How to Handle a Burst Pipe

Homeowner attempting to fix a burst water pipe - Mr. Plumber by Metzler & Hallam

Homeowners never want a burst pipe, but it happens from time to time. The repercussions of burst pipes impact the entire home. Often, homeowners deal with the consequences for weeks or months after the pipe bursts. In these situations, homeowners pay more than necessary and dedicate much of their free time to the problem. Are there ways to minimize the problem before the plumber arrives?

Mr. Plumber in Indianapolis, Indiana helps homeowners deal with their burst pipes. The causes of this issue are often preventable, so it’s important to keep a close eye on plumbing systems throughout the year. We cover some of the most common causes and how to deal with problem before the plumber comes to your home.

Causes of a Burst Pipe

Burst pipes don’t happen overnight. The causes take time to come to a head, which means homeowners are often able to prevent the problem. However, if you don’t know where to look, then a burst pipe is almost inevitable. These are the most common causes for burst pipes. 

  • Freezing. In the winter, pipes freeze. Places with harsher winters experience this more than locations with mild temperatures. Because water flows through the pipes—and condensation occurs—the water freezes when temperatures fall below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. The pipes become more fragile as a result because the ice expands and weakens the metal. When pipes rapidly warm from hot water or jumps in temperature, the ice and the pipes shatter.
  • Clogs. Without treatment, clogs increase water pressure in the pipes. The increase in pressure endangers the pipes because they’re only made to withstand a certain amount of pressure. If the clog is big enough, the water has no way to flow around the blockage. When this happens, the water builds just behind the clog and causes leaks or bursts because it has nowhere else to go. 
  • Corrosion. Another common cause of a burst pipe comes from corrosion over time. Corrosion occurs because of a multitude of reasons, but rust and chemical imbalances in the water are two main concerns. Rusty pipes are more fragile than rust-free ones, so they break easier—especially when there is also a clog. Rust occurs when the water has a high concentration of iron. However, pH imbalances also contribute to pipe corrosion.
  • Movement. If pipes shift for any reason, they are more prone to bursts. Movement occurs during plumbing repairs, after winter, and when water pressure is too high. If the pipe knocks out of place, it’s easier for major leaks to happen. The slightest push after movement is able to shift the pipe enough to burst, so listen for loud clangs in the walls when you turn your water on and off.

Do I Have a Burst Pipe?

Certain indicators allow homeowners to diagnose a burst pipe on their own. Chances are, if you notice one or more of these signs, you likely have either a pipe burst or an extremely unfortunate leak.  Here are some of the most common signs of a burst pipe.

  • Wall stains. Water stains on walls and ceilings are good indicators of a burst. Small stains usually point to a leak rather than a burst. Large water stains on walls and ceilings point directly to the location of the leak, so be aware of where you spot the stains.
  • Discolored water. When pipes burst, the color of the water sometimes changes—especially if the cause is rust corrosion. Look for reddish, brown, or black water. These all indicate a problem with iron and rust. If you have copper pipes, water turns blue when the pH becomes too acidic or basic. When this problem goes without attention, the pipes burst. 
  • Water pressure problems. If you turn on your water, but hardly anything comes out of the faucet, you likely have a burst pipe. When a pipe bursts, it doesn’t allow the water to pass through it. Instead, it ends up on the floor. Because of this, the other pipes give you less water when you turn on a faucet. 
  • Water smells. Along with strange water colors, smells come along with burst pipes. Depending on the cause, water smells range from sulfuric to metallic. For example, if rust is the cause, the water likely smells and tastes metallic. 
  • Puddles. Puddles of water are an obvious indicator of a burst pipe. Look for large puddles with continuous water flow when the water turns on. It’s obvious where the burst pipe is when you turn on the water. Water falls directly from the pipe onto the ground. From there, the water leaks throughout the home. If a burst happens in a bathroom closet, for example, the water likely pools in the wall, but leaks into the closet and damages the floor.
  • Water sounds. Continuous drips or other water sounds from inside the walls point to burst pipes. Before you assume the worst, check all of your faucets—sinks, toilets, showers, everything. Then check the pipes directly below these fixtures for leaks. If these spots are not the cause of the water noises, the pipes in the walls are likely to blame.
  • Pipe noises. Similarly, pipe noises like clangs and rattles are indicative of burst pipes. When water flows through a burst pipe, the metal shakes because it isn’t attached to anything anymore. The pipe hits other pipes, or the newly loose or broken parts jangle. Older pipe systems also make noise, so look for other indicators alongside the clangs and rattles to confirm a burst. 
  • High water bill. Lastly, unexplainable high water bills coincide with burst pipes. Water flows through the unbroken pipes at a lower pressure when a pipe bursts, which means you need more water to compensate for the lack of pressure. Additionally, water constantly leaks from the pipe with the burst, which also adds to the bill. 

What to Do About a Burst Pipe

Luckily, homeowners are able to minimize the aftermath of a burst pipe with a few simple tricks. In almost every circumstance, a plumber needs to repair the pipe. However, before the plumber arrives, homeowners want to keep the damages as low as possible. Here’s how to minimize the threat of water damage.

  • Turn off main. First things first, turn off the main water supply. This ensures the water in your home stops completely, which means you only have to deal with the water already in the pipe system. Don’t turn on the water until a plumber says it’s okay.
  • Drain faucets. Water is still present in the pipes after you turn off the main. To remove this water, you must drain your faucets. Simply turn your faucets on and the water drains out to relieve pressure on the pipes. Also, flush toilets multiple times. Drain the cold water first, then the hot water. 
  • Let in warm air. If your pipes are frozen, turn up the thermostat in your home to thaw them. This prevents a secondary burst. If your heat is already as high as it goes, use a hair dryer on the pipes to gently warm them. Rapid changes in temperature shatter the pipes, so apply heat gradually to ease the transition from cold to hot.
  • Clean the water. Next, clean the water around the pipes and address any puddles. You don’t want anything in your home to waterlog, so work as fast as you can. Not only does fast cleanup prevent water damage, it also keeps mold and mildew at bay. The longer you leave the puddles, the more likely mold and mildew are to grow.
  • Call a plumber. Of course, call a plumber as soon as possible. The plumber diagnoses the exact cause of the problem, helps with repercussions, and fixes the burst pipe. The sooner you call a plumber, the sooner the issues resolves. In addition, call a plumber for preventative maintenance before bursts ever happen to ensure the problem stops before it starts. 
  • Keep doors open. Next, keep rooms with exposed pipes open. You want the area to dry out as quickly as possible, so airflow is important. Keep doors to closets and pantries open as well as cupboards, cabinets, and vanities. This ensures the warm air travels to all parts of the pipes.
  • Rubber, wood piece, and clamp. As a temporary fix, use a piece of rubber, a wood block, and a clamp. First, put the rubber piece over the burst area. Place the wood block on top. Clamp the whole thing together to hold it in place. This provides temporary relief from the water while you wait for a plumber to arrive. This is not a long-term solution.
  • Repair sleeve. Similar to the above, a repair sleeve temporarily fixes pipe bursts. Slide the repair sleeve over the pipe with damage. The sleeve prevents water drips and leaks. Again, this solution doesn’t work in the long-term. Call a plumber immediately to fix the burst pipe for good.

Mr. Plumber: Your Solution to Water Stains and Water Smells

The effects of a burst pipe last longer than the burst itself. Water damage ruins precious items, leaves walls and floors with stains, and causes stress for homeowners. To combat pipe problems, focus on preventative maintenance. Though some issues are out of your control, the majority of pipe bursts are preventable. 

The plumbers at Mr. Plumber are ready to help homeowners with burst pipes. We offer maintenance visits as well as emergency pipe repairs. Call today to learn more about our services and to schedule an appointment!

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