There aren’t too many incidents that cause a homeowner to yell obscenities faster than a burst pipe – particularly one that’s spewing water into the home. Many Texans became all too familiar with this phenomenon during last winter’s deep freeze. Pipes can burst for other reasons as well, including tree root encroachment, corrosion, mold, compromised structural integrity, and high water pressure. Whether it happened to you, or you know someone who went through it, it’s easy to understand why so many homeowners are desperate to limit the damage from busted water pipes.
While we’ve written elsewhere about water leaks, here are less obvious signs of a busted pipe – or a pipe that’s about to blow:
- Water pressure that fluctuates unexpectedly
- Strange-smelling, discolored or rusty-looking water
- Banging noises in the pipes in the walls
- A sudden spike in your water bill
- Unexplained puddles under your sinks
When dealing with a pipe that has already busted, every second counts. Here are all the steps to take as quickly as possible to minimize any damage.
1. Turn off your home’s main water valve.
This will instantly stop any more water from causing any more damage. Your main valve is often located in your basement, near your water heater, or under the kitchen sink. Locate it in advance and make sure every member of the household knows where it is in case of emergency.
Important safety tip: If the leaking water could have come in contact with any electrical outlets or your fuse box, you must also take the precaution of shutting off the electricity to your home.
2. Drain the pipes.
To ensure no more water is left in the system to leak out, flush all toilets and run the cold-water side of faucets until they’re dry.
3. Turn off the hot water heater.
Since no water will be running through the house for a while, this is another good precaution to take. Once it’s off, drain all the hot water from your home’s faucets.
4. Find the pipe at fault.
In some cases this will be obvious, but smaller busted pipes can be harder to find. Look for signs of water damage including ceiling bulges, wet drywall, or pools of water on floors or under sinks. If you can see the pipe and it’s still dripping, put a bucket underneath it.
5. Assess the pipe damage and contact a licensed professional plumber.
Some pipes will seem to have only a small crack that could be repaired with tape or a chemical bonding agent. Do not succumb to this temptation. You need a professional like Horizon Plumbing Services to determine whether the pipe is still viable, what other damage may have occurred in the line, whether pipes can be repaired or should be replaced, etc. Yes, costs for professional repair and cleanup can easily reach into four figures, but it should go without saying that inadequately patching a burst pipe can cause even more damage in the future.
If your electrical system may be affected, call a licensed electrician; this is another area where it can be dangerous not to bring in a professional.
6. Document the damage for your insurance claim.
After all, this emergency is exactly why you have home insurance. Water can be surprisingly destructive to your home, so immediately begin taking pictures, both closeups and perspective shots. Continue to take photos throughout the cleanup process. Take pictures of any damage to the structure and also to your belongings. And of course, contact your insurance agent ASAP, who will likely tell you there is no such thing as too many photos to support your claim.
7. Begin basic cleanup to avoid mold growth.
Depending on the size of the leak, your insurance company will likely send a professional cleanup service that will bring wet-dry vacs, heavy-duty fans, and industrial dehumidifiers to dry what doesn’t need to be cut away and removed. However, this is Texas, and we probably don’t have to tell you about the dangerous mold that can erupt out of damp conditions.
After the leak, there is usually a three-day window until microbes spread and mold begins to grow, so don’t waste time – file your claim the same day you find the water damage. By common insurance standards, any time after 72 hours is considered to be a “graywater” leak where everything will have to be trashed and replaced.
Here’s what to do in the interim before more serious cleanup can begin:
- Unplug everything from any electrical outlets in the area of the damage.
- Salvage important belongings, prioritizing by what’s most difficult to replace, such as important documents, family keepsakes, and computers.
- Move everything you can from the damaged areas, including wet carpets and furniture.
- For items that are not ruined, wipe them down with antimicrobial agents, move them to a dry location, and put fans on them until the insurance company can decide if the items can be professionally cleaned or must be replaced.
- To limit damage, soak up what standing water you can with old towels, mops and buckets. If the flood is more than an inch deep, get or rent a submersible pump or a wet-dray vac.
- Weather permitting, open what windows you can and set up fans and space heaters to begin the drying process. Do not crank up your A/C system and its fan, however, because that can suck microbes up into your ductwork where they’ll cause more damage.
- Other than damaged drywall and flooring, keep other wet items around until the insurance company can confirm the quality and grade to be included in your claim.
Avoid Burst Pipes Altogether
Looking at this list, it’s clear why homeowners would much rather avoid bursting pipes if at all possible. What if your home could tell you when a plumbing problem is developing and take action before it gets out of hand?
The new Flo by Moen Leak Detection system does just that. The smart water valve has three sensors that actively monitor water flow, pressure, and temperature to protect your home. When potential leaks or burst pipes are detected, the system will automatically shut off your water if a catastrophic event begins to happen. Then the system sends alerts to your smartphone no matter where you are in the world. Don’t wait to see what happens this winter; get a free estimate on the Flo by Moen system today.