Here Are the Steps to Take When a Pipe Bursts in Your Home

Homeowner attempting to fix a burst water pipe - Thomas & Galbraith Heating, Cooling, & Plumbing

Those in Cincinnati, Ohio with a burst pipe want to know ways to limit water damage. Many homeowners assume they aren’t able to contain the problem on their own. However, the process is easy for most and minimizes the repercussions of burst pipes. You don’t need any plumbing experience to save your home from a flood.

Thomas & Galbraith helps homeowners discover their burst pipes before the damage becomes too great to handle. When you know the signs and causes, it’s easier to stop the problem as soon as it starts rather than after all your possessions become wet. Follow our advice to control the problem before a plumber arrives.

Burst Pipe: What Are the Causes?

A burst pipe occurs for a few different reasons. Most relate to external factors rather than the pipes themselves. It’s rare for a pipe to burst because of the material it’s made of, or because of specific brands. Rather, the causes stem from the water quality, the temperature, and other forces. These are the most common causes for burst pipes. 

  • Movement. Pipes in the home move for a few different reasons, but this movement becomes a problem if it creates leaks or breaks. Pipes contract after winter because cold temperatures shrink metal, which causes shifts in the pipe placement. If this movement creates extra pressure, bursts are possible. Additionally, movement during other repairs happen on accident from time to time. Any shift has the ability to cause excess pressure and bursts.
  • Clogs. Deep clogs in the pipes lead to bursts. When pressure builds up in the pipe, the water has nowhere to go but out. Weak points in the pipe are the most likely places for a burst, but any location with a large amount of pressure is at risk. Water pressure builds behind the clog, so removal of the clog removes the risk of a burst pipe. Take care of clogs as quickly as possible. 
  • Frozen. Pipes freeze when temperatures fall below 32 degrees Fahrenheit. This leads to breaks because exposure to hot water causes the ice—and more importantly—your pipes to shatter. Locations with cold winters have this problem more than those in warmer areas, but it’s always a risk if the temperatures even dip below 32 degrees. Turn on the heat in your home as soon as the outdoor temperatures fall this low to prevent any frozen pipes.
  • Corrosion. Lastly, a pipe burst occurs because of corrosion to the metal. Corrosion happens when rust forms on the pipes or when the pH balance of the water is too acidic or basic. Rust forms when the water has too much iron. Acidic or basic water usually comes from well water and must go through neutralization to stop corrosion. Once the pipes have corrosion, they aren’t able to regain the metal they lost, which leaves the pipes in a fragile state.

Burst Pipe: What Are the Signs?

Some homeowners know exactly when a pipe bursts. Others have a hard time, especially if they have no experience with pipe problems. However, the signs are easy to spot when you know what to look for. Homeowners are able to easily identify the indicators of a burst pipe with these pointers. 

  • Water smells. The water sometimes smells if a pipe bursts. The smell and taste often becomes worse after a pipe bursts. In most cases, the smell is metallic. This indicates a rust corrosion issue in your pipes. Other smells are possible, but this is the most common. 
  • Discolored water. Water also obtains a strange color when the pipes burst. Often, homeowners see this problem in conjunction with a metallic smell and taste. Water becomes red, brown, or black when iron is present in the water. When there’s too much iron, rust forms, which causes corrosion. Blue water also occurs if you own copper pipes and have a pH problem. 
  • Water sounds. Drip sounds from the walls or ceiling point to burst pipes. Some homeowners also experience rushing water noises when the break becomes large. Make sure to assess your faucets and other water fixtures before you peg your pipes as the cause of the noise. Faucets drip when washers are loose and toilets run when there are problems in the fixture. Eliminate these reasons for the noise before you assume a pipe burst. 
  • High water bill. High water bills indicate a burst pipe because any and all water contributes to your bill—even water you don’t even use. Burst pipes allow water to leak before it gets to your fixtures, so you need to compensate with more water usage. Plus, it continues to leak as long as your main water supply is turned on. All of these factors contribute to a higher water bill. 
  • Water pressure problems. Bursts in the pipes affect your water pressure. A hole or break in the pipe lowers water pressure because less water travels to your faucets and other fixtures. Instead, you have to use more water to make up for the low pressure. 
  • Puddles. A burst pipe causes puddles to form around the area of the break. When the break is large, the puddles often leak into other spaces. Walls, ceilings, floors, and your possessions are all at risk when these puddles form. 
  • Pipe noises. Old homes often make more noises in general, but if you hear new noises from your pipes, a burst is a likely cause. Clangs or rattles both indicate a problem with the pipes. Water normally travels through the pipes without much noise, but a burst pipe makes more noise because the water shakes the pipe. This causes them to rattle or even bump into other pipes.
  • Wall stains. Lastly, wall stains are common when pipes burst. The water leaks through the walls and the floor to create stains on the walls, floors, or ceiling. When you see a large water stain, you know exactly where the pipe burst. Though unfortunate, this at least helps the plumber locate the problem.  

How to Contain a Burst Pipe

To contain a burst pipe, homeowners must act quickly. The steps to minimize the damage are simple, but work best soon after the pipe bursts. The ultimate goal with these tips is to lessen the water damage before the plumber arrives. After the plumber comes to your home, the repairs ensure your pipes are ready for future use. 

  • Call a plumber. It’s important to contact a plumber as fast as possible after the break occurs. The sooner you call a professional, the sooner they are able to help. Schedule maintenance visits during the year as well to keep breaks from happening in the first place.  
  • Turn off main. Turn off your main water supply before you tackle anything else. This ensures no new water enters the system while you wait for the plumber. When the water supply is on, any time someone turns on a tap or flushes the toilet, water flows through the pipes. A burst pipe allows this water to escape through the hole or break, which makes the problem worse.
  • Clean the water. Mop all of the water from your floors. You want to make sure most or all of the water dries in a timely manner to avoid the growth of mold or mildew. The longer the water stagnates, the more likely mold and mildew are to grow. Use towels, a mop, or a shop vacuum to remove the water.
  • Drain faucets. Faucets contain water even after the water turns off. This water must drain out to minimize the chance of mold and mildew growth in the faucets. Additionally, flush toilets a few times to remove this water from the system too. The less water in the pipes, the better.
  • Repair sleeve. A repair sleeve quickly mends a burst pipe before the plumber arrives. Place the sleeve over the break or hole to prevent more leaks. This solution is temporary, so keep your appointment with your plumber after you put the sleeve on. The sleeve makes it possible for you to turn the water back on if the plumber takes a few days to come to your home.
  • Rubber, wood piece, and clamp. Alternatively, place a piece of rubber and a wooden block over the hole and connect them to the pipe with a clamp. This has the same effect as the repair sleeve, but you likely already have these items around your home. Again, this solution is temporary and doesn’t replace a visit from the plumber. 
  • Keep doors open. To further dry out the wet areas, keep the doors in your home open. Airflow dries water faster than when air doesn’t circulate. Make sure rooms with exposed pipes receive more air than others. Use fans to promote airflow through the whole house. 
  • Let in warm air. Lastly, warm up the house as much as possible. This not only helps dry the wet spots, but it helps thaw frozen pipes gradually. When pipes warm too quickly, they crack or shatter. When you already have one burst pipe, you don’t want to create another one. Because of this, gently heat the pipes with a hair dryer to melt the ice and prevent further breaks.

Thomas & Galbraith Fixes Your Burst Pipe

The plumbers at Thomas & Galbraith in Cincinnati, Ohio want homeowners to know they aren’t helpless when a burst pipe happens in their homes. There are several ways to contain the damage. When you need a plumber to repair the pipe, give us a call. We are ready to help!

Subscribe for Savings and Tips in Your Email!