It’s that time of year again! Days get shorter, temperatures plummet, snow falls, and water pipes burst. In fact, the biggest cause of burst pipes is frigid weather, which freezes the water inside exposed pipes until the pressure of that expansion causes a catastrophic event.
So what do you do right after a pipe bursts?
Turn Off The Main Water Valve
You know where that valve is located, yes? It’s the valve inside your house on the pipe that brings water in from the outside source. It’s usually in the basement or in a crawl space. It tends to be on the front foundation wall, especially for homes that are connected to a municipal water supply. If your house is built on a slab with no basement or crawl space, the main water shut off valve is often under the sink or near the water heater.
Once you locate the valve, shut off the supply of water to your home in order to minimize further flow or leakage.
Drain Your System
Once the water main is shut, you’ll want to empty the pipes and relieve the pressure in your system.
Starting with cold water first, open all the faucets and showerheads and let the water drain out of the pipes. Flush the toilets a couple of times, too. After that’s done, shut off the hot water heater and open all the hot water taps. This should empty out your system.
Locate And Inspect The Burst Pipe
Pipes that burst because of cold weather are often found in unheated spaces, such as in basements or crawl spaces, or in outer walls during extreme weather. Outside faucets with some part of the pipe extruding from the foundation are also likely culprits. Make sure the pipe is no longer leaking. Warm up the burst pipe either by opening up doors to increase flow of heat to the area, or use a hair dryer to melt any ice that may be restricting flow along its length.
Call A Plumber
Now that the flow of water has been stopped and you’ve located the problem, or at least the area of origin, you may want to call a plumber for emergency service. Depending on the location of the pipe, the severity of the burst, and your DIY skills, you may be able to fix the pipe yourself, but a plumber will have all the tools and equipment to get the job done efficiently so you can restore water service to your home in a timely way.
Document The Spill And Begin Clean-Up
While you’re waiting for the plumber to arrive, begin cleaning up the spill to minimize water damage as much as possible. First make sure to document the extent of the damage so that you can report to your homeowner’s insurance company.
After the pipe is fixed or replaced and the crisis has passed, consider instituting some preventative measures to avoid the annoyance of a pipe burst in the future. This might include installing plumbing sleeve insulation or heat tape around pipes in areas vulnerable to the elements, or having your copper pipes inspected for pinhole leaks by a professional plumber.