What Do You Do When Your Pipes Burst?

Water, where it doesn’t belong, can result in considerable damage to your home and possessions. In extreme cases, your family may even be displaced during recovery and restoration activities, disrupting lifestyles and causing serious financial impact.

Causes of Burst Pipes

Especially when cold weather approaches, the risk of frozen pipes that are subject to bursting increases significantly, although there are other causes of burst pipes, as well:

  • Tree roots: As trees grow and their root structure extends, the roots can exert pressure on pipes to the extent that the pipes are damaged and burst.
  • Corrosion: Over time, corrosion can form in pipes – particularly steel pipes – that builds up to the point where the pipes can no longer sustain the pressure, bursting the pipes.
  • Clogging: Extreme clogs can similarly result in excess pressure in your pipes, causing them to leak or burst.
  • Ground shifting: Buried pipes can be subjected to shift in-ground soil and generates separation or bursting of the pipes.
  • Excess pressure: When water pressure exceeds normal levels, there is potential for pipe failure. This could be caused by circumstances beyond your control such as from your water supplier.
  • Water hammer: If you hear pipes banging when you turn the water off or on, this can indicate your pipes are moving when the water pressure changes. This is usually due to pipes that are not secured properly to studs or joists, allowing movement. Known as water hammer, this condition can cause pipe joints to weaken over time, resulting in leaks or bursting pipes.

Knowing what to do when your pipes burst in advance can help you minimize damage and reduce the time and expense required to get your home back to normal.

Immediate Action to Take When Your Pipes Burst

When your pipes burst, reaction time is critical in reducing the amount of damage done to your home and belongings. Here are some actions you need to take:

  • Shut off the main water supply: Hopefully, if your pipes burst, it happens while you’re at home to address the situation immediately. Be sure you and family members know where the main water shutoff to your home is located, so it can be turned off quickly. While most homes today have main shutoffs located within the house, such as in the basement or crawl space, others may require opening a metal cover outdoors, close to the street.
  • Open faucets to drain water and relieve remaining pressure: Open cold water faucets first, then continue with hot water taps. Shut down your water heater (set to vacation mode, if it has that setting), to avoid reheating existing water and generating water pressure.
  • Get warm air to your pipes: If cold weather is the cause of your burst pipes, get as much warm air around them as possible by opening cabinets (such as for pipes under a kitchen sink or bathroom vanity) and even turning up the thermostat to warm up the surrounding area.
  • Take pictures: This may be the last thing on your mind in a water emergency, but documenting the damage will go a long way in obtaining reimbursement for any home damage including flooring, furniture, structural damage, and personal property.
  • Clean up: Get as much of the water as possible removed quickly through mopping, pumping, use of a shop vacuum that can handle water, or even towels. Remove saturated rugs immediately to eliminate additional floor damage.
  • Keep air flowing as much as possible: Open doors or windows to help dry out the area.
  • Call your insurance company: Fortunately, many homeowner insurance policies will cover damage from burst pipes. Check with your agent to determine the extent of your coverage. Insurance companies deal with such disasters frequently, and they can probably provide contact information for reliable services in your area that can make recovery and restoration much less traumatic for your family.

When Your Pipes Burst, Call the Professionals

Professional service providers have the experience and equipment needed to recover from damage caused by a burst pipe. These technicians will:

  • Evaluate any necessary repairs to get your water service restored.
  • Initiate thorough drying processes to prevent additional damage and prevent dangerous mold and mildew, using specialized equipment such as heat generators and industrial air movers/blowers.
  • If water has penetrated floors, walls, or ceilings, the wiring could also be compromised. It may be necessary to turn off all power to the home or a specific area to prevent shock hazards or even the potential for fires.

Service professionals will also work with your insurance company to authorize repairs so that your home is restored for normal use as quickly as possible.

An Ounce of Prevention

As with most home problems, avoiding them is easier than recovering from such incidents. Take appropriate action to avoid burst pipes in the first place:

  • Locate your main water shutoff so that it can be accessed quickly in an emergency.
  • Take steps to warm areas around pipes – be sure pipes near outside walls have adequate warm airflow by opening cabinets.
  • Allow faucets in coldest areas to drip slightly during the coldest periods to minimize the risk of freezing.
  • Be sure to disconnect hoses from outside faucets – water retained in the faucets and hose fittings can freeze and burst the pipe.
  • Use heat tape if necessary for pipes prone to freezing – be sure to adhere to local codes.
  • Insulate your home to retain heat – turn up the thermostat even when away from home to prevent freezing temperatures.

Have a plumber or restoration professional evaluate your home for risks of burst pipes. These technicians can help you identify potential hazards and avoid costly damage to your home. 

Professional Action from Restoration 1

Once you’ve addressed the initial effort in the cleanup of your burst pipes, the most important next step is to contact professionals to perform a complete recovery and restoration of your home and furnishings. Be sure the company you call has the experience and qualifications that will get your home and life back to normal as quickly and painlessly as possible. Your restoration service provider should offer:  

  • Fast response: You need service quickly to avoid additional damage and to stop the growth of mold and mildew.
  • Experience: Water damage recovery requires specialized skills and equipment to do the job properly.
  • Certifications and references: Certified technicians are your assurance that the job will be done right and adhere to accepted practices.

When you need a fast response from IICRC certified, experienced technicians, call Restoration 1 for 24/7 emergency service. Make Restoration 1 “your 1 and only call” for professional, reliable help for water damage from burst pipes or other disasters such as fire, flood, or smoke damage.