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Fire & Water - Cleanup & Restoration

Frozen Pipe Burst with Water Damage? Now What?

11/7/2019 (Permalink)

Water shoots out of a burst copper pipe Water damage from a burst pipe can be extremely costly and disruptive. Learn how to find and stop a leak fast—and how to prevent one!

A burst pipe—whether it’s a pinhole leak, a crack or a wide-open gap in your basement, laundry room, bathroom, kitchen or elsewhere—can lead to sizable and expensive water damage in your home: up to 250 gallons of water can flow in 24 hours. A residential water disaster is the second-most common insurance claim filed in the U.S. The average residential water damage claim is $10,000–15,000; total cleanup costs can range from $5,000 to $70,000

A frozen pipe is the most common cause of a rupture. When water freezes, it expands in volume by about 9 percent, and with tremendous force: the pressure inside pipes may go from 40 psi to 40,000 psi! No pipe can hold that much pressure, so it breaks open. The break may occur where the ice forms, but more often, it occurs where water pressure finds a weak spot in the pipe.

Other causes of a ruptured pipe include rust, improper installation and physical damage to the pipe.

You’ll reduce the costs of a burst pipe if you know how to catch a leak fast, how to stop it in its tracks and how to get the drying started without delay. (Of course, the best pipe rupture is the one that doesn’t happen, so be sure to read on for SERVPRO’s tips for ways to prevent a burst pipe.)

Heed the Warning Signs

Often, using your ears, eyes and nose will help you detect an existing or about-to-happen pipe break. Other ways to discover a leak are by paying attention to your water pressure and your water bill.

Listen for Strange Sounds

Broken pipes sometimes cause unusual sounds, such as bubbling, whistling, banging and clanking when you use the sink or flush the toilet. Bubbling can happen when air gets in the sewer line caused by the leak. Dented pipes can cause whistling sounds as the water tries to fit through the constricted section. If a leak has already happened, you might also notice a dripping sound within your walls when you run the water.

What’s That Smell?

If drains, sinks or other areas of your house emit odd odors, there's a possibility that sewage isn't being properly removed from your house through its pipes. And if the water from your faucets has an unpleasant smell, it could be a sign of corrosion or contamination in your plumbing system.

Look for the Signs

Bulging and discoloration of your home's walls and ceiling can indicate a burst pipe. A leaking pipe behind one of your walls can leave marks or dampness on the drywall. On a multi-story home, pipes running to upstairs bathrooms or laundry rooms can leak down into the ceiling. Depending on the location, you may need to remove the drywall or a portion of the ceiling to get to the damaged pipe.

If you spot bulges in an exposed pipe, that may mean the water is already frozen and expanding, which often causes a burst. If the pipe hasn't burst yet, you may be able to thaw the water before any damage happens.

Discolored water coming from your faucets can be a clue that you have a leak or may soon have one. Brownish water sometimes indicates your pipes are rusting, which often leads to leaks.

If the leak is bad enough or goes on for some time, you may see puddles, drips or gushing water coming out of the area. Follow the source of the water to get a good idea of where the leak is in the pipe.

If you spot unexplained water or sinkholes, call a professional right away to investigate. A break in the water main leading into your home can cause a sinkhole or puddles in your yard near the source of the leak.

Pay Attention to Your Pressure and Your Bill

A hole in a pipe means less water comes through to your faucets, which can cause a decrease in the water pressure that you notice when you wash your hands, fill your sink or take a shower. Lower water pressure can also increase clogs in your toilet or sinks because the decreased water pressure can't push everything down the pipes. A sudden or unexplained drop in pressure could mean water is leaking somewhere in the system. In the case of frozen pipes, you might notice that no water comes out of the faucet.

If you've been using the same amount of water as usual but your water bill suddenly skyrockets, it might indicate a leak. To investigate, turn off all appliances that use water, and don't use any faucets, toilets or other sources of water. Look at the water meter, and after 30 minutes, look again to see if it moved at all during that time. If it did, you have a leak.

If your rising water bill or dropping water pressure indicates a leak, your next task is to figure out if it's inside or outside your home. Shut off the main water valve coming into the home and watch your water meter. If it stops moving, your leak is likely inside the house, but if it continues moving, the source is likely a water main leak outside the home.

You Found a Leak … Now What?

First, Shut Off the Water and Start the Cleanup

Your first step is to shut off the main water valve to your home. Open a faucet after you shut off the water main to relieve any remaining pressure in the pipes. (You might also need to shut off the electricity as well, depending on where the leak occurs and how big it is.)

Grab a mop, buckets and a shop vacuum to start getting rid of the water to reduce the chances of greater damage to your home and furnishings and the potential for mold growth.

Stop the Flow of Water

Try these quick fixes—like plumbing first aid—that can slow or stop a leak in a pipe long enough for a qualified plumber to come to your home.

To temporarily stop a pinhole leak, apply pressure to the opening by wrapping duct tape around the pipe. In many instances, the tape will supply enough pressure to seal the leak until help arrives.

If duct tape doesn’t stop the leak, place a piece of flexible rubber (such as an old radiator or heater hose) as a patch over the leak and clamp it in place. It’s a good idea to place a block of wood over the piece of rubber before fastening the clamp. The block of wood will spread the pressure and help prevent the pipe from collapsing. Place the stationary part of the opening of the C-clamp against the pipe (opposite the location of the leak) and the screw part of the C-clamp against the block of wood. Tighten the screw until it’s snug.

Another, even better option is to use a sleeve clamp, which can stop everything from pinhole to larger leaks. A sleeve clamp consists of two semicircular pieces of metal about 3 inches long that, when put together, completely surround the pipe (like a sleeve). You’ll have to buy one to fit your specific pipe size. Wrap the damaged section of pipe with the provided gasket material, then surround the gasket-wrapped pipe with the two semicircular clamps. Finally, tighten the screws that connect the two halves of the sleeve clamp.

Dry Your House Out

Once you or your plumber has stopped the flow of water and you’ve done basic cleanup, you need to dry out your home. An experienced water disaster remediation company like SERVPRO of Manchester/Mansfield can do all the work and restore your home and property to their before-disaster condition. If you choose to do the work yourself, follow these tips.

Remove pools and puddles of water with a wet/dry vacuum. The more water you remove with this method, the less water will have to dissipate naturally. For hard-to-reach places, use a mop to soak the water up.

Open windows to vent moist air out and place several fans around the area to circulate the air and send moisture out the windows. If you don’t have an HVAC system or dehumidifiers, the more air circulation you can achieve with open windows and fans, the faster your house will dry.

Turn on one or several dehumidifiers to remove the water from the house. Dehumidifiers work best in enclosed areas, so close windows when they are in use. If the water is confined to a certain area, such as a bedroom or bathroom, place the dehumidifier inside and close the door. Remember to empty the water tank periodically.

Your HVAC system is a giant dehumidifier! The air conditioner sucks humidity from the air, so start by setting it to cool your house. Next, when your home has cooled, turn the heat on until it reaches 80 degrees—warm air evaporates and holds more moisture than cool air so by doing this, you saturate the air with moisture. Once 80 degrees has been reached, turn the air conditioner back on to remove the saturated air from the house. Repeat this process until the house has dried.

Take wet furniture outside to dry in the sun or place it in a closed room with a dehumidifier to remove the water. If the burst pipe has saturated your indoor carpeting (unless it’s a thin covering over a bare wood floor), you must remove it to keep mold and mildew from forming.

Ways to Prevent a Burst Pipe

Since the majority of pipes burst after they freeze, your goal is to keep pipes from freezing in the first place, and that means keeping your pipes warm.

When the temperature drops and your pipes are at risk, take some or all of these steps.

  • Leave the doors to cabinets, vanities, closets and pantries open so that the room air can warm the pipes.
  • Set up fans to blow heat into cold rooms or your crawl space. Keep the garage door closed if there are water supply lines there.
  • Heat the most vulnerable pipes (usually in basements and crawl spaces or near exterior walls) with a hair dryer. Leave the faucet on while you apply heat.
  • Place a lamp with a 60-watt bulb in a potential problem area to warm the walls and pipes. Make sure there are no combustible materials near the bulb.
  • If the water pipes are freezing inside the exterior wall, cut an opening in the wall to expose the pipes to the home's warm air. Place fiberglass insulation behind the pipes, between the pipes and the home's exterior wall. The hole in the wall can be covered later with a hinged door or a panel that can be removed during cold spells.

Even before the temperature drops, do some preventive work to get your pipes ready to handle the cold.

  • Check for exposed pipes in unheated areas of your house, like your basement, attic, garage, crawl space and under bathroom and kitchen sinks. Insulate both hot and cold water pipes with pipe sleeves or heat tape.
  • With rigid foam insulation, close and seal all foundation vents that are near water pipes.
  • Insulate the foundation walls and the ends of the floor joists with rigid foam insulation.
  • Make sure your home's exterior walls are insulated. Caulk and seal around doors, windows, house faucets and outside outlets.
  • If you have a sprinkler system and/or swimming pool, drain it per the manufacturer's or installer's instructions.
  • Before the cold season starts, turn off the water valves to outdoor faucets, but keep the outside valve open to let any remaining water escape.
  • If you go on vacation during the winter months, leave your heater on, set to at least 55 degrees.

If you do experience a frozen pipe but manage to avoid a rupture, check for pinhole leaks or cracks after the pipe has thawed.

A Note on Insurance

If a pipe bursts in your home, your homeowners insurance may help cover plumbing repair and replacement bills and help cover repairs to damage to the structure up to the limits of your policy. Likewise, your personal property coverage on your policy can help pay to repair or replace your damaged or destroyed belongings (furniture, clothes, electronics and more). With some coverages, you may be reimbursed for additional living expenses like food, a hotel and transportation if you have to move out while your house is being repaired. Coverages vary, so you’ll need to determine what specific expenses your homeowner’s policy will reimburse.

However, if a pipe bursts due to your own neglect or lack of maintenance—like failing to leave your heat on while you're away on winter vacation, for example—or through normal wear-and-tear, you could be responsible for paying repair bills.

If your home or business suffers a flood, call SERVPRO of Manchester/Mansfield today at 860.649.0836 for immediate expert water damage cleanup

We’re Here for You

The team at SERVPRO of Manchester/Mansfield has specialized training and experience in water damage remediation, fire restoration services, natural disaster prevention, chemical cleanup, and natural disaster cleanup. Call SERVPRO of Manchester/Mansfield (860.649.0836) any time.

Other Helpful Blog Posts

SERVPRO publishes educational articles on how to protect your home or business from disasters and how to deal with mold, fire, water, sewage, storm and other damage.

Preventing Water Damage, Inside and Out

7 Essentials After Major Water Damage

After Water Damage, Removing the Water Isn’t Enough

Sources: Family Handyman, esurance, Home Maintenance for Dummies 2nd Edition, SFGate, HGTV, Hunker, Costhelper.com

SERVPRO of Manchester/Mansfield

53 Slater Street, Unit 2, Manchester, CT 06042
IICRC Certified
Ralph DiCristofaro 
Certified SERVPRO technicians
Call 860.649.0836
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If your home or business suffers a flood, call SERVPRO of Manchester/Mansfield today at 860.649.0836 for immediate expert water damage cleanup

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