to cover all accessible pipes, including bends and joints, to ensure thorough protection.
Maintain a Consistent Thermostat Setting
It makes sense to lower your thermostat at night or when you’re away from home to save on heating costs, but sudden drops in temperature can increase the risk of pipes freezing. Try to maintain a consistent temperature both during the day and night. If you’re away for an extended period during the winter, set your thermostat to no lower than 55°F (12°C) to ensure your home stays warm enough to prevent pipes from freezing.
Regular Plumbing Checkups
Scheduling regular plumbing inspections is another essential measure to prevent pipe bursts. A professional plumber can detect potential problems that may not be visible or evident to the untrained eye. For instance, they can identify if the water pressure is too high, which can stress the pipes over time and cause them to rupture. A plumber can also spot signs of corrosion or wear and tear that could weaken the pipes and make them more susceptible to bursting.
Rely on DROP’s Leak Detection System To Help You Protect Your Home From Bursting Pipes and Leaks
Proactively managing and monitoring your home’s plumbing system is vital in preventing serious issues like burst pipes. This is where DROP’s leak detection system can become an invaluable tool. Many of our products have build in leak detection which can alert you to water leaks early, and even shut off your water automatically.
Our innovative leak detection system can go a long way toward protecting your home against potential harm or damage. You cannot keep an eye on your plumbing system all the time, and you don’t want a pipe to burst while you are away or otherwise occupied.
Our experts are here to help you find the right product for your home. Take a closer look at our selection today, and make sure you protect your home against serious water damage with the right tools and products. We would be happy to help you.